by Johanna Rigby
I bought the house where I live now mainly because my friends said it was a great place to live.
“We like this neighborhood!” said a dozen of them, giving me that cheesy thumbs-up sign that I thought had died when Happy Days went off the air.
“I don’t live there, but I go there four times a week!” said another. “It’s 1.2 miles from my favorite coffee shop!” I don’t know why he told me that, but I guess I appreciated the input.
On the day I moved in, a neighbor I didn’t know came over while the moving van was still being unpacked. “That’s my house over there,” she pointed. “Look at it! I just put up new shutters and curtains! Cute, right? Do you like it?”
“Well, yeah, it’s a very nice house,” I nodded as I nervously watched movers juggling boxes of my grandma’s dishes.
“But do you like it?” she persisted. “I like your house!”
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed. “I like your house.”
“Great!” she beamed. “We’ll be friends!”
One of the friends who’d talked up the neighborhood to me appeared just then and slapped a big red star on the moving van. “Thumbs down for you guys!” he shouted. “I saw how you just dumped that box on the porch. Bad, bad movers!”
“Really bad!” agreed my new friend, giving my pal a thumbs-up. “Want to be friends?”
“Maybe,” he said. “Do you like puppies?”
“Do I like puppies?! I have SO MANY PUPPIES!” she screamed. “Come and look!”
They went off to look at puppies while the movers finished demolishing my belongings. As they closed the doors on the van, one of them approached me with a stupid grin and a clipboard. “Are you happy with our service today?” he asked.
“Are you serious? My boxes are all opened and just thrown around in the yard and on the porch. No, I’m not happy!” I said.
“Would you like to take a survey and tell us how we can improve?” he suggested.
“For starters,” I griped, “you could carry the boxes inside and set them in the rooms where they belong. I marked them very clearly.”
“Great! That’ll be a big help when we move the next people. How about signing up to get mail from us once a week?” he pressed. “We’ll give you a coupon for 10% off the next time you move!”
“How about getting your truck out of my yard and leaving me alone?” I yelled.
They ran over the mailbox as they left, and I would have stopped them to point it out, but I was suddenly hit in the head with a chicken.
“What the…?” I held the squawking, flapping hen as I inspected both of us for damages, but we seemed to be unharmed. I felt a sharp poke in my back, and jumped, startled to see a retired friend grinning at me from under the brim of his straw hat.
“Hey, there, neighbor!” he chuckled. “Couldn’t help but notice you don’t have any animals yet. Would you like to feed my chickens until you get some of your own?”
“I hadn’t planned to get any animals,” I said. “And why would I want to feed your chickens?”
“Well, somebody needs to feed the chickens! And you’re my friend, right?”
“Nice house, by the way. I like it!” He gave me a thumbs-up. “So, you’ll feed my chickens, right?”
“Sure. Sure, I’ll feed your chickens,” I agreed, mainly to get him to leave me alone.
“Great! Hey, I pulled the weeds from your garden, friend!” I heard him calling to an other neighbor as he left.
“Thanks, friend!” the neighbor shouted. “I’ll be over and milk your cow later!”
I was really beginning to wonder what I’d gotten myself into by moving into this place. I decided to shift some of my boxes inside and unpack a few things. I had barely gotten started when there was a knock at the door from a lady I’d worked with a few years ago.
“Hi!” she smiled. “Remember me?”
“Kind of… do you want to come in?” I asked warily.
“Of course! You’re one of my best friends! I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!” She came in and handed me a giant bowl of hard candy. I wondered why she was bringing me Halloween leftovers, but I didn’t want to be unkind. She took a look around and then sat down at the kitchen table. “I like your house!” she nodded, giving me the thumbs-up. “Got anything to drink?”
“I just moved in, but I think I might have a soda or two,” I said. I offered her one from the fridge.
“Perfect!” she said. She scattered a few pieces of hard candy on the tabletop and, to my alarm, began cracking them to bits with the bottle.
“What are you doing?” I cried.
“Winning!” she hooted, smashing the last piece of candy. She turned up the bottle and started to pour it over the bits of sticky sugar, but I stopped her and took it away. “You want to play too? FANTASTIC!” she shouted, bouncing up and down in the chair.
“Play? No, I want you to leave!” I said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you people but this whole neighborhood is just plain weird!”
