The White Picket Fence That Didn't Work Out

July 7, 2016
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    Mrs. Susan Townsend is lost in a rhythmic back-and-forth, to-and-fro, swishy-swishy sort of motion, her hand moving up-and-down with the paintbrush mindlessly. From the perspective of a fellow resident driving by, this new neighbor appears to be working hard on that new fence of hers. Good for her. And oh, what a pleasant lady! Those classic red curls coming in, carefully enveloping her small dainty chin. A lofty sunhat with a big baby blue ribbon. Flowy white capris billowing in the breeze and a soft pink blouse. Just so lovely, all of her, everything -- the exact picture of precisely what it means to be a beautiful newlywed enjoying an evening in serene Villa Hills, Kentucky.

     And boy, by the way that she painted that fence, you could tell she was real proud of it. You could tell that the fence was the culmination of everything she and her husband had ever worked for, had ever wanted. Sure, it was just a bunch of planks right now, but in no time, it’d be the perfect white picket fence that all young American couples dream of calling their own.
As she squatted there, brushing each plank with both careful artistry and efficiency, you could see a
slightly rounded bump protruding from her stomach. Now Mrs. Susan Townsend had long slender arms and legs and deeply resembled some sort of gazelle with her stature, so she had to be pregnant. I was watching her from my perch behind my own white picket fence, reminiscing about when we had ours done.
     The sun is moving down to make peace with the horizon ever so slowly now, and the sky is orange - not garish orange but the calming, romantic pale-ish orange -- the kind that makes you fall in love with life again. I don’t think she’s even noticed me these entire five hours while I was out just sipping lemonade and watching her. She was making me remember all sorts of things about my own period of young womanhood. Full of excitement, where you have your own little old-fashioned societal debut when you get married to some fancy corporate man. You move out to a quaint little suburb like Villa Hills, and it feels like you’re finally settled, established. The recklessness in you is no more, and it’s a good feeling.
     The white picket fence is a comforting end to all of that destructive, young disillusionment of the past. It says in a stoic way, “hello, I am a conformist,” to all who question you, try to rile you up in questioning why you ain’t doing the same rash, idealistic s*** that they’re doing -- the s*** that they convince themselves is “living for something bigger.” Let them believe that.
A big ol’ Lincoln Continental is rolling onto the driveway now. The tires grind against the rocks on their driveway. They’re the only ones without a paved driveway on Kings Lane. Instead they’ve got big chunks of rocks that mess up the tires real bad. The husband looks like he’s on the phone. I can only see the side of his face but the way his mouth is moving so fast, you can tell he’s yelling. He’s hitting the dashboard with both fists now because he front left tire is stuck. There’s this awful churning and grinding sound, but he keeps on slamming the accelerator.
     At this point, Mrs. Susan Townsend is putting down her paintbrush and rushing over to see what’s all this noise for.
Her husband rolls down the window and shouts so loud that he breaks all of the silence of the neighborhood, “Susan! Get over here. Can’t you see there’s this f***ing rock in the way?”
I squint a little more and make out her husband’s head sticking out of his car window, face real red, almost comically red. I ain’t never seen a face that red before.
    When she meets him on the driveway, he sticks out his head even further out the car window and looks dead into her eyes, “Get this f***ing rock out from under my car.”
She looks baffled for a second. How was she supposed to pull a huge rock out from under a three thousand pound car? But the way that man’s eyes gleamed with anger, you could tell there was no questioning to be done.
    So she got down on her knees, her round baby bump supported on her thighs. She examined the situation, seeing how the left front wheel was just wedged in what looked like a little crevice of the rock. Then with all her might, she placed one hand on the bare side of the rock and the other grasping underneath of it. All the while she’s doing this, her husband is jamming on the accelerator like never before. The noise is this appalling screeching sound. He keeps accelerating and accelerating, and she just
keeps tugging and tugging when finally the car jumped onto the flat surface of the rock. All is still and quiet for a second. Mr. Townsend has let go of the accelerator now that he’s gotten out of the rut. But the next second here’s this great awful lurching sound that ensues, and the car rolls over ever so slowly and crushes both of Mrs. Susan Townsend’s arms.
    She made no sound. She only bit her lip, head held unto the sky -- a pain so acute that no sound could be emitted from her throat. The look on her face expressed true pain from hell itself. My heart was pounding out in horror now. I had waited far too long.
Today, a year later, I haven’t seen her outside since the incident. I heard she had her baby boy not too long ago, though. There’s still that half-finished fence on their lawn -- half painted white, half plain wood. But I don’t think Mrs. Susan Townsend will ever be able to finish it like she wanted to.

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