4.17.2006

Lifestyles of the Penniless and Overlooked

On one side of our home, a 500-pound woman sits watch in her living room, gazing out onto the state road with such focus and regularity that almost all passing motorists know to beep at her as they drive by. She's hurt if you don't.

On the other side, a makeshift campground sprung up not long after we moved in, after a savvy gentleman purchased the one permanent structure on the property (as permanent as a trailer can be) and illegally rented out the rest of his land to a series of registered sex offenders, irresponsible pet owners and tree-house carpenters. They lived in motor homes and pop-up campers that leeched off the main trailer via extension cords. There were six of them at last count, until the winter winds came and drove them back to Florida. I'm assuming they'll be back any day now.

It's a sad state of affairs when my husband and I are the rock that keeps an entire neighborhood from blowing away in a gust of crazy.

Anyway, today's post is about the first neighbor I mentioned--let's call her Betty--whose agoraphobic obesity is, unbeknownst to her, sounding the death knell of her marriage so loud and clear that everyone outside of the soundproofed barriers of her home knows it. She called me yesterday (she does this sometimes, even though we hardly know each other) to tell me she enjoyed having us as neighbors.

I didn't even bother contemplating the motivation for such a declaration, as rational thought is pretty much a waste of time in our zip code. "We think you're great neighbors, too," I lied.

"I'm telling you this because we're moving. With the mill rate going up and all the new expenses, we need to sell the house. I wanted to say that we've enjoyed having you as neighbors."

"Oh! Where are you going?"

"That's what everyone asks," she chortled, as if that was funny. "But we don't know."

Again, rational thought unprevailing, I let that go and hastened to end the conversation. It was no suprise to me that their money situation was tight, considering they had borrowed our gas can months ago and had been filling their oil burner with straight diesel fuel for weeks now. They just didn't have the $500 it takes to fill a tank with heating fuel in these days of grossly over-compensated Exxon and Mobil execs.

But the real story came out the next day as my husband spoke with Betty's husband--let's call him Dirk--across our chain link fence.

"I heard you're moving," said my husband.

"Yup. And we're getting divorced. She just doesn't know yet," said Dirk. In this phrase, which my husband recounted to me later, I knew that Betty did not hold a monopoly on mental illness in that house. Of course, I had figured that out more than a year ago when a dead cat washed up in front of their mailbox and Dirk kicked it more than 20 feet to the edge of their property line so he wouldn't have to worry about it anymore.

Turns out Dirk is rendez-vousing with a married co-worker from the potato chip factory down the street. He is going to use his profit from the sale of the house (what's left over from the 75 percent his lawyer advised him to give to Betty) to pay for his mistress to divorce her abusive husband, who likes to follow Dirk around like some kind of strung-out private investigator in a sleeveless tee shirt. Which is, like, totally what I should have expected.

As Dirk and my husband chatted over our property lines, Dirk expounded on the virtues of the other woman. "She's only 150 pounds," he said. In unspoken comparison, he nodded heavily toward the house, where white siding and green shutters sheltered Betty from the world while she waved at the cars beeping by.


A Perfect Post

19 Comments:

Blogger Jene said...

I am very curious now as to what life is like in the potato chip factory.

5:33 PM  
Blogger mommygoingcrazy said...

I love how you write! Such a sad story, but you make it so real to us that don't know her. See, life could be worse!
Hope all is going well. I have been thinking about you and how much I used to feel how you are right now. I wish I could just give you a hug and tell you that some day it will be better!
****HUG****

6:42 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Fascinating tragedy.

Two questions that have been re-surfacing in my own mind:

~ How much does it cost to eat enough to maintain ___ lbs (300, 500)?
~ Does a man who marries a woman who later becomes morbidly obese have a right to feel like he's been cheated?

Just thinking.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I think I just read an excerpt of the next great American novel. Write it! You already have all the characters...

7:30 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Wow, and here I thought I had the monopoly on crazy neighbors. Great post. Poor woman...

8:47 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I'm a fan of your "voice." And now I have to get the real Dirk to read this...

10:41 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

All I can think of when you write Dirk is Boggie Nights... LOL love your writing Binker!

6:30 PM  
Blogger lynsalyns said...

In a strange way, a wonderful story. American Gothic. As always, your writing is outstanding.

9:32 AM  
Blogger zeldafitz said...

Ouch--brilliant painful words, written with such amazing compassion, clarity and unflinching attention to the details.

I'm with Mom-101, it's novel time!

12:56 PM  
Blogger J said...

Poor woman...what an interesting neighborhood to live in. What a jerk of a husband. Sigh. Hope his new wife leaves him when something better comes along.

2:13 PM  
Blogger kfk said...

I'm with Mom-101.
Congrats on the Perfect Post Award. Mom-101 knows a great read when she sees one.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Wow. What a haunting and beautifully written post. I can almost see her sitting by the window. Congratulations on your Perfect Post award.

3:24 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

That was a vivid, tragic story.

Congrats on the Perfect Post!

I'm looking forward to reading about your new neighbors.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

I came here from the perfect post list. I really enjoyed your story and I like your writing style. I'm sad for both of them. Mom101 is right, you could definitely write a novel with that kind of material.

7:49 PM  
Blogger MommaK said...

Poor Betty. Poor Dirk too - I guess.

Amazing post - sad and true and made very real by your writing.

Congrats on the award today. You're a very talented writer!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Here via Mom 101; love your writing style & voice! I am definitely bookmarking your site. Looking forward to reading more!

10:58 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

This was the funniest thing I've read all month. Kudos to you. I'll be bookmarking fer shore!

11:01 PM  
Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

a great read!

congrats on your Perfect Post and thanks for visiting us.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

Fabulous. I enjoyed every word. Waiting for Chapter 2.

5:11 PM  

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