Lynn shook her head and sighed, "If you have time, it’s a long story about my bitchy Church-Lady next-door-neighbor. At first, I was positive she tried tearing it off...now I don't care.”
Lynn went on to say that she had been at odds for years with a mid-sixty-ish spinster named Irma Arborgast or as she liked to call her, Ms. Treefart, (or as I say MTF).
MTF lived alone in an unkempt house next door. She always wore an over-sized, opaque, plastic crucifix that dangled from a lanyard around her neck. To Lynn, that meant the old girl thought her devoutness gave her free reign to complain about everything...to anybody who crossed her path.
Lynn said, “Way back when, I was still on a nodding basis with Irma. Then everything changed when she knocked on my door. We (she and her husband George) had friends over that afternoon and the battleaxe demanded that I turn down the music.” As an aside Lynn chuckled, "I’ve only met a couple of Irmas in my life and they were all space cases."
The music wasn’t crazy loud so Lynn politely refused. When MTF threatened to call the police Lynn shrugged, “Go ahead, call the SWAT team too.” When the cops arrived, MTF stood in the street kissing her big cross as the officer thanked Lynn for turning the volume down. Lynn pointed at MTF and said, “That bible-thumper is out of her mind…I never turned it down. You know why? Because it was always like this.”
Another time MTF phoned her house to complain about Speedo-clad George smoking a cigar while mowing the back lawn. Lynn said, “How can that bother you? You only leave your house to go to church! And if the aroma is so offensive why are you spying at George from an open window in your upstairs bedroom?”
The real problems seemed to revolve around MTF’s hatred of dogs. Lynn’s first dog was a beagle mutt named Julio (all her dog names were inspired by Simon and Garfunkel).
|PAUL SIMON (left) AND ART GARFUNKEL WERE FOLK-ROCK STANDOUTS FROM 1957-1970 AND AGAIN FROM 1981-1983. IN 1990, SIMON AND GARFUNKEL WERE INDUCTED IN THE ROCK-N-ROLL HALL-OF-FAME.|
Julio got loose once and dug at MTF’s two rose bushes that sprang-up in the weedy wildflowers along side her house. MTF with God as her witness claimed to have witnessed the whole affair. She accused Lynn of "coveting her beautiful flowers" and purposely letting Julio out because she knew the mongrel would destroy her prized possessions. Lynn said, “Your ‘landscaping’ looks like a vacant lot. And your damned roses weren’t disturbed…if anything…now, your so-called garden looks better.” When MTF threatened to call her lawyer Lynn scoffed, “Sue me!”
A couple of months later, two-year old Julio mysteriously died. It seemed impossible that MTF could have poisoned the dog. But Lynn figured that the spiteful old biddy threw something like aspirins, chocolate or onions over the fence. But Lynn found no evidence to support her allegations. Still, she wanted to confront Ms. Arborgast but her husband calmed her down. Instead, they went through the great expense of having a vet see if Julio was poisoned but the tests proved negative.
Lynn and George went back to the Humane Society and rescued a Shetland Sheep dog that they named Cecilia. This puppy liked the backyard. She spent a lot of time there and stood like a noble sentinel as she guarded her turf…and family.
George liked to toss a beach ball around with Cecilia. When the ball sailed over the fence, he wasn’t intimidated by the witchy neighbor’s reputation. He pleasantly told her the situation and she graciously went outside and threw it back over the fence. When he recovered the ball it was deflated. Upon closer examination, it had been punctured with (he guessed) a scissors.
George referred to MTF's evil eyes, wild white hair and pancake make-up and began calling her Baby Jane Hudson while keeping the beach ball incident to himself.
|BETTE DAVIS WAS THE EPITOME OF A VICIOUS, DEMENTED OLD LADY IN THE 1962 SUSPENSE THRILLER, "WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE."|
Weeks later, Cecilia’s preference to exclusively use her backyard territory as a toilet caused MTF to go ballistic over the wafting doggie poop stink. The old hag banged on Lynn's door and ranted about plague and pestilence. When she stuck an accusatory finger in Lynn's face and proclaimed, "You're a sinner!" Lynn said, “Shut up!” She was about to slam the door when mild-mannered George screamed at MTF and shooed the holier-than-thou zealot back to her property.