“Leave? But I’m your friend!” she protested as I dragged her by the arm toward the door. “Aren’t we friends?”
“No! No, we were co-workers, and now we’re acquaintances, but we’re definitely not friends!” I said firmly as I kicked her out.
Two more of my new neighbors were waiting on the porch.
“Hi, friend!” said the guy with the baby in his arms. I vaguely recognized him from the gym. “This is my girlfriend,” he nodded, “and this is our new baby! Look at our new baby! Isn’t it the most precious baby you ever saw? Aren’t babies the best?”
“I wrote a poem about babies,” his girlfriend said. “Do you want to hear it?”
“No. No, I don’t want to hear it, and – well, I know you think it’s grand because it’s your baby but really, they all look pretty much alike to me,” I confessed.
“I don’t like her. I don’t want to be her friend,” she frowned.
“But we’re in a relationship. You have to be her friend, because I’m her friend,” the guy explained.
“We’re not friends,” I said. “I see you at the gym sometimes.”
“Well, that settles that,” said the girlfriend. “You’re not her friend anymore. Either we’re both friends with her or neither of us are, and she thinks our baby’s ugly and she says she doesn’t even know you, so you’re not friends! OH! MY! GOD! ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH HER?”
“We’ve never even spoken at the gym!” I said.
She turned on me. “YOU SLUT! WHAT KIND OF PERSON STEALS A PREGNANT WOMAN’S BABY-DADDY, YOU – !”
I could see that this was getting nasty so I slammed the door before the troll could continue, although she was loud enough that everyone in the neighborhood could hear her now.
“DON’T YOU SLAM THAT DOOR! I’VE GOT SO MANY BAD SONG LYRICS TO SAY!” she bellowed.
Naturally, all the noise woke the baby, who began to cry.
“What kind of person hates babies?” I heard the guy say. “Jesus said babies are good and baby-haters are evil! It makes me very sad to say, and it hurts me to lose such a treasured friendship, but I don’t think I can go on being friends with a baby-hater!”
“Get off my porch!” I shouted. I locked the door and went into another room where I couldn’t hear them. Outside the window I saw my first two visitors clamoring over the puppies, who were dressed in sailor suits and posing beside mugs of beer.
My phone burbled and I answered it, probably sounding a bit sharp. I heard crying on the other end. “I’m sorry, I’m just having an odd day,” I apologized. “What’s up?”
“I’m so upset,” my cousin said, sniffling. “Would you pray for my husband? He’s lost his job at the cheese factory because of his tinnitus. His doctor wrote him a letter because she thought this new treatment might help, but his boss refused to let him participate in the program!”
“What? They can’t – wait, there’s no cure for tinnitus,” I said.
“I know, it’s horrible!” she sobbed. “There’s no cure, but the doctor said she’d seen some very good results with this new treatment. They use mice as companion animals, you see, but his boss won’t let him bring his mouse to work!”
“At the cheese factory. Well… um…”
“Just pray for him,” she bawled. “If you pray for him, God will bless you with a new friend within the next five days! If you can get ten other people to pray for him too, you’ll be blessed with fifty new friends and a unicorn carrying a rose in its mouth!”
“I’m not – mice? As companion animals for tinnitus. Really?”
“If you don’t pray for him, God will kill bunnies,” she hissed. “Tell all your friends!”
I shoved my phone into my pocket and wondered how hard it would be to get my old house back.
Then I heard something at the back door. Opening it very cautiously, I saw a cross-eyed tomcat with his tongue sticking out. “I heard someone mention mice!” he said. “I like mice! Do you like mice?”
He dashed into the room, turned a cartwheel, juggled some butterflies, and then began to waltz while he hummed Strauss. After he was finished, he took a bag of kibble from the cabinet, poured some into a bowl, and sat there munching away.
I stared in disbelief. Then I scooped up the cat and the bowl of kibble and ran out into the yard.
“Hey, FRIENDS!” I shouted. “Come look at my new CAT!”
The cat picked up his bowl and paraded around the yard. “AND HERE’S WHAT I’M HAVING FOR DINNER! YUM YUM, now, that’s a #hashtag!!!” he shouted, waving his little paw. It was a little hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure the gesture was meant to be a thumbs-up.
© Copyright 2015 by Johanna Rigby.
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