January 1, 1800
percy, the euthanasia poster childRead the entire Percy saga here -John, November 2010
Originally published August 7, 2004
"You drive ninety minutes from work in order to be 20 feet from your neighbor?" someone once remarked. Sigh. Yes I do. Our house configurations are such that I seldom have to see or hear them, not unless they come over. Which unfortunately they do.
Percy and Thelm@ are septuagenarians, if that's the one that means "in their 70s." They're typical of the residents where I live: old, middle-class white folks who retired to country beach houses. It's not my favorite demographic. If you pass them in a passing zone when they're going 45 in a 55, which is sadly zippy around here, they'll follow you home to lecture you. When new ownership bought the local grocery and put the local coffee klatch's mugs atop a doily on a nice table, she was repeatedly chewed out for having moved the mugs three feet from where they'd been since the Creation. And so on. I've been advised not to turn this into a "geriatric old fucks with overdeveloped senses of entitlement" tirade, lest I lose the reader.
But they are.
The Common North-American White-Breasted Geriatric (Anus rictus)
Which brings us to Percy, whom I first met during my house inspection. He walked over and introduced himself, then proceeded to stand there, silently and awkwardly, forcing everyone to work around him. Why he felt it his place to inject himself in my house inspection, I can only guess, but soon I would long for those early days of awkward silences between us. A brief history:
- Day 2. While I unpack, I'm having a crew tear out the decorative outhouses (surely an oxymoron) from the front yard and hack at the 30-inch high grass the previous owner had left me. Percy ambles over and asks if I'm having them tear down my outbuilding, too. "No," I say. "I'm tearing that down someday, but until I buy my flop, I need it for storage." He huffs off.
- Day 3. The guys are still hacking at my acre of lawn with machetes and weed-wackers. Percy comes over. "So what's your philosophy on lawn care?" he says in an off-putting, accusing manner. What the heck does that mean, anyway? "Grass grows. I cut it." He stares at me as though I'd talked in baby talk, then asks if he can borrow my tractor in perpetuity to mow his lawn. It doesn't work, I lied. He huffs off.
- Day 5. Percy comes over. He points out that my back yard is filled with dandelions and asks if I'm going to fertilize. I say that, given that Puget Sound's at the edge of our back yards, it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see that's just poisoning the water and everything in it. So until I can find a safe way of weeding, the weeds stay. He stared at me like I'd just talked in Klingon. "I'll do it for you, then," he snapped, as if my lack of know-how was the issue. No, no you won't. Under no circumstances. He huffs off. Soon my yard was mysteriously dandelion free.
- Day 20. Percy sees me installing planters on my balcony rail. "I hope those don't blow off!" he snidely snorted in a way that somehow indicated the exact opposite sentiment. Two years later, they're still there.
- Day 30. Percy sees me power-washing the deck. "Are you staining or painting?" Staining. "What color?" Grey. He goes inside, presumably to update Thelm@, who presumably he's got tied up in the basement. He returns. "A natural looking stain would look pretty good, too." Uh-huh. "I need to get me a power washer," he says leadingly. "Yep. I sure do. Like yours. Yep." That night, I made sure my power-washer was locked up.
- Day 31. I'm staining. Percy oozes over. "You going to paint the house, too?"
- Day 50. For the first of many times to come, Percy inexplicably mows his lawn about 10 feet across our property line, effectively enlarging his own tiny yard.
- Day 100. "You said you're getting rid of that outbuilding?" Yes. "So is that girl your wife or your girlfriend?" My girlfriend. How about Thelm@? He huffs off.
- Day 200. I've installed a new garden where previously a debris pile lay, and behind it, I'm installing a lovely lattice around my deck, hiding the ugly cement foundation. Percy walks over. "How come you bought such little plants?" Because the mature ones cost 10x as much, that's why. "Oh!" he says with enormous satisfaction, "So you're not one of those Microsoft people!"
- Day 300. Thelm@ somehow wriggles free long enough to tell me that she loves my china cabinet. Funnily enough, I've never had them over.
- Day 350. The inevitable happens. Percy comes over while I'm walking around naked and, frustrated by the curtain I'd put on the front door, goes to the kitchen window to peer in before knocking.
- Day 400. It happens again. One would think that seeing me naked once would be enough negative reinforcement. Alas.
- Day 450. Tired of the neighbor kids cutting through my yard to get to the beach, I erect a fence on my property line opposite Percy's. Percy walks across my backyard to reach me as I work. "Well," he lies transparently, "I was going to talk to my neighbor, but I guess now I have to walk around." I guess so.
- Day 500. I begin my kitchen remodel. Seeing the old cabinets stack up on my deck, Thelm@ comes over. "Now what this house calls for is a country kitchen." Well, I'm going with cherry and granite. Sorry. "Oh. Well. I'm sure that can be nice, too."
- Day 550. I buy my flop and begin moving items out of the outbuilding. "Are you finally tearing it down? When?"
- Day 600. The kitchen remodel is done. Percy comes over with a piece of junk mail that had been left in his mailbox and knocks on the door. I answer, physically obstructing him from entering. He steps into my space and actually bumps chests, trying to come in. When it becomes obvious I'm not moving, he awkwardly asks for a phone number. I walk to my desk, and he glides on into my house, uninvited. He surveys the kitchen. "I'm going to have to memorize the details so that I can describe it to Thelm@," he hints subtly.
- Day 650. The outbuilding is being demolished. I wasn't here for it, but the boys said that Percy was throwing his own items on their burn pile and generally interfering the whole time, even trying to get them to remove plants he doesn't like ("You taking those ferns out? Ferns are just weeds, you know.") and my clothesline rack. Mind you, these are my things. The crew was taken aback. "Dude," one finally said incredulously, "You live in a freakin' double-wide." They said he huffed off.
To be continued.
posted by john at 12:00 AM â€¢ permalink