Friday, 24 May 2013 09:26

Being neighbourly can be extra beneficial

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When Lew and Karen Leffbetter first moved into the house next to Sam and Ellie’s, Sam had been worried.

He’d crowded his wife at the kitchen sink, where she stood soaping last night’s wine glasses, so he could peer out the window and into the neighbouring backyard.
“What if they’re Evangelical?” he’d whispered.
“We’re Evangelical,” Ellie said, handing Sam a dish towel.
“I don’t mean church. I mean what if they have gym memberships, or sell vitamins. What if they’re evangelical about jogging?!”
Up until the very last day, Sam had done everything he could to delay the sale of Old Mr. Kemp’s blue bungalow.
Sam had mown Mr. Kemp’s lawn and shovelled his driveway and weeded his strawberry patch. He’d visited him four times a week with casseroles or squares, staying to chat about whatever was on the older man’s mind.
Still, it had only been a matter of time.
In fact, if you were to ask Ellie, she’d say that Sam had driven the old man out of his home, prematurely, with kindness.
And now there were the Leffbetters.
During Lew and Karen’s first week in the neighbourhood, Sam had changed his mind about them, then changed it back, at least a dozen times. He’d begun to keep a list of pros and cons in an orange Moleskin notebook he’d found in Ellie’s desk drawer. A notebook he’d, at first, thought to use for golf.
And then it happened.
One afternoon, Karen had walked over, rang Sam and Ellie’s doorbell, and invited them to a backyard barbecue.
“This is it, you know,” said Sam, after Ellie had walked away. “They’ll probably grill tofu steaks. And by tomorrow I’ll be jogging at 5 a.m.”
But by Sunday afternoon, Sam was standing with a cold beer next to Lew’s outdoor grill. It was plumbed to a gas line he’d had installed when they moved in, and it was hot enough in there that it roared slightly as it cooked an assortment of steaks, sausages and a seasoned seven-cut Kosher chicken.
Having once won a barbecue sauce competition, Sam thought he knew a thing or two about outdoor grilling. He generally preferred a charcoal grill, and was proud of never using lighter fluid to start or keep it going.
So when he saw Lew begin to squeeze shiny sauce from a bottle, generously onto the still-pink meats, he’d been about to point out that grilling sauces have a high-sugar content and a low-burning point, and should only be applied at the very end of cooking.
He was too late, though, and when the sauce began to char, he took another sip of his beer and looked away. He wasn’t gloating. He wasn’t sure he liked Lew, but he took no delight in watching another man’s chicken thighs go up in flames.
“I don’t know why this always happens,” Lew said, angrily prying a stuck steak from hot metal.
“I bought the best grill in the whole store, and it doesn’t do anything but turn meat to ash!”
“I think I know the prob—” Sam said. But before he could finish, Lew had turned off the gas, unhooked the fitting, slammed the lid, and begun to drag the entire grill across the patio, down the stairs, and across the lawn.
Now, a few weeks later, Sam looks out the kitchen window. He sees Lew’s former grill sitting on his own backyard deck and sighs contentedly as he lifts his golf bag onto his shoulder..
“This driver always shanks the ball,” Lew had said the first day they’d golfed together. “Maybe you’ll have better luck with it.”
He’d given Sam the driver, then driven the golf cart to the clubhouse to buy a better one.
“I like our new neighbours,” Sam said when Ellie came through the kitchen wearing her Sunday —gardening clothes. “I didn’t think I would, but I do.”

Read 2359 times Last modified on Friday, 24 May 2013 09:30