Feathers


In 1994, after living in Vermont for two years, Sharon and I decided to buy a condo. We found a small development in Colchester, and put down our deposit and moved in the following summer. Our unit shared a common wall and driveway with Fred and Kaye.

Fred was a chemical engineer who worked at IBM. He was very proud of his brain and never missed a chance to show off to anyone within earshot how clever he was. He was a 350 lb braggart who felt that he was always right and felt perfectly justified in badmouthing any one who disagreed with him.

Kaye was his mother. She was spiteful, mean, stupid, and totally devoted and protective of her “brilliant” 45 year-old son.

They would take evening walks together arm in arm and trap the other neighbors into conversations. These were mostly about how brilliant Fred was. They would do all the talking while the neighbors just nodded stupidly as Kaye would talk on and on about what a marvelous son she had. Eventually, the poor neighbor would look down at his/her watch, say glibly “I gotta go” and duck into the safety of their condo.

Fred always thought he was the smartest guy in the room so it came as no surprise that he would eventually come to criticize everyone who serviced the association from the landscaping to the snow removal, to the pool service to the garbage collection. Everybody was incompetent. And when the association board failed to fire them, he began a series of public letters challenging the board’s wisdom in not heeding his advice. Every week there would be another public letter ridiculing the board members personally, and calling upon them to do things the Fred way. He seemed to think that everything should be done the way IBM did things with reviews, multi-quotes, cost analysis and so on for our 15 unit development. Even something as simple as getting insurance for the pool should be an endless series of specifications, quotes, meetings and weekly progress reports to the members. He endlessly criticized the board for not putting the time to do it his way. Eventually, the members tired of his tirades and in their impotent little way elected him to the board.

It was a public vote and Sharon and I, and another couple were the only members not to vote for him. Our fate was sealed. We were now the enemy.

Kaye immediately began a campaign of hate toward us. She began by asking us to return her keys (we had exchanged house keys years earlier) as we could no longer be trusted. Once after having some work done in the woods next to our house, two chips from the wood-chipper found their way onto her lawn. I watched from my office window as she picked up the two chips and systematically went from door to door showing the neighbors the two wood chips and pointing her bony little finger toward our house. Whenever the FedEx truck would pull up to deliver a package she would be out the door in a flash telling them not to park in the driveway which we shared.

One day in this driveway Fred started yelling and shrieking at us for some imagined misdeed that his mother told him we did to her. We had an altercation and I told him to go fuck himself. I had had enough of this schmuck.

It was war, at least from his side. From then on he began to confront us by using his position on the board to pass bylaws especially aimed at us. He actually passed a bylaw making a part of my driveway a no-parking area (I ignored it). There was a tension in the air because they were always there and it was impossible for us to avoid them.

One day, while visiting Sam in Montreal, I told him the story of what was going on. He could not stop laughing. The more he laughed, the more I laughed with him. I said that Sharon and I had decided to sell the house since having this prick as a neighbor was not much fun. He agreed, and went into his bedroom and came back with a crow’s feather in his hand.
“Put this feather on a common wall between both your homes. He will never bother you again until you sell your house” he said

I am not a big believer in magic but I was in a “what-the-fuck sort of mood so I took the feather back to Colchester and did as he said. Until we sold the house three months later and moved, we never saw them again. Whenever we were in the driveway or on the front lawn, they were inside their home, out of sight.

As it turned out, we moved to a better place with normal neighbors and I never thought about those wretched people again.

A few weeks ago, I was playing golf. It was Indian Summer and the leaves were at their peak. I looked up in the sky and saw a hawk, circling above me. Suddenly it dove into the pond next to the 10th fairway and scooped up one of Fred Bashara’s prized Japanese Coy that he had donated to the club and fed every day. As the hawk came out of the pond and began to climb with the struggling fish in its talons, a solitary feather fell to the ground in front of me. I picked it up.

“This is for you Sam” I said

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