Tim, my neighbor across the street, nudges a vine with his toe. He shrugs. “I don’t know what this is.” He’s tall, floppy, and smiley—Dorothy’s Scarecrow. There’s a kneehole in his overalls.

“Sometimes the deer come and eat the leaves off the squash plants. Is it squash?” Tim doesn’t know for sure. “The deer don’t eat the part the humans will eat. There’s enough for the deer and the humans.” He points out incipient watermelons and something he believes might be zucchini. The rabbits are licking their little lips right now. They will chew your veggies down to the quick.

Tim plants vegetables. I wait for rabbits.

He’s touring me around his garden. Which he built for everybody in the neighborhood—a neighborhood founded on the principle that neighbors should stay in their own yards. His naïveté shimmers in the morning sun. He says, “Everybody can take whatever they want.” His garden used to be a swath of suburban lawn, a perfect complement to the rest of our suburban lawns. Now it’s a Communist plot.

Image by flockine from Pixabay 

“These are peach trees. These are, maybe, apples.” The trunks are as big around as my arm. Tim pats a scrawny tree-let. “Anybody can walk by and grab a peach.” Birds are circling high above our heads. The birds will eat the fruit before it’s ripe enough for the Anybodies. And then you’ll have bird poop all over your zucchinis, poop containing weed seeds, which the birds probably picked up from my yard.

Tim plants peach trees. I wait for birds.

He points to a crater the size of a hot tub. It’s got a mud puddle in the bottom. If I stood in the crater, my chin would be at ground level. “That’s going to be a water feature.” Yeah, you mean mosquito nursery. He’s using clay, instead of a plastic liner. He’s right about that. The clay soil in my yard holds water better than my bathtub does. Okay, I’m impressed with that decision.

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

Tim builds a pond. I wait for mosquitoes.

He sweeps his arm in a ta-dah. A bench appears. It’s for—wait for it—Anybody. Nobody around here is going to sit on a bench in somebody else’s yard. We install security systems to prevent that. Echinacea surrounds the bench. Pretty. I should plant Echinacea on the sunny south side of my house. Native, low maintenance. Tim says,  “This is passionflower. It’s going to vine over the top.” A little bit of shade. Smells good, too. Still, there’s heat, humidity, and suspicious Anybodies.

Tim builds a bench. I wait for a stranger to sit there and case his house for a future burglary.

Oh how I’ll relish the satisfaction of saying told you so. Tsk Tsk. What a shame your garden’s a disaster, and the neighbors reported you to the zoning commission, and the rabbits ate your squash, and the birds pecked your peaches.

Missouri peaches.

Fresh off the tree.



Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

Within arm’s reach, if I were sitting on that shaded bench, which will be scented with passionflowers, which will be within striking distance of a splash of water borne on the breeze.

Tim plants a garden. I wait for peaches.

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes to incite compassion. Whether she’s challenged by Mother Nature or the nature of her wild mind, she hopes readers will recognize themselves in her stories—and then lovingly accept their own wild minds. Downey is the author of Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room; Searching for My Heart: Essays about Love; From Dawn to Daylight: Essays; and Stumbling Toward the Buddha: Stories about Tripping over My Principles on the Road to Transformation. Learn more at DawnDowneyBlog.com.