Story: Neighborhood Watch

Right away, I noticed the kid. Even as I saw the Ford Explorer lurch into the driveway next to mine, I saw the kid in the back seat bouncing away, mouth wide open. Dammit.

I turned around so my back was to them and kept right on weeding. Should’ve known it’d be too good to last. Since the Gabaldon family moved out last month I had gotten too used to having empty houses on either side of me. I ain’t a people person, and after twenty years on my own I had no plans to change.

And now, for my sins, I’d have some squealing kid right next door, yelling and running through my flowerbeds and setting fire to things. Can’t stand kids, they’re even worse then people. Whenever I read that Dennis the Menace cartoon strip I’d root for Mr. Wilson to whack that little preteen offender over the head with a shovel and bury him in the garden. I would.

As soon as the door opened up the kid’s squeal abruptly filled the neighborhood, accompanied by the backup chorus of the parents trying to calm him down. He was out of the car in a flash, running around the house at full speed before they were even unbuckled. I got up and headed back into my house, taking the Lord’s name every other step.

A cuppa later I was calm enough to look out my window. I may be a nosy old man but I ain’t like them old biddies down the street that spend their days watching each other out their living room windows. This was a military fact-gathering mission. The enemy was out there and I needed to know his capabilities.

Big, ugly, gas-snorting SUV, check. Whiny kid, maybe 8 years old, check. Mom was blond, good figure, vaguely cheerful expression. I figured her for the stay-at-home mom who never spanked her kid and thought everyone was basically good if they got enough hugs and cookies. A dimwit, in other words. The dad was good-looking enough, had a bossman look to him. Wherever he worked he ran the place, no question, and he was definitely the one who laid down the law in his family. Also looked to have a king-size stick up his butt. With spikes on it.

Oh, well, I thought. I’ve outlasted other neighbors, I can outlast this one.

Things got worse almost immediately. It turned out that the brat’s school bus showed up at the same time of the morning I always walk my cocker spaniel, Pixie. We had set out in a reasonably good mood that lasted until the end of the driveway where we ran into the brat and his momma coming out alongside us. The brat was jumping up and down, waving his backpack in a circle over his head like he was about to kill someone with it and shrieking loud enough to wake ‘em back up afterwards. Frankly I couldn’t understand why Pixie had to be on a leash if this was the sort of critter that was allowed to run free. His momma ignored him completely and waved at me.

“Hi,” she said. “We just moved in next to you!” Thereby winning the Lifetime Duh Award for 2004, thank you, thank you… I grumbled some sort of hello and kept walking. Close up she was a pretty young thing, built big up front and tight everywhere else, but she dressed like she was trying to hide it. Good luck, lady. You put ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack, someone’s bound to notice.

“We’re the Spenglers, I’m Suzanne and this is Ralphie.”

“Crawford,” I grumbled. Almost introduced myself as “Old Man Crawford,” just to save time.

“Oh. And how long have you-”

“Goodbye,” I said, and I pulled Pixie away from where she had been enthusiastically sniffing Ralphie’s backpack. “C’mon, girl, don’t want you catchin’ nuthin’.”

As we stomped our way down the sidewalk I could hear Ralphie, plain as day: “He’s mean!” His mom shushed him but I just smiled to myself. That’s right, little twerp. Remember that. Maybe I should leave some kid-sized bones by my front door to scare him off.

By the time we got around the block he was gone and she was back inside, thank God. Sorry lady, I don’t do “neighborly.”

Over the next few days I found out that annoying kids have changed a bit since the Dennis days. Turns out that little Ralphie was one of those video gamers that rarely left his bedroom, a situation that TV psychologists bitch and moan about but that I felt was underrated. Not only did it keep him away from me, constant videogame playing would keep him weak and prevent him from breeding, a clear benefit to society.

I saw his mom only in passing, and his daddy not at all, and I started thinking we could all peacefully coexist by completely ignoring each other, a plan of action I was more than prepared to accept.

A week to the day they moved in something finally happened, and it wasn’t Ralphie’s fault at all. Pixie and I left the house like always and I glanced around while she sniffed everything in the yard. From where I was standing it just so happened I had a perfect view through a gap in the bushes and into the neighbor’s bedroom window.

Ralphie’s mom was in bed, naked, touching herself.

I ain’t a peeper or nothin’ but I couldn’t help it, I just stood there and stared. She was just as hefty in the bosom as I had thought, full and rich and round, and one of her hands was squeezing a fat breast over and over. Her other hand had snaked through reddish-blonde hair and was sunk two fingers deep, pumping away like a jackhammer. I shook myself once, deeply embarrassed, and started to look away when I glanced up at her face.

She was looking at me.

Pixie yelped once when I yanked her away from the mailbox but I was heading down the sidewalk at top speed, with or without her. I already had a reputation for being grumpy, surly, and generally unapproachable — all carefully earned, mind you — but I didn’t need people thinking I was a pervert as well. I was down the road and around the block in five seconds flat, straining the whole time to hear her front door open. Would she scream? Or call the police first, and then scream? Or just get a gun and handle it herself? By the time I got to the park I was sweating like Seabiscuit but no one was coming after me. Maybe she hadn’t seen me?

