Jerry’s new next-door neighbours asked him to pitch in on a proper fence between their two properties, to replace the old post and rail, spruce fence that was falling in on itself. So Jerry paid less than half (since his was the “back side” of the fence) and the neighbours built a six foot high, cedar lattice-topped privacy fence.
They were leaving their side untreated, they told Jerry, because they liked the natural aging of cedar, but he should feel free to paint or stain his side as he chose.
So it was while he was applying a coat of semi-transparent wood stain and sealer to the lattice top of his side the fence, that he saw who he thought were his neighbours, Sandy and Ron, pulling weeds in the big old shrub and flower border up against the back alley.
He couldn’t really tell if they were Sandy and Ron at first, because all he saw were two big asses, one a little narrower than the other, one sunburnt already, as they were experiencing a summer-like spring. They were uncovered, and it was harder than you might think to recognized asses and limbs without clothes on. When they stood, and Jerry was able to examine their faces objectively, he saw that yes, they were Sandy and Ron, his new neighbours.
Now Jerry had seen many bodies in his seventy years, that’s for sure, but it was the context this time, of folks he barely knew and had seen in pants or shirts or skirts or dresses, now with every body part hanging out. And body parts just hang there. We forget how body parts hang, Jerry thought. It seemed impractical to Jerry, evolution-wise, to have hanging, vulnerable parts, that could expose one to injury or impede flight from danger. It seemed a better design to have all those dangled parts housed internally.
But then, Jerry didn’t believe in a god or creator anymore; and a woman’s breasts were usually attractive to men, which was undoubtedly helpful when propagating the species, and probably a man’s penis revealed things about him that primitive women might have found educational.
It was not his neighbour Sandy’s voice, but the voice of Lily-Rose Roades, the young high school teacher who resided in the bungalow next to Jerry on the other side.
She was in the back lane. He ducked instinctively when she called his name, so Sandy and Ron wouldn’t see him peering through the lattice, and waved at Lily-Rose, who was holding a covered casserole dish.
He stepped off the ladder and they met at the gate, which was part of the old spruce fence, and hung on one hinge.
“I’m just going to say hello to the new neighbours,” Lily-Rose said. “I’ve never lived in a neighbourhood before, you know. So this is what you do, right?” And she held up the casserole, which was in a white Corning ware casserole dish decorated with blue flowers. “I just loved the jam and pickles you brought me when I moved in.”
“Oh, thanks again, and definitely what you do,” Jerry said.
Now Lily-Rose was a grown woman, and didn’t need protecting, but Jerry was old-school and chivalrous in his way, and didn’t like the thought of Lily-Rose inadvertently bumping into Sandy and Ron and their hanging parts.
“Do you have time for a cup of tea, a beer, or one of my famous Harvey Wallbangers?” Jerry asked. It was only 3 pm, but a weekend.
Lily-Rose had never tasted a Harvey Wallbanger before, which is a cocktail made from orange juice, vodka, and Galliano liqueur. They sipped their drinks on Jerry’s covered patio, and looked up when Ron appeared in the lane. He was poking his head around the tall fence. They could only see his uncovered face and torso.
“Hey neighbours,” Ron said, “care to join us for happy hour? Clothing optional.”
Lily-Rose happily took herself and her tuna and bow-tie pasta casserole into Ron’s garden, and she and Jerry joined Ron, Sandy, and their bits at a small round plastic table shaded by a blue striped umbrella.
She kept her clothes on, and so did Jerry.
The world was getting more and more unpredictable, Jerry thought. He had never felt comfortable with surprises, because in his experience they were so rarely pleasant ones. But Sandy and Ron seemed to be nice folks, and he was startled by his fondness for Lily-Rose, and a body was just a body. He started to think, for the first time in his life, that unpredictability might not be a bad thing after all.
- Original Prompt: Fence, June 26, 2016