Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Careful, Or You'll End Up in My Novel


Sooner or later, we all have one: the proverbial neighbor from hell. 


The rest of my neighbors are pleasant, even if some are a bit peculiar. One lady seems to be bipolar and has substance abuse and anger control issues, but I have never called the cops on her (someone obviously does, though, because they’re always coming to cart her off). Another of my neighbors used to be Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish president who had fifteen minutes of fame during Katrina. He was always nice, but I say “was” because he’s now in a federal pen. One next-door neighbor is a very affable, extremely buff black FBI agent with an impressive collection of automatic weapons, whose presence is rather comforting during hurricanes. But then there’s the jerk on the other side…

Once, after Katrina, he called the cops on me when I stopped his workmen from moving his fence posts another foot inside my property line (they were already six inches on my property, but he managed to pull that off before I bought the house). Another time he sprayed Round Up on the gardens of the houses that border his back yard. And just this past weekend, when I wasn’t home, he sent men with chainsaws to lop the tops off four of my small trees and seriously butcher my Bradford pear tree (he doesn’t like things that grow because the wind carries leaves and petals into his pool). Yes, I could call the cops on him because we’re not talking branches hanging over the property line but limbs that were on my own property and the tops of the trunks of trees growing in my front yard. But the trees are already ruined, and while I used to be a rather scrappy person, I’ve mellowed enough these days to realize that fighting with people only introduces disharmony and aggravation into my own life.

Besides, I have a way to get back at him that is open to few: I intend to put him in one of my books—maybe even more than one—and it will not be a flattering portrayal.

I have in the past put an ex-husband in one of my books, and killed him. One of my daughter’s old boyfriends has been an endless source of inspiration for a number of characters with borderline traits. An annoying woman from our local RWA chapter is making an appearance in the book I’m writing now. There’s a reason Steve gave me this sweatshirt for Christmas one year:


Of course, I also put people I like in my books, or at least bits of them. Both Hendon in the Sebastian series and the Colonel in the Tobie and Jax books have aspects of Steve in them. My two daughters inspired the little girls in one of my historical romances (and yes, they recognized themselves when they grew old enough to read it). It’s something all authors do, consciously or subconsciously. Sue Grafton once told me that she turned her daydreams of killing her ex-husband into A is for Alibi .

In you-know-who's case, I’ll change enough that he won’t be able to sue me on the off chance he should read my book(s). But I will have endless fun with him. And quietly laughing at him is much more pleasant—and productive—than getting angry, and much safer than trying to get revenge. However, the next time he lets his pool get nasty, I am definitely calling code enforcement.

UPDATE: I must confess that my attempt at maintaining a Zen-like calm did not work. By Friday, when I realized I was still too upset by the incident to write, I did call the police. They warned him that I could charge him with  "simple criminal destruction," although I have decided not to press charges at this time. He's still going in my next book, though!

18 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, where do people get off doing that kind of thing with the trees?

cs harris said...

Charles, as well as being an jerk he's also an idiot, because he now has a lovely view of this long line of hideously butchered trees.

Liz said...

I take it your neighbour doesn't read your blog! I laughed pretty hard over this, and admire your ability to let the tree issue go. Then again, I used to live in DC and know what it's like to live in the land of guns.

LOgalinOR said...

Candice,
Sorry about your trees! You have quite the cast of neighbors--the good, the bad, and the just plain nasty. Where I live, (Lake Oswego, Oregon), we have quite strict laws to protect our trees. Any commercial or residential tree that is over 5" in diameter (dead or alive), must have a permit to be removed and then in most cases, replaced with another tree. I have heard some of the unusual stories thru the years, and pardon the pun, that have been 'over the top'. Your neighbor would not have gotten away with what he did, living here.
I agree that getting angry, aggravated, or go for revenge is not a good way to live your life. Why let your blood pressure rise, when you can be "creative and imaginative" in other ways. Absolutely loved the part where you wrote about your ex-husband and had him killed off in one of your books-LOL. BTW, were your 2 daughters in your historical romance, September Moon (Hannah and Missy)? Highly recommend to read, especially if you like the Australian outback.

lmhess said...

Really? Why brutalize a tree? This guy needs watching...just a little scary. Maybe you and the FBI neighbor could conspire against him...until then, though, I like him being a nasty character in a book. You go, girl!

cs harris said...

Liz, I'd be seriously surprised if he reads here!

LOgalinOR, I wish we had your laws here. And yes, it was September Moon.

Imhess, I agree that he is scary. I've had face-to-face confrontations with him, and he becomes easily enraged. I don't think you could do that to trees without being mentally imbalanced. I keep wishing he'd retire and go away, but I think he's lived here for 40 years, so I doubt it!

LeFleur said...

Haha, that is awesome. Although I am very sad about your trees. I currently have a hateful neighbor that likes to park in front of my driveway. I have daydreams about them too...

paz said...

UGH. Neighbor troubles are the worst. Conflicts in such proximity have always left me feeling particularly vulnerable and violated.

We lived once in a lovely apartment in a very good neighborhood in Brooklyn. All changed when a self proclaimed "up and coming" DJ moved into the apartment directly below. She had no furniture (I mean it literally -- no tables, no chairs, only a mattress) except for a wall to ceiling media center which took over all her living room. Living daily sessions of club music starting at 4 PM and not ending until after 10 PM was utterly unbearable. By the time we forced her to moved out, we were exhausted as well and left right after. If only I had thought of your elegant and satisfying form of revenge.

cs harris said...

LeFleur, I grew up with my grandmother saying, "Have some consideration for the neighbors!" when we'd get too loud. I always think of her when I hear about people doing that sort of thing. I simply can't imagine being so oblivious, self-focused, or nasty.

Paz, yes, that's a big part of why it's so upsetting, because it strikes at precisely where we want to feel relaxed. I always hated living in apartments because I really, really like my quiet.





Anonymous said...

c-I hear you absolutely. good neighbors are a must. which is why I have the opposite story. 99% of the time I live in an apt and those neighbors I never see. not even sure they are real living people. but my family has cabins on a lake in the Adirondacks (Indian Lake -like the song by the Cowsills) and I was just there for a week. a couple live across the street (Highway 30). I don't even know their name. my aunt and uncle do. these kindly people always look out for our property. we are only in residence July & Aug. Sandy hit and they cleared away fallen trees and patched up a broken window. call us if we need to know anything important. and this week they lent us a canoe and offered to help us with our dock. I realize people like this are rare which is why I'm telling you. I hope someday that big jerk leaves and you get some really nice neighbors - like mine.
ali

Anonymous said...

You made me laugh!! You'll have to hint at the character at a later time, or I guess we'll have to see if we can "find" him. Sabena

cs harris said...

ali, your lake house neighbor sounds wonderful! We used to have a great couple that lived next to our lake house, but unfortunately, they moved :-(

Sabena, watch for a narcissist who doesn't like plants!

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