One afternoon this past March, Lynn came home and Cecilia was gone. George was certain that back gate was closed when he let her out back. A shadow of doubt was cast on MTF even though the gate couldn’t be opened from the outside. Despite searching the neighborhood, putting up reward fliers and notifying local veterinarians, Cecilia never turned up. After a frustrating two weeks, it was Lynn’s turn to pound on MTF’s door, point an angry finger and scream profanities...and it was the drone’s chance to laugh in Lynn’s face.
The feud quieted down until summer. Then Lynn rescued a huge, ugly, bullmastiff mutt with a scary bark. She named this behemoth, “Here Comes Rhymin’ Simon” but just calls him Simon.
Simon loves people. He might be frightening to look at due to his size and scraggly coat but he’s a cuddly, warm and friendly bugger.
|SIMON PROBABLY HAS ROTTWEILER BLOOD COURSING THROUGH HIS VEINS BECAUSE HE WAS OVER TWO-FEET TALL AND SEVENTY POUNDS WHEN SHE GOT HIM...AND STILL GROWING.|
Lynn liked to linger in front of MTF’s house when she walked Simon. The rest of her loop included a desolate, undevelped wooded area at the far end of her subdivision. In case of emergencies, she got in the habit of clutching her key ring in case she had to gauge-out an assailant eyes or use the mace spray she carried.
Lynn also kept mini-plastic bags in a sleeve attached to Simon’s leash and always disposed of his droppings properly. It was disappointing that her little boy had a favorite spot at the edge of the woods so he never left a symbolic offering for Arborgast to stew over.
One afternoon, a workman appeared between the houses and started cleaning up a modest section of MTF’s untamed wilderness. In a shady spot, he erected the skeleton of an enclosure that looked like it was going to be for a large dog. Later, around the bare wooden struts, he wrapped chicken wire. The man built a rudimentary doorway. He then used one nail to secure a block of scrap wood that when twisted, served as a simple locking mechanism. Later, he added a smaller, plastic shelter inside.
The next day, Lynn was watering the plants on her rear deck as the old woman pulled up in her beat-up Chrysler K-Car. Lynn made no attempt to hide as she watched the she-devil get out holding an all-white bunny. MTF placed the tiny animal in the enormous cage, looked up at Lynn and growled, “Damn snoop. Mind your business.”
|THE CHRYSLER K-SERIES LASTED FROM 1981-1995. LIKE THE 1987 ARIES (above) THE K-CARS WERE HYPED-UP TO SWEEP THE NATION AS A HIGH-QUALITY, ECONOMICAL ALTERNATIVE TO JAPANESE IMPORTS BUT FELL FAR SHORT OF MAKING HISTORY.|
Lynn was walking Simon around the corner when one of her lady friends was getting her mail. The friend patted Simon’s gargantuan head as he slobbered in delight. She knew of Lynn’s difficulties with MTF and confided, “Ms. Arbotgast is getting a rabbit.” Lynn said, “I saw it. It’s pretty and pure white.” The woman said, “She told me it’s a rare breed called a Flemish Giant.” She intensified scratching Simon’s head and added, “I guess she wants to compete with this bundle of joy.” Lynn said, “I didn’t get much of a look…but it seemed like normal size to me.” “Well, I don’t have to tell you how pixilated she is but…you'll never guess what the goofball named it?” Lynn smiled in anticipation, “What?” “She named it David…as in David and Goliath…I swear. That’s what she told me.”
For several weeks, a period of peaceful coexistence developed between the women. During this time, Lynn googled Flemish Giant rabbits and found out that these monstrosities are actually docile even if they exceed twenty-five pounds.
|AS WARPED AS MS.TREEFART WAS...SHE COULDN'T POSSIBLY EXPECT HER RABBIT TO SLAY SIMON.|
Lynn was unthreatened but was curious to watch the bunny's growth spurts. Every few days, from the only clear vantage point (her rear deck) she looked over the fence. But David always seemed about the same size. By the beginning of June, Lynn was convinced that MTF had lied to the neighbor about the bunny's pedigree. So she lost interest in the transformation.
