This short piece recalls an incident with my neighbor when I first moved to the country.
|I don’t know from where had come this image in my mind of the stereotype of the Neanderthals sitting around a campfire, grunting while gnawing on the vestiges of the kill from the previous week. It is embedded in my psyche and every time I see Chuck, that image is reinforced because it perfectly describes him and his gang with one exception – the Neanderthals had better conversation.
Chuck is my neighbor with about eight acres of fields between our respective homes. We met for the first time under a less than felicitous occasion: his 16-year-old-high school dropout, petty-thief of a son had gotten himself into yet another minor infraction. According to Chuck, the boy was accused of stealing a bicycle from another neighborhood child. Chuck had come over to inquire if I had seen the bicycle in question, which he attempted to describe in some detail. The process seemed to cause him a measure of difficulty as he had trouble with words like “neighborhood” and “location”. I told him that I had not seen any errant bicycles and that I would alert him should I ever come across one. He grunted something indecipherable in response and turned to leave.
Although that was the first time I’ve ever met Chuck, I’ve already heard quite a bit about him. When I first moved to the country, another neighbor, Mrs. Kunte, had come over to my house bearing a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” baked confection. Initially, I thought it was a charming and friendly gesture. I’ve never had such an experience having lived in larger cities where eye contact with strangers is best avoided.
When I invited Mrs. Kunte in for that proverbial cup of coffee, I had no idea that she would spend the entire afternoon sharing intimate details about the denizens. I learned, among other salient details, that Anne, the neighborhood hussy, Doug’s second wife, is a connoisseur of dildos. Mrs. Kunte knows because she once “accidentally” opened a mis-delivered package addressed to Anne that contained a cornucopia of dildos in every color and structure. Doug’s first wife left him for a “Mexican”. This latter part told to me in hushed tones, as if to signify a shameful end, in her estimation. She said that it was a Doug’s fault anyway because it was rumored that he had erectile dysfunction issues, which would conveniently explain Anne’s preoccupation. Mrs. Kunte’s eyes would round and her eyebrows arched at each embellishment. I expressed equal astonishment though mine was at the ease with which she spoke of others’ private proclivities. Mrs. Kunte also warned me that Bob, the widower two acres to my left, is a closet gay. She deduced so from the fact that he has frequent male visitors. She then went into detail about Chuck because she’s friendly with Chuck’s estranged wife, Barb. Though they’re estranged, they continue to cohabit.
Chuck was about 5’9”. He was chronologically 45 but appeared at least 65. He weighed in at about 260 lbs, all lipids. He was mostly bald but abundantly made up for it with the hair on the rest of his body. His hair was all one color - a yellowed white. From his speech patterns, pungent emissions, and general disposition, one may assume that he likes to drink and does so frequently. Barb was described as about 5’ tall; she is almost as wide as she is tall. She has short curly hair, up-turned nose and down-turned lips. Her eyes have a permanent expression of contempt mixed with shock. I haven’t had the pleasure of making Barb’s acquaintance.
According to Mrs. Kunte, Barb and Chuck’s courtship started when Barb answered a want ad for a secretary at a company Chuck owned. His company was started in his barn when he took some orders for printed circuit boards from a local merchant. As the business grew, Chuck decided to rent a warehouse space to accommodate his newly acquired employees. He also decided that he needed a secretary to answer the phones and take orders. At their first meeting, Chuck asked no questions about Barb’s qualifications. He gave her the once-over and asked his employees – cronies – to take a look at her.
After Chuck’s cronies gave him the OK grunt, he shrugged and asked Barb to “show me your tits”. She obliged and got the job. Mrs. Kunte told me that Chuck asks everyone that, and that was his way of saying, “Hello. How are you?” Mrs. Kunte was also asked but, according to her, she didn’t oblige.
Physical attributes aside, Barb apparently found Chuck rather attractive, with a burgeoning business, and proceeded to seduce him. Though he was married, Chuck fell victim to Barb’s charms. He persuaded his current wife to move out of their house by offering her cash and other tangibles. He was then free to marry Barb, which he did at her insistence. They eventually had three children. When the youngest turned five, Chuck’s business was impounded by the county due to his blatant lack of compliance to county ordinances. Though he was warned several times by the county, he continued to dispose of toxic metal wastes in the local river when his own 10-acre property was saturated.
It was at this point that Barb found Chuck less attractive. She informed him that she was separated from him effective immediately. Yet, she was generously sharing his house with him and continued to share meals with him, if he’d supply the raw materials. That sometimes meant he went hunting. She claimed that this gesture of solidarity was for the sake of the children, who would benefit from their continued stability. Meanwhile, she and Chuck mutually agreed to have an open relationship.
Chuck found pleasure and solace in a steady stream of porn rentals while Barb attracted the attentions of the most eligible bachelorette in the county.
This bachelorette is called Vic, not short for Victoria, but for her resemblance to a generic Vic. Vic is the polar opposite of Barb in appearance. Whereas Barb was 5’ tall, Vic was almost 6’ tall; whereas Barb as wide, Vic was narrow; whereas Barb’s hair was short, curly and brown, Vic’s was long, straight and blond; whereas Barb’s eyes were full of contempt and surprise, Vic’s eyes were small, closed-set, and squinty. But, more importantly, Vic gave Barb something Chuck couldn’t anymore – money.
Their lesbian relationship caused quite a stir in the neighborhood. Oh, and Mrs. Kunte told me that she’s a stay-at-home mom.