The Kindness of Strange Neighbors

Our neighbors up the road are a colorful brood, who are a living testament to my theory that poor dental hygiene, the irresponsible use of firearms, and animal hoarding frequently go hand-in-hand. And I don’t say that to be deliberately disparaging. Just last month, they had more than 39 feral cats confiscated from their property by animal protection (yay for the cats). It was a small bump in the road for these committed animal collectors, who see it as a minor setback to their chosen lifestyle.

For the most part, these folks—whose decorating style can best be described as Unabomber meets Deliverance—are an affable bunch, and pretty much keep to themselves. Sure “The Dukes of Hazzard”—or the D of H’s—as I’ll call them in this post, must occasionally be reminded not to target practice across their next door neighbor’s deck (“The B*tch is from Long Island!”), or set off Malatov cocktails after 11:30 p.m. But hey, nobody’s perfect. And in the interest of building strong community ties, B and I try to focus on their good qualities, stopping to chat whenever we happen to pass their front camp, I mean yard. Topics of discussion include the delights and detriments of consuming large quantities of various kinds of alcohol. Because B is Irish, they see him as a sort of authority in this area.

They also offer us warm canned beer and dubious homemade jam. We never eat the jam, of course. Call me judgmental, but people covered head-to-toe in flea bites probably aren’t very concerned with food safety. But the jam is a nice gesture just the same.

Not surprisingly, the D of H’s have a collection of unusual house pets, among them a chicken named Chirpy, who was hatched by a duck and comes when you rattle ice cubes in a glass. That’s her way in the background. I didn’t have a glass of ice on me.

Then there is this delightful fellow, Harley, who fancies himself more of a tick hound than what he really is.

The D of H’s don’t have the heart to tell him he doesn’t belong on chairs or in their bed, for that matter…or, that he shouldn’t drink beer. “How bad could it be fer ‘im? Look, he likes it, don’t he?”

About Smallpeace

Michele Karas is a poet, essayist, and longstanding professional copywriter, who currently works for a top-five US book publisher. Her poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, including Tinderbox, THRUSH, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Narrative magazine, among others. Michele holds a BA in Journalism from San Diego State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY, The City College of New York. Find her on Twitter @small_peace.
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