Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Your Grandmother's Doilies

My best friend Starr Ann was born with her very own, fully-formed ideas about home décor. Her criteria? If it pleases her eye, she goes with it.

One time, when we were little, Starr Ann and I got in trouble for something. I think it had to do with a fake rattlesnake that accidentally got left under Sister Blissie Marie's pillow for her to find as she got into bed one night, but I'm not sure. Anyway, Starr Ann and I had to clean the convent living room, dining room, kitchen, and Sister Blissie's room - all before we could go outside and play.

We did the kitchen first, and were miserable the whole time. Then that single interior decorator gene of Starr Ann's kicked into action, and she decided we would not only clean the other rooms, but we were going to make them look better than they ever had before. Something inside me feared this would only buy us more housecleaning duty, but I just couldn't ruin her enthusiasm and send her back into drudge mood, so I kept quiet.

Well, Starr Ann took off and just poured her little heart into cleaning the rest of those rooms. In the living room, the nuns had this tall cherry table, where they always kept a fresh vase of flowers. Starr Ann had to pee, and since we were allowed to use the sisters' main bathroom while we were cleaning, that's where she went. When she was finished, Starr Ann (remember, she was real little) came out carrying a few sheets of pale pink toilet paper. She'd been sitting there doing her business, looking at that pastel pink, and got it into her head it'd look real nice on the polished cherry table, under the vase, like a doily.

Starr Ann put that toilet paper underneath the sisters' fancy flower vase and stepped back a couple steps to admire the color and texture combination she'd created. I didn't know what to do. She seemed so proud of what she'd done. And what harm was it going to do to leave it there? So I didn't say anything. Actually, I thought I'd have time to sneak back after we'd finished and just remove the toilet paper. No big deal.

Problem was, there was this one real mean nun, nothing like Sister Blissie, but real mean to everybody all the time. So Sister Mary Flagellate of Christ showed up not long after Starr Ann had added the toilet paper touch. Sister stood in the doorway scanning the room for any tiny piece of lint we might have missed, and then she saw it. The toilet paper.

"Which of you came up with this mockery?"

Of course, we both said we'd done it, and so we both got in trouble again, and were invited back for next week's cleaning, and the next, until we could learn to be more respectful.

Which brings me to what I intended to write about. Heh.

Most of our neighbors are real nice. But wouldn't you know, one of the ones who isn't so nice, one who isn't very tolerant of people who arrange their lives the tiniest bit differently than he does his, happens to live right next to our place. Now, that doesn't mean he lives real near, just that he's closer than anybody else.
Elrod's driveway runs right alongside the outside fence of our farthest pasture.

Elrod's a surgeon. Been married at least three times that we know of. Seems like a real material type of person. Doesn't have a lot of use for homosexuals. If he isn't a Republican, it's a real shame, because he sure is a big enough jerk to make a good one.

Well, nine whole months ago, Elrod started having a stone gate built at the entrance to his property. Two workers, at least, have been building this monstrosity for longer than it takes to build a house these days. It's this huge brick and iron fortress sitting out in the middle of nowhere, with an automatic gate that's got to be driving UPS and FedEx, who have to make about four trips up Elrod's drive every day, nuts.

So, up until last week, this thing was just something to laugh about. I swear, every time Starr Ann had to ride home that way and pass by the thing, I knew it because she'd come in the house shaking her head, saying, "That guy must sure feel the need to compensate for something."

Last week, though, things turned ugly. The workers topped several of the brick pinnacles with lights! Bright, polluting, unshaded lights that if you accidentally look directly at them you run inside to a mirror to make sure your eyes aren't squirting blood.

We've been livid. Yes, I said livid. And then I checked my spelling of the word livid, because if you look at it long enough, it starts seeming like there's no such word. But there is. Livid is a perfectly good word, and I even used it correctly.

Anyway, we've been livid over these lights.

And the worst part is that Starr Ann and I just aren't used to carrying around a lot of negativity, but I'm telling you, we've been full of bile over this.

Today, Starr Ann's been off visiting Miss Opal Mountain at the nursing facility, and on the way home this evening she's gonna have to pass by The Brightly Lit Eyesore. I've been trying real hard to figure out a way to keep her from just busting wide open over that thing again tonight. Then it hit me. Hard as it's gonna be, we've gotta find some way to understand Elrod, even a little bit. Only thing's gonna get us up out of all this ugliness is to claim an inch or two of common ground. I think I found about 16 square inches, as a matter of fact.

In our hallway, we have a tall table where we keep things we need to grab on the way outside, like our work gloves, a pocket knife, sunglasses, that kind of stuff. So, I put all that away and set a pretty vase of flowers there on a few squares of pink toilet paper.

Betcha anything Starr Ann gets the message.