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steve wheeler

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Member Since: Jul, 2007

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The Neighbour
By steve wheeler
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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How does your garden grow?


I first noticed her while I was waiting for Yvonne. It was a throwback to the Hitchcock movie. Me and the rear window. Mine was the only house which looked over her back yard. When the tree by my kitchen window was full of leaves, I could only get glimpses until I cut the right branches. It was risky, but I had developed strong arms and the tree was close to the window.
I started to use escort services when I arrived back from Iraq and couldnít use my legs. I didnít want a commitment of any kind. A whole year of hospitalization, only to find that they couldnít cure the paralysis in my legs. There was a long period of rehabilitation after that. I was treated as a hero at first, felt like an object of pity, later.
The reality was that I went to Iraq to boost my income and career. Some of my photographs won prizes. My impetuous nature, my thirst for adventure, my selfishness, they were all part of it. But when I returned, the benefits soon wore thin. I didnít feel that Iíd accomplished anything. The people around me had never seen war. They only knew the old me.
My wife and young kids treated me like I was sick, friends hid their smugness and pity behind their concern. When it became unbearable, I made plans.
Something had happened to me while I was an embe dded photographer in Iraq, which I would never wish on anyone, but which didnít make me feel the least bit suicidal. A descent into the bottomless pool of self pity wasnít an option. The misunderstanding of my well meaning friends and family caused me to make the escape. I had been changed. I didnít care anymore. I had been through too many operations, too many hours of physio punctuated by hours of doing nothing. I couldnít deal with all the ties of my old life. It wasnít worth trying to explain and I didnít care what anyone else thought. If there is a god, may he or she forgive me.
I played the role while I was recovering then I ran. Whoís going to suspect a man in a wheelchair of acquiring a new identity? It was easy.
Only one person in the world knew my new name and where I was. She was a lesbian mother of two who lived in Vancouver. We met in university, kept in touch over the years. She was no threat. She knew as little about my former life as I knew about hers.
Money was no object for me because of the insurance. The network had me well covered. I disappeared to an east coast city one day. Every so often, another story appeared in the media about my depressed state at the time of my disappearance. My wife moved in with a former mayor. She and the kids looked happy in media pictures.
The first man I saw with the neighbour turned out to be her husband. When they sat out on their backyard deck around supper time, they seemed to have that intimacy. She touched him when she gave him a glass. Sometimes they argued, other times theyíd sit reading while their barbeque smoked in the background. They seemed comfortable with each other for most of that early spring.
I watched from my kitchen window the night of the party in her backyard. I drank tequila while I watched the couples till they departed.
The guy must have been a close friend of them both. She kissed him goodnight before her husband, disappeared into the house. The guys talked, then the husband produced a hand held video camera, left it with his friend, disappeared into the house.
By this time, I had my powerful binoculars focussed on the small screen in the camera which the buddy was watching on the deck. He sat with his back to me, as fixed on the images as I was. We witnessed the marital coupling from several angles. The husband made surreptitious smiles into the screen. When it was over, the bedroom lights went out. The buddy took the camera with him into the house. Lights in another part of the house went on and off. All was dark.
I started drinking in a local bar but the other drinkers there were even more patronising and depressing than my real family so I joined some wheelchair racing enthusiasts. The athletics became too hard for me in a short time. I wanted to be comfortable, not driven. I didnít really have anything to prove. I just wanted to take it easy, pay attention to the things I liked. I became content staying at home, playing my guitar and reading. I used the tv and computer, but usually when Yvonne wasnít coming over, I read or played my music.
The next time I saw the neighbour, she was sitting on her deck, sipping a coffee. She had discarded her robe, exposed her body in a skimpy bikini. I studied her closely with the binoculars.
I noticed a mound in her backyard, just below the deck. She had planted a peony bush on it. The edges of the mound were visible, at first, but she kept it watered. Soon it blended in with the rest of the lawn.
Her husband was never seen again. Cops interviewed her, the story of her husbandís disappearance was in all the media, for a short time. It was the man Iíd first seen her with. His name was Norman.
