Sunday, November 22, 2009

Howard - A Character Study; And The Letter Q

In my last post you got a glimpse into the life of my next door neighbor, Howard.  Let me be clear. Howard is a good neighbor. He lets me borrow things without question. He looks after my cats when I go away even though he is allergic.  Plus, he is a source of gossip all over the neighborhood. You see, Howard serves as the security director on the homeowner's association board and knows everything that goes on. Which leads me to the bad interesting fun part.

Howard is paranoid to the point of overprotection, watching the neighborhood like a hawk. I expect someday he will install surveillance cameras all over his house. Convinced every one is out to get him he goes to extreme lengths to ensure security.  For instance, he has a chain link fence around his yard with a gate he keeps padlocked, yet anyone wanting to get into his yard could simply jump the fence.  I said he was paranoid, not smart.  I don't know the origins of his paranoia, but they must run deep, for while I've never checked, he seems the type who would keep a lock on his vehicle's gas cap, for fear someone might pour sugar in his tank.

Howard works for a liquor distributor and has lots of promotional items in and around his home.  Among these are neon signs he keeps on his back porch along with a small refrigerator for beer and wine.  Its the type with a glass door so you can see what's in it.  But Howard never turns on the fridge or the signs because he's afraid the neighborhood kids will sneak through his yard, see the booze adverts and steal something.

This, however, would require them to maneuver a yard so frought with obstacles it is only slightly less nauseating than the inside of Howard's house.  There is an expensive swing set nobody plays on, because Howard's seven-year-old daughter, Sammy, can't keep any friends.  This is of course because every other child is a terror, or has obnoxious parents, or possibly because Sammy is a spoiled brat, but I have heretofore neglected to mention this theory to Howard's wife, Moira, because she is the last person I would want as an enemy.

Over the years, Howard's lawn has been host to a variety of expensive purchases that never saw more than a single use, but that have left large circles of dead grass.  These include a bounce house, an inflatable swimming pool, a slip and slide, and a hot tub which I'm grateful has never been used.  Howard's grass is long and weedy, disguising myriad piles of dog poop no one has ever picked up.  This does not stop Sammy from running around the yard barefoot.  After all, anything she tracks inside the house will hardly be noticible.

Now, I've struggled with ways to describe the inside of Howard's home.  It is a challenge, but the best I've come up with is this: At least Fred Sanford had a reason for all that junk.  Howard and Moira have never thrown away anything.  Unfortunately, it's not just the junk.  It's dirty.  Greasy.  Sticky.

Howard has a penchant for mispronunciation, famously saying things like, "I'm installing new gran-NITE counter tops."  "There was mold in the bathroom, so I sprayed it with disinfecterant."  "The crabs in the fish tank are there to eat the allergy."

Ah, the fish tank.  Now, I edited out a lot of description of their house.  It got a bit wordy and I realized I could sum up this whole post with the following anecdote.

Some years ago, Howard got himself a saltwater fish tank, which he pridefully stocked with lots of rocks, and two fish.  Howard's care of the fish tank resembled that of his home in that, quite quickly, it was taken over by parsites growing on the rocks and allergy algae growing on the tank walls.  Neighborly as I am, I enjoyed feeding the fish when Howard and Moira went on their many vacations, be it in their RV, or countless trips to Disney World and the Disney cruise ships.  After all, as Howard explained, they have to take Sammy to Disney as often as possible while she still believes its real.  Yeah.  A giant, felt mouse in a tuxedo.  Seems real enough.

At any rate, one day they were telling me of just such an impending trip, when I offered, as usual to feed the fish.

"Nah," Moira told me.  "The fish died a couple weeks ago." (that's in bold for a reason.)

Well, I was still bringing in their mail.  So, fighting my way past a swarm of ants on the front porch, I held my breath as I entered, preparing for the assault of stale air and dog.  Stepping over boxes and toys, I weaved my way through the amassed junk, catching a glimpse of the family portrait, etched in a block of crystal, past the massage table; spinning around the slot machine and beyond the vase my wife and I stealthily placed in their midst several years before.  We never heard one thing about that vase, so we're still not sure if they know it's there.

