Behind His Fence

Behind His Fence

A Story by barleygirl
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here's the rest of the story . . .

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Finally, Trudy completed her career of thirty-odd years, which had made it necessary to live in town and deal with the annoyances of too many people living too close together. When the property manager drove an hour up to a rustic shack in the  wilderness to show her a rental possibility, Trudy made a snap decision to take the place. She didn’t care that it was a hovel. The rent was cheap and the creek below the bluff swished a leafy lullaby in warm welcome.

That was ten years ago. Back when her nearest neighbor, across the road and down the hill, was hardly ever seen on his sprawling property. In time her neighbor Jasper retired and moved out of town and onto his land, living a feral life away from the prying eyes of nosy neighbors.

Trudy could peer over his tall fence from her overlook and she noticed his place was dotted with several tiny cabins along with his ramshackle single-wide mobile home. Having this grizzled gray guy nearby all the time now, Trudy was bothered by the blaringly loud roar of his power tools. He was often busily at work erecting still more one-room bungalows here and there, but nobody had ever seen a building inspector come anywhere near the place.

Each of his newly-built and intricately designed cottages was vacant. She never saw anyone live there. One time she inquired for a friend who was looking for a place, “would you ever consider renting out any of your cabins?”

“No way I’m dealing with the hassles of tenants on my land!” His manner of responding was always loud and emphatic, bordering on rage, as if to make sure the other person didn’t nose around his business any further.

Jasper was often hammering away and adding to his tall fence along the lane between the properties, at least a couple miles long with fence boards that were two-by-sixes. Who can afford to build a miles-long fence out of two-by-sixes? Trudy had no interest in whatever happened behind his impervious barrier, but he continued building and banging and extending his privacy as if having Trudy across the way constituted some sort of threat.

A younger blonde sprite named Jessie moved in with Jasper, living in the mobile home and occasionally bringing Trudy a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven.

“Why thank you for this! What a neighborly thing to do!” Trudy could not believe this pretty young waif was hanging out with her crusty bad-tempered old neighbor. There’s no accounting for what some women will put up with when they smell money.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Really!” Every few words, this slight nymph paused and fluttered her feathers. “You see, Jasper and I are driving across country and he said I better get you to water the fruit trees I stupidly planted or they’ll die in this heat.” Jessie couldn’t weigh a hundred pounds and this would be the body type Jasper would pick, since he was a short wiry wimp of a man.

“I’m fine with watering your trees while you’re gone.” Trudy wasn’t sure she was up to the physical vigor of tromping up and down hills, but this assignment would offer a chance to explore what’s behind his fence.

“There’s kind of a weird water situation.” This young lady was so hesitant, she paused between every sentence, “he’ll have to explain it to you.” Jessie’s deferential way bugged Trudy, who grew up country-tough and self-sufficient.

A while back, Jessie had asked for Trudy’s phone number because Jasper would be gone and she was afraid to stay by herself. She had revealed it as if she hoped Trudy might invite her to stay overnight, but there was no way Trudy would be getting chummy with this crotchety neighbor’s old lady.

“So, when are you guys leaving?” Trudy was overjoyed her neighbor would be gone for two months and his power tools would be silenced during this time. She examined the handful of keys that Jessie handed her, wondering why she would need to gain access to several of his assorted bungalows and outbuildings if she was just watering trees. Maybe in case of fire or malicious sightings?

“We’re leaving tomorrow, so Jasper is waiting to show you right now.” Jessie led Trudy down the hill where they met up with Jasper. He was standing by his well along the creek, glowering as usual.

“So, tell me about your weird water situation.” Trudy speaks to his deeply-tanned back, crisscrossed by the straps of his raggedy overalls.

“My well isn’t deep, so it runs out of water in the heat of summer when the creek goes dry.” He doesn’t turn around and instead speaks to the pump in front of him. “You need to shut down this pump before that happens and I’ll show you the power switch, over there by the fruit trees.” He points to a cluster of dwellings surrounded by another thick tall fence within the main perimeter fence.

“Okay, so I need to turn off the pump when the creek is just about ready to dry up, and what do I use to water trees?” Trudy’s inquiry prompts Jasper’s scowl.

“After you shut down the pump, turn this valve all the way closed.” Jasper twists his hand to indicate which direction to turn the valve, “and then, you need to go up to that water tank and open another valve.” Trudy scrambles to keep up with the spry miniature couple crossing gnarly stone-strewn terrain.