Later that month as storm clouds hid the sun and the howling wind dropped the afternoon temperature, Lynn heard the unmistakable sound of MTF’s rickety screen door slam. From the upstairs window, she watched her nemesis open the rusted-out rear passenger side door of her K-Car and set a small valise on the back seat. Lynn was watching her back into the street when she noticed a wind gust move her backyard gate. Seconds later another fierce gale pried the gate slightly ajar. She immediately flashed-back to Cecilia and realized how the closed gate might have opened enough for the slender dog to get out.
She reported her findings to George and he promised to repair the gate on his next day off. But before that could happen, Simon disappeared from the backyard. Lynn investigated the gate and was convinced that the small gap could be forced wider by the stouter dog.
In a misty rain, panic-stricken Lynn drove all over the neighborhood. From her cell-phone she made a dozen calls. She explained to suspicious friends that this couldn’t have been the handiwork of MTF because she had already been away for a couple of days. And that the wind probably opened gate.
Lynn was mentally and physically exhausted when she got home but was happily surprised to see Simon lounging on her dry porch, atop the welcome mat. When Lynn got out of her car, she saw something white, furry and quite dead in Simon’s mouth. “Jesus H. Christ,” Lynn wailed. It was David. She hid the dead rabbit in her bushes, took Simon in the house and ran between the houses. Lynn saw her worst fear…David’s cage was open and empty.
Lynn was uncertain when MTF would return so she went on an inspired mission (from God). After measuring David, she raced to the pet store. Lynn bought an all white rabbit that was the same size as the decedent and replaced it in the empty cage. She got a shoebox, placed David's carcass inside and drove to the lonely edge of the woods where Simon did his business. She used her SUV to shield away possible witnesses and in a steady drizzle, dug a grave.
MTF returned home early that same rainy evening. It would rain for the next two days. On the first nice morning, Lynn was walking Simon. Lynn was worried that MTF would realize that Simon killed David and that she supplied an imposter rabbit. Lynn wanted to maintain normalcy so she and Simon lingered as usual in front of MTF’s house. Suddenly, MTF bolted out her front door. She was charging, at senior citizen speed, towards them in such a menacing way that Lynn readied her aerosol mace can. Even Simon recognized the potential danger and used an uncustomary growl. Up close, Lynn saw something she never saw…Irma Arborgast was smiling.
Ms. Arborgast exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?” Lynn was afraid to say anything. Then she was completely stunned when MFT massaged behind Simon’s ear and said, “David has ascended from the dead!" Lynn said, "What do you mean?" "It was an abomination, I happened to look outside and saw a gopher or a possum or some such critter carrying him off. It was horrible, David must have put up a struggle..." Her voice cracked until she continued, "I-I-I then watched the heathen shake my poor baby to death.” Lynn cautiously said, “No way…” MTF gestured behind her house and bleated, “I buried my angel out back."
There was a long awkward pause until MTF added, "I was so upset that I went to my sister and together we prayed for guidance.” Lynn smirked, “He was dead...and now he's alive? You have no idea how happy I am for you.” MTF sniveled, "I-I-I checked his final resting place and it was undisturbed. I'm telling you, praise the lord, it's a miracle!" Lynn was thinking that Simon didn't kill the rabbit, he dug it up after it was already dead. And all that rain might have filled in the hole enough to fool the nut-job. Then as MTF knelt down and hugged Simon’s head Lynn thought; This old screwball really lives in a fantasy world. That's when MTF looked up and said, “It's just a matter of faith. David is my savior and all pets truly are blessings.”
Lynn looked at me as she fiddled with the frayed edge of her "Who Rescued Who" bumper sticker and concluded, "Maybe I saved Ms. Treefart too." Then as she got in her car Lynn grinned, said, "Nah!" and drove off.