Finally, I spotted the fish tank, still in its place like a memorial to a child who passed too soon.  The water was still in the tank, but it was a swirl of liquid black, impenetrable to mere human eyes.  It was a chilling, unforgiving, and sinister, almost pastel, black.  I stepped toward it for a closer look.  And nearly stepped on the dead fish.

Any one else might have been shocked, but I've come to expect this sort of thing.  Should I have picked the carcass up?  Probably, but I was only responsible for the mail.  I don't know how long it stayed there.  Maybe the dog eventually got it.

And that, in essence, is an overview of Howard.  Moira is another story.  A scary story.  Don't tell her I told you.  Or will tell you.  Or, at least, plan to tell you.

"But wait," you say.  "What about the letter Q?"


Have you ever been to a nude beach?  Or watched the HBO series Real Sex.  Sadly none of these things turn out as titillating as their potential.  It's usually ugly people doing things only pretty people should do, ruining the very thing we want to see the pretty people doing so that we can no longer enjoy it when the pretty people do it.  Which leads me to...

Last night Mrs. Sarcasm had a bad dream in which she was in the yard talking to Howard.

"He was only in his underwear."  She was shaking.

"Topless?" I asked.  And yes, I'm using topless to refer to a man because he has big boobs.  And not the kind I want to play with.

"Yes," she said.  "He was topless."

Unfortunately, I've seen it in real life, so I shuddered.

"And then his unit slipped out," she said.  "He looked like the letter Q."


K.M. said...

I laughed out loud at the fish tank tidbit because my grandmother who has a poor grasp on English (even after living in this country for 40+ years) calls the green crap in her fish tank "allergy."

Angela said...

OH MY GOSH! Think of the story fodder sitting next door to you. Howard the unibomber. Howard the freshly turned zombie. Howard the hairy plus sized model for Moobs Quarterly.

(Ha--I got his man boobs and the letter Q in there!)

Please do tell us more about Howard...I'm dying to hear about the lady that lassoed such a catch!

Me said...

Mrs. Sarcastic told me to pop over here for a laugh so I did. My neighbors are a little weird (the obese lesbians across the street and the people next door with 8 kids) but not nearly as interesting as yours!

Girl with One Eye said...

Matt I am in freaking tears! That was the funniest thing I have read all week. Seriously Matt, this could be hilarious screen play. Howard. That's all the tittle has to be. Wendy had a crapy weekend so I will send her over here to read about Howard. (maybe I have a sick sense of humor)

I'm going to save it as one of my favorites because it is too freaking funny.

I think I'm going to read it again.

Bye Matty!

Matt said...

K.M. - It's so hard not to correct him. I think I actually did yell at him once over gra-NITE.

Angela - I like the zombie idea. Did you read my Flashy Fiction piece?

Me - Thanks for dropping by. Nonsense like this is a good distraction these days.

GWOE - Did you mean to say tittle? I think you did.

Tina Lynn said...

Wow. I thought our neighbors were bad. They allowed their little dog to poop in our yard, and I kid you not, it was a trail. Like the neighbors knew they wouldn't clean it if it landed in our yard so they quickly tried to pull it into theirs. A friend that picked me up to go to the movies asked me, "Was that dog trying to spell its name?"

Girl with One Eye said...

Big LOL, tittle. I just want to say that five times real fast. Maybe Tittle can be the title for Howard's wife. (or after reading his topless moment maybe him)

Wendy Sparrow said...

Wow! Just wow! A dead fish? That is terrifying. Blech.

Also terrifying... the letter Q now. If I have horrifying nightmares about the letter Q, I'll make sure that you make that bullet train to hell, Matt.

The worst part is that I can picture it. Man boobs... blech. Poor Mrs. Sarcasm. I bet she wanted to scrub her brain.