This neighborhood is going to the devil. I’ve felt it for a long time, but I knew it for sure when our neighbor Russell Anderson saw the Conways running naked up their driveway on Christmas Eve.
I’m not one to meddle in other people’s business, but when it comes to public decency, it’s time to speak up. Alan Conway and his wife must be in their late fifties and ought to know better, but with their kids grown, they think it doesn’t matter if you act like silly teenagers. Russell doesn’t miss a trick. He’s a retired high school principal, so he’s seen just about everything, good or bad. He heard giggling when he went out to turn his Christmas lights off around eleven o’clock and there they were, naked, racing all the way out to their mailbox. Alan’s a pharmacist and Daphne’s a high school secretary, so you’d think they’d have some sense, but she dresses like some college girl. Last summer she kept wearing those stretchy tube tops and she’s way too well endowed for that. The neighbors were staring like it was some peep show.
Alan’s fashion judgement is no better. He’ll wear a Hawaiian shirt under his druggist’s smock instead of a button-down, and you can see those fruity colors peeking out like tropical birds in a cage. Talk about free spirits! He’s an elder at the Presbyterian Church, so I guess religion is no guarantee of morality.
This was a decent neighborhood when my husband Doc and I moved here. Each house is set back at least fifty feet and we’ve got restrictions: no hanging laundry, no chicken coops and no cars on cinder blocks. You’d think it would attract people of a high caliber.
I told Doc what Russell said about the Conways going nude, and he smiled to himself. “The lucky old goat.”
“What?” I asked.
“Maybe they wanted Santa to bring them something to wear.”
I looked at him like he’d hung ornaments on his ears. I can’t believe he’d make light of a serious situation like this. Honestly, sometimes that man doesn’t have a lick of sense! Do we want nudists running around here? I think not. Since Alan’s a pharmacist, for all I know, they were using some kind of drugs he brought home. I shudder to think what might have happened if our church youth had been out caroling the neighborhood and there were those fools acting like heathens. I wonder how this husband of mine would explain that?
Doc isn’t an actual doctor. He got the nickname years ago when he worked on dairy cows with his Daddy. They bred cattle and Loren, that’s his given name, had a knack for working with Jerseys. (I’m glad he got called Doc—no straight man’s called Loren—says the sissy name never bothered him, but I’ll bet it did. He’s too manly for it not to matter. He lists us under “Doc” in the phone directory.) He could have gone off to vet school, but his grades weren’t good enough, and then Vietnam came along and he lost his student deferment. After the Army, he went into the heating and air conditioning business. He’s tall and burly with beefy hands, so the work suited him and he did well enough to buy this house in the Rolling Hills development. That was ten years ago, when our boys were at home. We found this yellow split foyer with brown shutters and frosted amber glass beside the front door. The previous owners had put up grass cloth and hung colored mini blinds in all the windows. Really cute. We didn’t have to do a thing but clean the carpets and do a little touch-up paint, so it was a bargain at $100,000.
A lot of the neighbors back then looked down on us because Doc’s what they call “blue collar,” only he was taking home more money than most any of them because he didn’t have alimony, child support or judgments against him. We always pay our bills on time without interest because that’s the Lord’s way. Doc doesn’t object to me going to church, though he goes only a few times a year. Sunday’s the day of rest, he says.
We tried to be neighborly and went to the Homeowners’ Association parties, and the people would assume Doc was an M.D. or a dentist. They’d act impressed, want to know where he practiced, until they found out it’s a nickname and he owns Caldwell’s Heating and Air Conditioning. Then they’d give us a snobby look like we were trailer trash, just because he’s mechanically inclined. Doc’s actually a businessman, but the neighbors—mostly brokers, realtors and other types of paper shufflers—didn’t care about that until their heat pumps break down and they have to call up after hours. Of course they expect special favors and discounts just because they’re neighbors. What some people will do to save a dollar!
You sure didn’t see Alan Conway give us any favors when the boys had strep or Doc was down in his back from installing a business-grade HVAC system and had to have painkillers. No sir. That’s different because Alan’s a “professional.” He’d charge us full price for any prescription, and when it was after hours, he was closed tight as a drum. “Take two aspirins and call back tomorrow morning.” That’s what he’d say. Well, he’s got a long ways to go to raise himself in my estimation, out there running around naked on Christmas Eve. Russell said from what he could tell, Alan was actually chasing Daphne, who had covered her bosoms with her arms. I guess because they’re so big, they were flopping all around like bags of sand, but they’re probably implants. The way they spend money, I’m sure Alan would spring for plastic surgery, but I wouldn’t know much about that. I’m fairly flat-chested. That’s the way the Lord made me, so I’m not about to question Him with silicone.
Russell said maybe they were out there on a dare, but what kind of adults do stupid things on dares? I said they were probably drunk. I’ve seen their green recycle bin plenty of times on my morning walks, and it’s full of liquor bottles more times than not. As a matter of fact, most of those plastic bins are full of one kind of booze or another—Busch Lite, Gallo, Marcus James, Jack Daniels. There must be more drunks around here than skid row the way they fill those bins every seven days. You can hear the glass busting in the recycle truck every Tuesday morning too, right in the middle of The 700 Club. I’ve long given up the temptations of QVC, but I can hardly hear Pat’s guests with all the racket. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The Conways are Presbyterians, and, like Lutherans, they’re used to having alcohol for Communion. Doc told me that. He’s visited both kinds of churches before he met me, and he says they serve real wine for communion, so no wonder these people are going to the devil, as Brother Thomas says. He’s our preacher, and tells it like it is. Why if he knew the truth about our neighborhood, he’d probably tell us to move out of this din of inequity, but that’s easy for him to say, living in a free parsonage. He’s never looked a mortgage in the eye.
Russell Anderson keeps us pretty much up to date on things. He’s lived here a little longer than us, so he’s seen plenty. Like the time the Schaffers had a marijuana party for their son’s graduation. Russell, whose house is downwind from the Schaffers’ two-story Tudor, said you could get high just opening the back door. Praise the Lord our boys were too young to get involved with that hoodlum! They said he painted pentagrams on the pavement, which is a sure sign of devil worship. The Schaffers almost sent him away to a private school, but they didn’t, and I think they should have. Maybe a good church academy could have drilled some sense into that boy. I heard he’s out on the West Coast which is the right place for him. Russell says usually such kids never amount to much unless they join the Marines or something, and he should know. He’s seen thousands of teen-agers graduate and go off to the real world. But whenever I mention problems like that, Doc just says,
“Don’t be too hasty; we might have to wear those shoes some day.”
Hmmpf! We raised our sons to be God-fearing boys and they joined the youth group over at Southview Community Church, which isn’t one of those brand-name denominations. We’re more Bible centered, or at least I am.…Return to Table of Contents