Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Please Shut Up
M Alan Roberts

Barely allowing the light to enter, I crack my back door to scan the scene. If the door opens past about 2 inches or makes any sound at all, it'll alert him. I need to feed Chicken Truck, Chicken Truck and his new red-headed girlfriend, Elvira. I fear the unwelcome contact of my ever-intrusive neighbour. Knowing their heated beaks need fresh water and nourishment wears on my mind. They have only me to count on for sustenance. However, I am torn, once again, between my responsibilities to my foul friends, and the discomfort associated with forced conversation.

It isn't just when I go out back to feed the chickens or take out the trash; it's every time I go outside, front or rear, for anything at all. He will be there, even early in the morning or late at night. Always there, as a Nazi guard at Auschwitz. He will be there. He will see me. He will force me to converse with him, about anything, everything, but about nothing important, at all, to me.

The coast seems clear. I make the decision to chance it.

Cracked corn in my left hand, water jug in my right, I step onto the landing of the rear deck and begin to move efficiently towards the coop that the birds call home. There's no time to waste here. There will be no talking to my feathered comrades as I feed and water them. No joking. No mock clucking. Just performance of the motions in as little time as possible so that I may quickly return to my haven of solitude.

As I descend the 2 x 12 steps, I use the extent of my peripheral vision to see if he is over there ? lurking like always on the front porch of the house next door. My sensors are not going off. I can see nothing. It just might be that I have chosen the perfect 2 minutes needed to service the feeding/watering needs of my chickens. In the clear, my feet reach the Georgian red clay and begin to carry me the 30 feet to my destination. I'm almost there now.

My forehead wrinkles. My lips curl downwards. My blood pressure rises and my brain wants to explode as I hear, "Whada ya doin'".

The demon has sounded; I am exposed. My body rigid, I turn my head as I continue walking. He has repositioned himself today. Sitting about five feet from his normal, predictable spot, he seems to be smirking at me, knowing that he has outsmarted me. He knows that I will have to respond now. He has forced me, once more, into a dreaded situation, contact and exchange with him.

"Oh, nothin', Roy, just taking care of these hungry chickens. These things eat more than Buckethead and me put together," I say with faux friendliness. Now my thoughts instantly divert to the fastest way to get out of this. You see, it's not that I never want to speak to my new neighbour; it's just that I do not want to always speak to him. If I do want to speak, then I feel that I should have the right to, at least some of the time, dictate when.

Oh no though, not with this guy. He is elderly and in poor health. Man does he ever play that up.

He very intentionally attempts to use guilt trips as methods to gain attention. He knows that he makes people feel obligated to talk with him, and he just doesn't care. The fact is that I am a quiet man. I prefer thinking to talking any day. The power of the brain is far superior to that of the mouth. But none of that matters to him. He doesn't care one single bit that he is interrupting my solitude. In fact, I think he enjoys it. He just wants to make me come over, sit on that porch, listen to him talk about death and dying, and watch and smell him smoking Wildhorse cigarettes.

I'd like to be able to goof around with the birds and enjoy a bit of sunshine. I'd like to be able to breathe in the fresh country air. I'd like to absorb my environment and relax into the peacefulness of the trees and the animals that thrive in and around them. I cannot. I am restricted, prevented, again.

As I turn from the chicken coop and begin to make my way back towards the steps, Roy says pleadingly, "Come and talk to me for a minute." I feel a twinge of selfishness as I tell him that I am just swamped with work and that I just don't have the time. I don't like having to feel bad because I don't want to talk. He just moved over there a few weeks ago. Before that I could walk around my yard as long as I cared to and not be interrupted. Why should I now have to hide inside and fear even sticking my head out the door?

For the first 2 weeks that he was there, I would go over and talk to him every time that he asked me to. I even took him extra food when I could. And then, it got to the point where I couldn't even open a window without him saying something. I chose to move here because it is isolated and quiet. That is the whole idea behind living this far away from others. Now, this retched, evil man is trying to talk me into an early grave with his incessant, babbling neediness. Sometimes, in my mind, I see myself attacking him, choking him and throwing him into the coop with the rooster, tied, bound and gagged very effectively.

It's important to realize that not everyone wants to talk just to hear their own voices. Sure, I understand that he is just a lonely old guy that desires attention. But why is it my responsibility to provide it for him? It is not, and I will not accept the guilt that he attempts to induce. As I age more and more, I am trying to teach myself how to not be like him. I use him as one example of how not to condition myself to live.

I feel sorry for Chicken Truck, Chicken Truck and Elvira. They are probably very tired of hearing his never-ending nagging as well. I hope they escape their coop and go peck him.

M Alan Roberts is a radical thinker. He has a gimlet eye for injustice, much as did Frederich Engels, a century and a half before. Still, Roberts finds a way to write effective SEO copy. This suggests both sides of his brain, his mind, work equally well.

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