Being one of the first people to move into a new neighborhood has some disadvantage as well as some advantages. For instance, you have to put up with construction traffic until the neighborhood is built up, and clumps of mud deposited on the roads by trucks, and unsightly weeds until all the places are sold and lawns put in. On the other hand, you get the pleasure of making your place whatever you want it to be, and you have the fun of greeting new residents as they move in.
Although I wasn't the first one into the neighborhood, my only other neighbors at the time were several lots down the street or across the small lake to which my lot backed up. Still I was just in the process of moving in when the developer started building on the lot just south of my place. As I worked to make my house into a home, I watched with interest as the house next door went up.
No sooner was it completed than a couple in their mid-thirties moved in and began doing the same kinds of things I just had. I probably had it a little easier, since I only had myself to worry about. On that first Saturday, I walked over and introduced myself as Gene Sherman. The man said that his name was Clay Bridges and his pretty wife was Tiffany, although he jokingly said that he called her Tiff if they had a disagreement.
I told them that they had done a good week's work and it looked like it was time for a break. I had put three steaks on the grill along with some foil-wrapped potatoes, had a big tossed salad prepared, and some iced tea but I needed a couple of guests to help me eat it all. They smiled and accepted my invitation when I asked if they would help me out.
We had a very nice dinner and got to know each other. Clay was in management for one of the Big Three, currently assigned to one of the engine plants nearby. Tiffany worked part-time in the local school district offices. Both of them had grown up in the general area, although most of their time had been spent on the west side of the metropolitan area, whereas now we were located on the north side. They also enjoyed several sporting activities, both participating and watching, as did I. I thought I had found somebody to watch some of the professional sports on TV with me.
I had installed an in-ground pool in the back yard, which at a quarter acre seemed fairly large. I invited them to join me in the pool any time they felt like it. Both said that they would take me up on that offer.
Clay told me that Tiffany had been working on a landscaping scheme for their yards, both front and back, and she was getting close to being satisfied so that she could start work on it. I had installed sod all around my house and it looked nice and green, as long as I poured the water to it. However other than that, it was strictly non-descript. We talked about her plans and I thought maybe I should do something different with my own. It was late when Clay and Tiff walked back home.
Over the next three weeks, I watched with interest — and kibitzed frequently — as outdoor changes occurred next door. Tiffany always supervised when others were doing the work or bringing in supplies and she spent hours working on fine touches after the others had left. Clay came and went on his work schedule but mostly left the work to Tiffany. Frequently in the evenings, he would get out of his monkey suit and join me at the connecting fence to talk about whatever and watch Tiff.
As the plan for their yard took shape, I became more and more dissatisfied with my plain arrangement. I began to think of doing something different. Pulling out a note pad, I began to sketch different options. Tiff had used several berms in a variety of shapes to form sections in their yard. She used pavers to make walkways, planting trees here and shrubs there, adding flowers and ground cover in some spots, using plastic curbing to separate the turf from the composted beds. It all formed a pleasing-to-the-eye arrangement. I tried to capture some of the same techniques but with a unique pattern.
As Tiff began to wind down her activities, I again invited them over for dinner and after dessert, I asked Tiff to look at my sketches and see what she thought about such an arrangement for my yard, which was shaped a little differently from theirs as a result of the lake and angle of the lot to the adjoining lots. She picked the layout she liked most and made some suggestions that really made sense. Then she offered to help me implement the plan and Clay gave his blessing.
It took a little more than four weeks to get all the changes in, even with a local nursery providing a major part of the labor. As she did with her own lawn, Tiff pitched right in on mine and worked side-by-side with me when the contractors were gone. In fact that often caused me some consternation, because she would be bent over planting some cutting or flower and her blouse dropped away enough to show her twin beauties.
Having been without a woman for nearly two years didn't mean that my interests were dead. Nor was I immune when she bent over to plant a shrub, her gloriously round bottom framed so nicely in her tight, short jean shorts. If Clay was around, I had to try to avert my eyes quickly lest he see my obvious reaction to his lovely wife. Even if he wasn't nearby, I tried to be circumspect, because I didn't want to destroy our friendship.
I thanked Tiffany profusely for her help. Without it I would have been lost time after time. Yet she always seemed to know just what to do when the inevitable questions arose. She had a natural ability to handle such events as landscaping, making a most beautiful garden. By the time we were through and reasonably satisfied with both places, they looked great. All we had to do now was keep them maintained and watch the plants grow into the trained look we were striving for. I often told Clay that he was a lucky man to have such a talented wife.
As the summer and fall progressed, I was often invited over to watch a baseball game or then a football game as the seasons changed. In turn, I reciprocated and invited them over to my place. As other neighbors moved into the area, we also invited them to join us but not as often as Clay, Tiff and I got together.
One evening after a very nice dinner, we were sitting around talking and Tiff asked me if I'd ever been married or had a girlfriend. I told her about having been married for six years to Annalisa before she decided she was a submissive and had to have a master to dominate her. When I said that wasn't my style, she went out and found someone who was. When I found her doing things with him that she wouldn't do with me, the divorce came soon thereafter. There had been no girlfriends since then. Tiff seemed a little embarrassed that she had asked, especially when it was apparent that the memory still affected my attitude. I wound up apologizing for letting it get me down.
We got together regularly throughout the fall and early winter, often watching either college or pro football games and gradually migrating to the basketball season. I was delighted that Tiff knew more than the average woman about most sports and showed quite an interest in many of them. She had her favorite teams and was not timid about rooting for them. Clay kidded her about just liking to watch the jocks' tight asses in those white stretch pants but I think he was just joking. Tiff did blush when he mentioned it but it was all in fun.
One Saturday in December, Clay and I had just watched one of the early bowl games while Tiff had gone to have her hair done. We were relaxed in my den when he turned to me.
"Hey, buddy. I've got a rather sensitive subject I want to talk with you about."
"Huh? Oh, okay. Go ahead," I responded, wondering about the change in his demeanor.
"First, I have to tell you a little story. A little over four years ago, I was on a mission for my company. We had a supplier of a certain part that was having problems getting the part to the exact shape and hardness that we were looking for — we had changed the specifications for it between models — so I was the engineer assigned to work with them on getting the problem corrected. They were local, out on the south part of town in a rather rough neighborhood. I had spent a couple of hours with several of their people and was in the process of leaving to head back to my plant. Just as I got to my car, a load of hoodlums pulled up and began spraying the parking lot with bullets.
"I don't know what the guns were but they were these short barreled automatics that looked like Uzis. Anyway they sprayed out bullets like a machine gun. I heard later they had some sort of beef with the management of the plant and I happened to be unlucky enough to be in the lot when they decided to take out their revenge. I got hit three times."
"Wow! I knew some parts of our city were unsafe but that's bad!" I said in awe.
"Yeah, well, I was just plain unlucky. These people had never had anything like that happen before. On the other hand, I guess I was lucky that I wasn't shot in the chest where I could have taken one in the heart or something. None of the shots hit anything vital so my life was not in danger. I got pretty quick service from EMT so it could have been much worse.
"Good. I'm glad it wasn't worse," I told Clay.
"Yeah, but not all the news was good. All three of the shots hit me below the belt... and guess what I lost. Nah, you don't have to guess. Both my testicles were smashed beyond repair. That didn't threaten my life but it sure didn't do my family life any good." He chuckled but there wasn't any humor in it.
"I'm sorry. That has to be a major problem," I commiserated.
.... There is more of this story ...