Time was, the neighbours were ghosts. They come and go, I said, at the strangest hours. Could not see their faces for bright lights. Murmuring names. A black dog. A dark-haired girl whose eyes slid sideways when I said hello to her. She seemed close to the dog, the dark-haired girl. She seemed to live a separate life to the man and woman who stood in the shadow of bright light.
Separate ghosts in the house next door.
And then this happened:
One day, I saw the dark-haired girl slam the door of a van and drive away. On the side of the van: PERKY PETS.
Everything fell into place.
That dark-haired girl doesn’t live in the house next door. She’s a dog walker. Of course she leads a separate life. Of course she comes and goes in the middle of the day. Of course she has a relationship with the dog. She walks it.
I went to New York and asked the neighbours to collect my mail. Do you know what they did? They fixed my mailbox. It was loose, hanging by a thread, my mailbox lid. If it had been a tooth you could have got your dad to grab it in a handkerchief and wrench it from your mouth. It wouldn’t have hurt at all. Next day, money from the tooth fairy.
But my mailbox lid, the screws almost all gone, hanging loose. And the neighbours fixed it tightly back, so the lid doesn’t clatter sideways anymore when I lift it in the rain.
At easter time, the neighbours came over for Charlie’s first Easter Egg Hunt. They hid the Easter Eggs. They hid them ingeniously: I mean, for a 1-year-old, it turns out you hide the easter eggs in plain sight.
And while Charlie searched, in an ecstasy of suspense, the neighbours said: “Getting warmer, getting warmer, cold! Cold! Cold!”
Such a beautiful calm overcame me.
The trouble is: no ghosts any more, just fine and lovely people, so where’s the story?