I hear you crawling up my front lawn
Flipped the switch and you were gone
I feel better when I turn it on
Get real simple when I make a song
Strobe (I want to tell you)
(lyrics from Adam Again’s “Strobe”)
This song occupied my waking mind this morning. The tune is catchy, the lyrics downright comical. Then I realized the lyrics also are eerily appropriate for me today.
I feel creepy and it feels good, the kind of creepy that creates a twisted chuckle in my gut. It’s not Aqualung creepy, not yet at least, thank goodness. I won’t be sitting on a park bench any time soon.
Is he out there? No, I don’t see him. WAIT, HE’S WATCHING US! I heard last night from the other side of the privacy fence that faces my second floor condo. In a minute, I would be “out there” on my deck after I finished filling a bucket with water from my kitchen faucet. My new wood deck furniture needed to be cleaned, then treated with teak oil to protect the finish from fading, my project for the evening (it was too muddy to ride my mountain bike). That twisted chuckle began to churn in my gut as I looked out my patio door, observed the dirty tennis shoes and bare legs gathered in front of a large gap under the privacy fence. Those shoes and legs belonged to a group of boys from the shabby apartment complex on the other side of the fence. They play outside in the parking lot and grassy area at the back of the parking lot, that gap under the fence one of the spooky games they like to challenge each other with. The object seems to be to crawl under the fence, then dash through the thicket that covers the steep berm on the other side. Each trip through the gap is always preceded with a few minutes of challenges and anticipated danger. It’s a pre adolescent boys’ game, the imagined danger and mystery the reason for the draw, a rite of passage of sorts. Adding to the danger is the old NO TRESPASSING sign that leans at them as they emerge through the gap.
I add to that danger, I know, the looming stranger that lurks on the other side, a middle aged monster who belches out warnings.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE?!!?
A week or so ago was the first time I noticed the boys, already through the gap and huddled against the fence. Judging from their confusion, it must have been their first time braving the other side. The boys had waited for the cover of dusk, didn’t expect to be detected, yet were not quite sure what to do once they were there. They didn’t know that I was sitting out on my deck, taking in the last few rays of daylight, enjoying the ambiance and peace, the sounds of the children playing on the other side of the fence all part of that peaceful ambiance. I smirked when I saw the boys. It was my chance to make their game a bit more interesting. My question to them was just loud enough to seem serious. I heard girlish screams from the boys, likely wetting themselves as they fought each other to flee through the gap under the fence.
One boy, the ringleader of sorts, paused in mid flight, turned and managed a weak who are you, mister? before completing his escape under the fence. I heard muffled exclamations of delightful fear mixed with the sound of running footsteps from the other side of the fence. I wondered if my visitors would return any time soon. From then on, I knew I would be legend, the mean/creepy man who lives on the other side of the fence, waiting to challenge any boy who dared enter my domain through the gap in the fence. I remember the creepy legends from my own boyhood, the small town rumors that made them seem worse than they likely were. One such man, a clerk at the small local grocery, was supposedly a pedophile who had been caught sodomizing a canteloupe and fired, a rumor obviously fabricated as the man still worked at the grocery. His story grew more perverted, the fear perpetuated as we all crossed the street when going past his house rather than walk directly in front, lest he grab one of us.
One late night, when my friends all camped out in their backyard tents, we gathered at the hedgerow that lined the side of the grocery clerk’s front yard, taunting each other to go knock on his front door. A brave soul did just that, banged loudly on the screen door, then ran back to the safety of the hedge. He reported that the front door was open. There was no response to the knock. Our next move was to light firecrackers on his front porch. No response. I was appointed to go light another firecracker. As I rounded the hedge and began my unsteady journey across his front lawn, the dark figure of a man burst from the front door and began running at me.
WHAT’S THE MATTER, CHICKEN SH**???!!!! he screamed as he ran at me.
I turned and bolted back towards the hedge, the man nearly breathing down my neck. As I rounded the hedge, my friends had already taken flight. The man chased me for nearly a mile before I finally lost him. He was pretty fast. Not too much longer after that night, I would be setting records for the school track team. That mile chase was probably faster than any of the records I would set running for the track team. When I started the trek back home, I met my worried friends who had decided that maybe it was best to rescue their fallen comrade, scared that maybe I had become a canteloupe.
I wonder what kind of rumors the boys from the apartments are generating about me? I am most definitely part of their game, now, judging from what I heard from them last night. They returned a few minutes after the initial sighting with what seemed like a bigger crowd. After all, the monster was lurking. The game had become more dangerous. By that time, I had started my task outside, had cleaned the two person wood glider out on my deck and was applying the teak oil. The boys returned while I was kneeling behind the glider. I listened to them, watched as faces appeared in the gap.
Is he there?
No? Are you sure?
I don’t know. You go first.
I started to chuckle as I witnessed the first of four boys crawl through the opening, then follow their leader a few steps through the thicket. When I stood up, I merely smiled as the boy in front gasped at seeing me, then knocked down the three boys behind him as he scrambled over them to get away.
OH NO, HE’S THERE!! GET OUT OF HERE!!
I am legend.
My phone rang a minute later, so I sat down in one of the chairs that I had not treated yet, amused as two faces appeared over the fence, a few more gaped at me through a space in the fence below the two faces.
I wonder who he is talking to? Maybe it’s the police!
More sounds of running feet. By that time, it was dusk. After a few minutes, the faces peered over and through the fence, but I heard a mother’s voice calling the boys to come in. The game was over, at least for last night.
I intend on establishing friendly dialogue some time soon. After all, these are boys just like I was at one time. I don’t want them tossing fireworks over the fence or, worse, rocks at my glass patio doors. For now, I don’t mind fueling their legend, making the game daring fun.
For now… stay off my lawn.