Lord, did I see her.

Didn’t do much for me in a physical sense, nothing much has happened in that area since before my wife Emily died these twenty years gone and good riddance to it, I say. Man can’t concentrate with that blasted hunk of meat between his legs taking over the controls every time some chickie’s blouse gaps open.

But I couldn’t get the sight of her out of my mind. Titties bigger than cantaloupes and long white legs, blonde hair whipping back and forth… Her thighs had been clenched around her hand like they were trying to keep it still, but the way she’d been going at it she coulda drilled through concrete with her middle finger.

I ran my hands over my face and watched Pixie romp around the park, oblivious. Now what? With the obnoxious kid, I knew where I stood. Mortal enemies, doomed to die at each other’s hands, no problem there. But how was I ever going to face his momma again without thinking of thumb-thick nipples and those perfect teeth biting her lower lip? I didn’t even like her!

When we came back around the block there were no lights flashing (I checked). Nothing out of the ordinary, no screams, no nothing. I let my breath back out. So that’s it, then. It never happened. If she ever brings it up I’ll bluff and look at her funny, she’ll think she was confused, life will go on. Thinking such decisive thoughts I nudged Pixie up our driveway and stopped at the porch, looking over just in time to see Ralphie’s naked momma come and come and come, looking me dead in the eyes the whole time. This time I could hear her moaning right through the closed window.

I didn’t leave the house for three days.

When I did, to get groceries and to keep Pixie from scratching the door down, I made sure to go in the middle of the day and only after watching out the window for half an hour first. Pixie made me pay for her enforced imprisonment by making me take the long way to the store but for once I didn’t mind. I stuck her in the shopping cart and shopped, trying to get my brain to calm down for Christ’s sake.

What was she playing at? Hadn’t she seen me the first time? Maybe she had thought I’d be gone longer, she thought she had enough time? But she hadn’t looked surprised or shocked, not at all. She’d looked…

I whacked myself in the side of the head with a box of vermicelli. It was thoughts like that that had caused my last six cold showers. Damn old fool, shouldn’t be thinking about stuff like that, not about a neighbor and not about a woman a third your age and certainly not about a married woman. What was I going to do, stand outside her window and masturbate? Meet her for a daily nooner while her kid was out defacing municipal property and her husband was rogering his secretary?

Goddamn foolishness. I had no illusions about myself, there was no way she’d be interested in me even if I was the type to fool around like an idiot, which I wasn’t. Not in this old body. “Course, she might be into old guys…

I finally had to get another box of vermicelli, the first one broke and showered pasta splinters all over me. The clerk at the store was nice about it though, he could tell I was distracted. I even forgot to snarl at him.

When we headed back she was just coming out to her car, wearing some kinda tennis outfit and carrying a sports bag. I nodded my head quickly once and tried not to make eye contact. For her part she smiled the same way she had when we met. No underlying meaning, no longing looks, no thinly-veiled revulsion, not even a blush. I stood on the porch and watched her drive off.

Huh. There were two possibilities here. Either she was better at playing the “it never happened” game than I was, or she really hadn’t seen me. That set me back. Maybe it was some trick of the window reflection? I could see in but she couldn’t see out?

I spent the afternoon walking in and out of my house, looking through my windows. I didn’t have any problem seeing outside at all. Maybe she was really nearsighted…

The next morning she was there again, legs spread, glorious. I turned away and fled again, dragging poor Pixie behind me. We stayed at the park for nearly an hour, finally coming home again in time to see Ralphie’s mom shuddering and bouncing her butt off the bed. Both hands were thrust between her legs and her jiggling breasts completely filled the tight space between her arms. And she was staring right at me.

Okay, there was a third possibility I hadn’t considered. She had been waiting for me, waiting for me to catch her and see her exposed like that, and when I did it made her come. I stood there and watched her ride her spasms dry. I hadn’t done a damn thing, I was twenty feet away from her, and yet I felt like I was in complete control of her body.

It was a surprisingly good feeling.

We settled into a routine, she and I. When Pixie and I left the house each day she’d be waiting, naked and ready. We’d take our usual walk, and while we were gone she’d masturbate, anticipating my return. I assume she was, anyway, she could have been playing Solitaire, I had no idea. All I knew was that as soon as I got back and looked her way she’d be off. Outside of our, to stretch the term, sexual contact, neither of us ever made the slightest effort to talk to each other or acknowledge it at all. It was, in many ways, the exact opposite of my first marriage.

I have to admit, I became much more cheerful about my new neighbors after seeing one of them naked. Once Ralphie managed to ride his bike all the way up my lawn and into my roses and I didn’t even get mad, something that caused Mrs. Wilkinson across the street to stop watering her lawn and gawk at me. I gave her a little wave and thanked the good Lord I couldn’t see in her window.

