Good Neighbor Boot Camp

I have been gone for a week. I had been home for about ten minutes. The ambulance that brought me home had just pulled away.

I am being loved by both my dogs. I hear Grammy squealing from the cat tree on the dryer. I walked out there and she is jumping up and down. I thought it was because I was finally home.

Bang, bang, someone is at the front door. A man I had never seen before stood there with a shoebox in his hand. I open the front door, he opens the box and there is Oscar tied up with a nylon rope.

I gasp and snatched the box from the man. I showed him inside so I could close the door. “Well, at least you brought the rope I am going to need to hang you.” I instantly started to untie Oscar.

“Your pet rodent here got into my house through a window in my back room. I did not know he was in the house. I closed the window. I have a cat. This rodent used my cat’s kitty box. I saw him do it. I got my broom and tried to kill him but he was too quick. He kept chatting and throwing up his hands at me.” I worked on Oscar while listening to the nasty little man. Trying to kill him with a broom. OMG!

I soothed Oscar and stroked him. I went into the kitchen and got him some peanuts. Poor Oscar. No one had ever been mean to him. He kept hugging my fingers and giving me kisses. I took him into Grammy and laid him on a soft pillow outside the treehouse. I could tell he was in shock. I wrapped it in a warm baby blanket. Grammy instantly took over caring for him. I turned my attention to the nasty little man. I examined the rope he had used to tie up Oscar. It was too lightweight. “I need a bigger rope. You, my dear sir, are in trouble.”

“Why?” He demands in a deep gruff voice. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. A white trim beard and half glasses. He was fat and very angry.”I knew that rodent lived here because when I came over to complain the other day he was here. He jumped up on my knee when I was talking to a fella that was here. I threw him into this room from the living room there.” The man had followed me into the kitchen and was standing in the dining area. He had apparently come by to complain about something and met the police chief. “I told the guy that was here to get the dogs to stop barking and raising cane when I walk my cat.”

I motioned for him to go to the sitting room. He did and I followed. I had not said a word. I was trying to control my thoughts. After all, he did bring Oscar home. He did not kill him with the broom. “At least you have cleared up one thing for me. I know now if you had gun powder for brains you could not blow your nose. I also can tell from your accent that you are not from here. I assume you have recently moved here. Right?”

“Yes, I moved here from New York. I am a retired New York policeman.” He took a deep breath waiting and braced himself for my reply. “I don’t appreciate you saying I am stupid either.”

“You walk a cat? Is it not capable of walking?”

“No, in New York I lived in an apartment.”

“Well, you are correct in wanting to keep your cat inside to protect it. But, you do not walk it down the street in front of a couple of dogs without expecting some feedback. That, sir, is idiotic.”

“When you came here the other day did you start complaining the minute my house sitter opened the door? Yes. Did you introduce yourself? No. If you had you would have realized you were talking to the chief of police for our tiny little town. He has been house sitting for me while I was in the hospital.” I had to laugh because when I said hospital he adjusted his mask. As if all of a sudden… he should be on guard. I still had mine on so there was no problem.

“I suspect you would complain if someone hung you with a new rope.” He looked at me. I hand my hands on my hips and I was looking straight at him. “Better still, I ‘ll just call the chief and borrow his gun and get it over with.” His eyes got bigger. “You’re in Texas now we shoot snakes here. He is also very fond of Oscar. You knew Oscar was a pet and yet you still tried to kill him with a broom?”

“How’d I know it was the same squirrel?” He held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders as if to ask the question more pointedly.

“Sir, not all our squirrels come indoors to use kitty boxes. Dah!!” He shrugged as if that sounded reasonable.

“I do appreciate you bringing Oscar home. I also appreciate you not killing him because he is a rodent. He was raised by a cat. He does not know any better than to use a kitty box when he gets trapped inside a house. You could be grateful he did. You really do not want to clean up squirrel poop. You have no idea how lucky you are. My heart goes out to you sir. I have watched the news and know you have gone through some very bad things lately. However, you are in Texas now. I will forgive you. If you can forgive Oscar.” I sat there and watched this little man play with his beard. Sweet Pea came in and slowly approached him.

He recoiled from Sweet Pea’s approach. “She will not hurt you. Please just stay still and let her know you are not here to hurt anyone.” He held out his hand. Sweet Pea started licking his hand. “I must apologize, sir, she does have a problem with her licker.” He chuckled. I knew then I had found his funny bone. He had one after all. “You mentioned you encountered Oscar before you started to eat your lunch. I bet you are hungrier than a woodpecker in a steel mill.” He chuckled again. “Be careful, I have lots more.” I served up two plates of Christmas cookies. He snatched two before settling back in the chair.

“My name is George. I am from New York. I have a cat.” Suddenly, George stopped talking. He watched in silence as Oscar and Grammy scampered into the room. George watched as Sweet Pea lowered her head, they both ran up her snout, onto her head, and down to the middle of her back. Sweet Pea slowly walked over to George. Oscar chatted and waved his hands at him. Grammy took two peanuts out of her jaws and offered them to him. “I would take them. You do not have to eat them, but just say thank you.”

“Thank you,” George said. Oscar hopped onto his arm and scampered over to his knee. Bella came racing into the room and kissed everyone she passed by and gave George a quick lick and nuzzle right in the eye.

“Sorry, I call them the welcoming committee.” I served coffee. We chatted. I told him he was an official Damned Yankee. The difference is simple. Yankees go back home. Damned Yankees stay. “You are welcome. You have arrived at the town’s good neighbor boot camp. I can teach you to be a good neighbor. I promise.”

“Jane, we are neighbors. I just moved in down the street. I am new to the neighborhood and new to the South and new to Texas. I think with you can help, I can make the necessary adjustments.”

“Yes, George, I will help you.” He offered me his hand to shake it. I shook his hand and said, “consider this good neighbor boot camp.”

“You are charming.”

“I know, charming has endured, sorry about the rest of me.” We both laughed. “I am not the smartest crayon in the box, George, but I promise a colorful horizon.”

George just left. I saw him laughing all the way across the street. He really did not know how lucky he was. Getting squirrel poop out of anything is impossible. I snuggled with Oscar and gave him a special hug. Kindness always works. I really wanted to say a few more insults but, heck he is from New York. He does not know any better. He will learn. I will teach him how to be a good neighbor. That also freed up my afternoon. I no longer have to spend all that time hanging a damned Yankee.

The last thing that George said was that he just realized his idea of retirement had just taken on a whole new meaning. I think my retirement just got a whole lot more complicated.

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