Theresa Coty O’Neil
Marriage and Moles
My neighbor, fresh into his second marriage, recently lost his golf course job. His wife, also on her second marriage, retired from her teaching job last spring. At the end of winter, when the snow finally receded, they discovered moles in their yard. The moles tunneled paths under the deep snow and beneath the grass, shoveling up rich hills of dark soil. The man purchased pellets, which he placed in the holes. The next day he checked to see which mounds were disturbed. None were. The following day, he also inspected the mounds, but once again, the soil was undisturbed. After a week, he concluded that the moles had moved on, hopefully to our yard. He graciously offered us the pellets, should we discover new mounds. I didn’t tell him we also have moles. We have them every year and choose to ignore them. Sometimes they disappear. Is this why we are still on our first marriage?
A neighbor’s dog leaves a large turd in our yard under the elm tree. Several eye-like elm seeds cling to the turd. One story leads to another, and sometimes returns. If you looked at our mailbox, would you know that it has no roots, but is instead propped up by large rocks? The dung is drying. While I pull elm seedlings by the mailbox, I wonder: Was it that dog? Or that one?
Behind and Back
Behind us on Hickory Nut, the couple has rhyming names, Steve and Eve. I know them by their big trucks and fancy boat, and by Eve’s voice, which sometimes tangles with the wind, harping and droning. I cannot hear the words, but from my bedroom window, the
tone is like a weed whacker hitting rocks. In the middle of the night, I hear Steve shouting, doors slamming, and a truck starting, its loud engine coughing and then roaring.
“Get back here!” screams Eve. Or perhaps, “Don’t forget the beer!” Would we recognize each other at the post office? They keep their yard mowed and clean. They’re not flower people.
My husband and sons visit a fish farm and bring home two beautiful koi, which we put in our small pond. For two days, we admire and feed the koi, red shimmering ornaments below the surface. On the third day, we cannot find the koi. Our neighbor’s cat prowls the perimeter of our yard looking pleased. Your cat has made a home in our yard
But our fish must now find their home somewhere else.
What’s in a Name?
Neighborhood or subdivision? Unite or divide?
My neighbor plants heirloom plum trees acquired from his grandfather’s farm. For two seasons, he nurses the trees in tubs near his deck, and at last he digs holes, which he fills with compost. He lovingly places the trees in the holes, inspecting them each evening. I planted a plum tree purchased from a mail order catalogue. It arrived, a twiggy sapling in a cardboard box. Over the years, the twig grew into a significant tree, which produced many plums that were plucked clean by birds. After a while, my tree caught a disease where brown rot oozed from its trunk and limbs, and the neighbor’s trees also caught the disease. Did my tree give his tree the disease or did his trees give my tree the disease?
I will confess. The dog is ours.
My old strawberry crowns dried up and spread their runners under the fence into the new neighbor’s yard where the berries look redder and more succulent. I used to have strawberries, I explain over the fence, but they no longer fruit. These strawberries are fine, she responds, but not as sweet as I like. Those were once my strawberries, I say. But she is too busy picking, and does not hear me. If I want some back, I should ask, but perhaps there is a reason I let them expire.
The Fenceless Fence
We have taken down the privacy fence, but it still exists. Or does it? For one summer, it did not. But last year, my neighbor put one up again, chain link, see-through. He is planting peonies and arborvitae to block our compost pile. We pretend his yard is ours, and he pretends his yard is his. Is there any difference?
When we first moved here, a friend’s wife joked that we have no valley and no wood. Like us, she was not enlightened. Yet.
About the Author: Theresa Coty O’Neil received her MFA in Fiction from Western Michigan University. A founding editor of Third Coast, an international literary magazine, and a freelance writer and editor, she has been published in several literary magazines, including West Branch, Connecticut Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. She is currently working on a collection of short pieces called Songs to Aging Children.