As the weeks went by Ralphie’s mom — I couldn’t bring myself to use her name, mostly because I couldn’t remember it — got even more adventurous. Once she stood in front of her window when I walked by and rubbed baby oil on those magnificent breasts with both hands. Sometimes she used those vibrating things. She had a slim purple one and a thick flesh-colored one. Sometimes she’d wear filmy nighties, but most of the time she was wonderfully nude.

For my part I varied my routine, just to keep her on her toes, or whatever. I’d walk slower or leave twenty minutes later just to build her anticipation higher, knowing she wouldn’t let herself finish until I was there to “surprise” her. Sometimes I’d walk right past the park and get home early just to watch her go crazy trying to catch up. Once I waited until she was just finishing up and I took a few steps towards her window. That was the first time she did a multiple.

You have to work at a relationship to keep it fresh, I’ve always found.

I never masturbated myself, not once. I’m not sure why. I think I felt like it would cheapen the experience or that as long as I didn’t come, she was still being faithful to her husband or something. I dunno, I just knew it didn’t feel right. Not like I had that strong an urge anyway, just watching her face contort with the pleasure I triggered was enough for me.

It was almost three months before I met Ralphie’s dad.

I was transplanting some roses and pruning them back hard when he pulled into their driveway and called over to me. “Hey! How you doing!”

My first guess had been right. This man had car salesman all over him. He gave me a firm handshake and a toothy smile as he told me his name was Frank. I resisted the urge to tell him how to make his wife squeak.

“I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to get to know my new neighbor,” he said. “but when you land in a new office you gotta show ‘em who’s boss right away, am I right? Even after you fire a few, the rest just don’t think you mean business!”

I just smiled and wondered if I was fast enough to get one of his fingers with my clippers. No wonder his wife flashed her neighbors. I had already felt a connection with her, but now I just felt pity. Maybe Pixie wouldn’t mind taking two walks every day.

Then he caught me off guard. “Hey, how about dinner tonight? Long past time we got to know each other, and I know Suzanne won’t mind. How about it?”

I almost asked “Suzanne who?” before I realized who he was talking about, and I was so flustered I agreed to come by around seven. I spent the hour before that nervous as a new bride. How would she react? Could I keep a straight face? What if he did something stupid in front of me and I slipped and said something? What if the sight of me had become one of those Pavlov dog triggers and she popped one off right there at the table? Should I leave? Or offer a napkin?

I brought some roses in a vase but I was careful to hand them to him when he answered the door. He acted like they were gold and ushered me into the dining room, where Ralphie’s… where Suzanne was waiting, prim and proper. She smiled at me and gestured towards the seat of honor. I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in.

I started out stressed, but as the evening went on I just got confused. I barely noticed Ralphie, he gobbled his food and ran off to play with his PlayCube or whatever. And Suzanne was calm and cool, just as friendly as she should be. No, what confused me was this: Frank wasn’t that bad a guy.

I mean, I still thought he was an asshole but it was plain that he loved his kid and absolutely adored his wife. He touched her hand constantly, made a point of drawing her into the conversation, and kissed her whenever he left the room to get something. Plainly he was proud of her. Here I was, all set to be righteously pissed at him for being mean to that pretty woman, and he loved her.

And she him. My confusion must have showed because when he went to read Ralphie his bedtime story she leaned forward and whispered to me. “I love my husband, Mr. Crawford,” she said. “And I want to thank you for not saying anything.”

It felt weirder than I can say, talking to her about this for the first time. “So why…?”

She licked her lips, just once, and smiled nervously. “I like being caught. Always have. Something about it just makes me lose all control. But Frank and I have a very good sex life, a very good life, and I don’t want to jeopardize that.” She looked worried, like she was afraid I was going to challenge Frank to a duel.

Instead I just felt relieved. “Good, I’m too old to be jumping out of windows.” That got a startled laugh out of her which felt almost as good to me as making her moan. “I’ll just stick to being a neighbor.”

She squeezed my hand, the one and only time we ever touched, and then Frank came back in.

“He’s down for the count,” he said. “Now we can talk dirty!” Suzanne laughed, but we kept on talking about interest rates and television shows. Normal stuff. I relaxed and actually started to enjoy myself, and that was the weirdest feeling of all.

When it was time to go Frank pulled me aside and for a brief moment I thought he was going to hit me. I gauged the distance to the door and had already decided to block him with the footstool when he said, “Look, I know you’ve been watching my wife.”

“Wha… what?” I said.

“All you people here watch out for each other. Suzanne says she’s never felt so safe in anyplace she’s ever lived, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I just want to thank you. Knowing that you’re here to look out for her, it makes me feel safer, you know?”

I let out a long breath and shook his hand. “Don’t worry, Frank,” I said. “I’ll keep an eye on her for you.”

Suzanne came up and hugged him from behind, so he didn’t see how she was straining to keep from laughing. She kissed him on the ear and smiled at me. They made a cute couple.

They both waved from the doorway when I left, him proud as could be and her still holding it in. I couldn’t help it, I turned back. “See ya tomorrow!”

I still don’t know how she explained her sudden burst of giggles to him. Me, I went home to plan tomorrow’s walk.

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