Afternoon rolls gently into evening during the summer months in central Pennsylvania.
Standing on our back deck, you could smell the strawberry filling being produced in the nearby Quaker factory. It was a delicious scent. At other times, you could also smell the Dog Chow that was being manufactured at the nearby Purina plant. Not quite as pleasant, but I loved this time of day.
I took our Great Dane, Lexus, outside for her last relief of the day. As we graced our backyard, I noticed our next door neighbor standing on his back deck. Dan.
He hated me the minute that I took possession of this house and had kept a wary eye on us ever since. I had two loud dogs and he despised animals. I tended to ignore my overgrown bushes and brown, splotchy grass. We actually witnessed him sweeping his impeccably manicured, golf courses green lawn clean with his shop vac. He and his wife were waiting to have children until they could afford for her to be a stay at home mom. They wanted to make sure their offspring would be born into a financially stable and completely nurturing environment that would complement their flawlessly pristine home. My three kids came home from school every day to a parent-less house, and were left unsupervised for several hours in the afternoons.
And what really tripped his trigger lately was that my boyfriend, Bob, had recently moved in and brought his three young kids along with him. So now, invading Dan’s bubble of neighborhood perfection, was a family with six messy, boisterous, rambunctious kids; and Bob had a habit of building things for the children to play with like potato guns, rocket launchers, and catapults.
I greeted Dan as I stepped outside, but as usual he ignored my attempts at civility. He stood there looking around as if he were expecting company.
I followed Lexus into our yard and let her circle around. It was starting to get dark, but I was in no hurry to get back inside. As I stood there, letting her sniff and do her thing, I noticed a police car slowly inching its way up our back alley.
The officer was traveling at a snail’s pace and painstakingly surveying the neighborhood. At the stop sign, he made a left and continued crawling alongside my property. I stood there observing him quizzically. When he reached the point in the road where he was directly in front of me, he rolled down his window and shouted out a greeting.
“Excuse me Miss, are those real?”
I bent my face down to glance at my bosomy chest for a moment and then slowly raised my head to confront him.
“WHAT are we talking about here?” I questioned.
“OH, no, no, no!! Not those, NOT THOSE!! I am talking about the things that are behind you – turn around!”
I swung around for clarification’s sake and in the lengthening shadows, spotted twenty-four hand guns hanging on my wash line. My son and Lexus were in fierce competition these days to see who could cause me the most trouble.
“Oh Chaz” I muttered to myself. Then loudly to the policeman, “No officer, well, OK- yeah, I always wash my hand guns and hang them on my clothes line to dry”. I said with a smirk.
I walked over to the line and gave it a tug. The guns bounced lightly at my touch.
“These are squirt guns. My son and his friends purchased them at the Dollar Store today and they must have spray painted them all black. They were planning on playing war with each other this evening.”
“Oh, OK. Well, you might want to take them down. Some of your neighbors are, uh, a bit concerned with what goes on at your house.”
“Would that be the concerned neighbor who lives next door?” I asked as I turned to look at Dan. As soon as I caught his eye, he vanished like a coward into his home.
“Well, I can’t say who called it in, but I will say that we do get a few calls a month about this place. You might want to curtail some of your activities, if you know what I mean.”
“OK Officer, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Yeah, and tell your son and his friends not to be playing with guns, even toy ones, around the town. They could be mistaken for the real thing and that could cause some serious problems.”
“Will do sir, thanks for the advice.”
I proceeded to take down our weapons display, and then informed Chaz and his friends they would have to wait to start their conquest until we were in quieter territory. I offered to take them to our family’s place in the country that coming weekend for their battles. Like the good kids they are, they all agreed to wait.
And they did wait, until I was sound asleep that night, and then went and terrorized each other all over our neighborhood, and well past our town’s curfew. I am sure as usual, that Dan got very little sleep that night. But we didn’t hear from the police again for at least the next few weeks.
Story and photography by L. J. Priest. All rights reserved.