She shed tears for the press, played the role of the grieving widow-distraught spouse, in public. I knew, from watching her, that she smiled a lot, to herself, when she was alone, watering the peony.
She was slim with short blonde hair, long legs and a pretty face. I came to appreciate her figure when I saw her from my kitchen window, on summer mornings. I had hours to inspect her body, through my binoculars. She stretched, drank coffee on her deck. She often wore a robe which she discarded when she sat down.
I was blessed when the hand held rocket hit the truck in the middle of Baghdad. Blessed because when the shrapnel hit my spine, it didnít affect my genitals. I could still function sexually. In fact, I was hornier than ever.
Yvonne had no inhibitions with me. I paid her good money to dress up and take off her different costumes. It was a kind of visual foreplay.
After I saw the neighbour, I insisted that Yvonne and I do it in the kitchen. She didnít notice the neighbour, didnít notice me looking out the window, while she was busy.
The buddy showed up some months later. He had been around at first, offering the grieving widow the obligatory shoulder to cry on. She wasnít a widow officially, but there was no sign of her husband. The buddy must have run into her somewhere a few months later.
I watched Yvonne dance around the kitchen, strip to the music. The neighbour and the buddy sat together, on her deck, drinking something out of tall glasses.
Yvonne left after supper. I watched them kiss on the deck, disappear into the house. Lights went on and off in her bedroom. All was dark.
My neighbour sat on her deck again in late summer with two mounds in the back yard below her. On the second mound, which was barely visible, she had planted a rose bush. Often on summer mornings she sat on the chaise lounge, read, drank coffee, smiled to herself. On hot days I could see rivulets of sweat through my binoculars. They trickled from her neck down between her full, bikiniíd breasts.
Yvonne began talking about retiring near the end of the summer. Usually we didnít talk. I didnít get turned on by it and I was paying. Yvonne didnít take offence. Instead, she told me about customers who liked to talk and liked to hear her talk while she satisfied their sexual desires. I would be sad to see her go.
The neighbour cleaned up her deck for the winter with three mounds in the backyard. There were blowing leaves gathering on them. The third one sported a hydrangea bush which looked like it had always been there.
I wasnít surprised that the detective who talked to her, on the deck, with a notebook in one hand, a badge in the other, had disappeared. He showed up at later that night, had a few drinks with her, stayed out on the deck for a smoke. Her bedroom lights went on, he finished his cigarette, disappeared into the house. Her lights went out. All was dark.
By this time, I assumed that my neighbour was having sex with, killing and burying the men in her life. I thought about calling the cops, but I didnít want any publicity. It would be a big story. The black widow. The seductress-murderer.
There was always the anonymous tipline. But every time I went to make the call, I was battered by questions: Was she doing anything that was more shocking than what I had seen in a war? Was it any of my business? Was it a connection, even so tenuous, to my former life? Did my neighbourís men get what they deserved? Did she? Did I? Did the Iraqis and the Americans?
The questions stopped me, then became unimportant when Yvonne retired to start her own agency. They remained in the back of my mind but they were impossible for me to answer. My finger was poised above the phone several times, but the questions stopped me.
I had contributed to Yvonneís nest egg. I didnít regret it. She introduced me to Rita, brought her around one day. I got specials for free: Rita and I got along well. It was even easier for me than with Yvonne because Rita already knew what I liked.
I figured my neighbour would probably get caught on her own. There was nothing to watch in her backyard during the winter. Boredom started me back into photography again. Slowly but surely, I got ready for the spring. I wasnít sure what for, but I would be ready in the spring.
But in the spring, she was gone. A new family had moved in.
I watched the mother teach her children about the three bushes in their back yard as they came to life in the warm sunshine. They watered them carefully, fussed over them, pruned them.
In the spring, the peonies bloomed, the rose blossomed all summer and the hydrangea put on an impressive show in the fall.
The framed picture of the yard, deck, three bushes, hangs on my kitchen wall.


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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 5/20/2015
Since I have experience, you got the paralysis part well, right down to being, "blessed."

I'm really not sure whether I like the story or not. It has some irony to it, so I'll leave it at that. While your protagonist seems to be quite calculating, he seems to lack any kind of passion. Perhaps this is the result of the hardening of war.

There were a couple of sentences that didn't make sense and need to be edited a bit more.

Ron