A half hour later Jasper has shown Trudy all the intricacies of watering the fruit trees, tromping up and down between the creek and the water tank. By the time she returns to her own cabin, her legs are screaming and she needs to use her wheelchair for the rest of the day. She’s glad she’s watering these trees only once a week. She can drag herself through it for the fifty bucks he slipped her.

The initial weeks, it was all Trudy could do to finish this watering on wobbly legs so she wasn’t interested in snooping around. After recent neck surgery, she had to learn to walk again and her legs were not fully functional.

When she needed to rest, she enjoyed his expansive collection of outdoor lounging furniture all lined up facing the creek on an expansive concrete slab massively undermined by gopher burrows. His patio scene was encircled by crumbling stone masonry forming a thick half-wall to sit on and which ended in a far-flung island for barbequing, all nicely shaded by a spreading live oak and covering an acre of ground. This flat paved space along the creek could accommodate a party of hundreds.

This hand-built socializing masterpiece was a relic from another era because there hadn’t been a crowd of people around since Trudy moved in across the lane.

Week by week, she tromped up and down his grand staircase of crumbling hand masonry and her legs grew stronger. One day she had the wherewithal to look the place over and see what so many cabins were all about. She had the keys to some, so she let herself in, sauntering around to take in a wide variety of fully furnished habitats. Most were bedecked with dusty vintage food packages or implements of coffee and spirits. It seemed as if people had stopped living here abruptly and went away leaving ordinary life details in mid-task.

Eventually Jasper returned from his cross-country trip. He walked up to Trudy’s fence and stood there waiting for her to notice so she could come outside. Some country folk have an aversion to coming to anyone’s door, since they don’t want anyone coming to their own door and surprising them in the middle of something that’s nobody’s damn business.

“Geez! You get a ton of mail!” Trudy heaved a box over her low fence and plopped it in his waiting arms. “I hardly get any . . . I do everything online.”

“Well, whoop-dee-do for you!” Jasper thumbs through the box of mail without looking up. “Any problem with the water or anything?”

“No, everything went fine.” Before Trudy spit out her reply, Jasper was already wandering down the lane toward his gate. Jessie was nowhere to be seen and her distinctive bright pink bomb wasn’t parked on his property either.

His girlfriend was not seen again for months. The country-neighbor scuttlebutt was that she had stayed on the East Coast with her daughter and granddaughter instead of returning to the West Coast to continue living there with Jasper. She hated wilderness living and was scared to stay alone at night.

Some months after Jasper returned alone from his cross-country trip, Trudy spotted a barely-there specter trudging the little lane up to the community mailbox on the main road. With no idea who this person might be, Trudy went out to her front yard and pulled a few weeds, staying low and hidden as she peered through her lattice fence. She aimed to catch a glimpse of this walking zombie on its way back from the mailbox. Living in the boondocks, people don’t lock their doors but they take note of any strange-people sightings.

Unbelievably, this dilapidated excuse for a human appeared to be none other than Jessie. She was twice as old and four times as decrepit as she once was. As soon as she passed by, Jessie stood up and leaned over the fence to look down the lane toward her neighbor’s driveway. Sure enough, there was Jessie’s distinctive bright pink bomb, parked by his gate.

That was the last Jessie was seen near Jasper’s property. She disappeared but her car remained parked there for years and never driven.

A year or two on, another woman came to live in Jasper’s mobile home and she was widely referred to as his sister, although none in that rural community had ever heard her name. This sister was twice as tall as puny Jasper. With her broad shoulders and long legs, a family resemblance wasn’t evident. Nobody believed this was his sister and some referred to her as his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Trudy puttered in her front yard most days until one afternoon she was cornered by a zany older woman dressed like a gypsy who strode right up and opened her gate and sat down on Trudy’s patio chair as if they were long-lost buddies, “can you tell me about this property?”

Trudy glanced over at the FOR SALE sign on a tiny crumb of land that bordered Jasper’s huge spread, “oh yeah, an old guy lived there for years but he kicked the bucket and now his granddaughter wants to sell the place.”

“I have a geriatric horse and I wonder if there’d be any objection to keeping a horse on that property if I were to buy it.” The gypsy pointed to a tiny clearing atop the bluff that overhung a different neighbor’s well-manicured pool area. Nobody lived in the house with a pool. It was a vacation getaway but the owners drove down only occasionally to groom the place and never stayed overnight.

“You might want to talk to the Bonetti’s, who live down below.” Facing this ragamuffin gypsy, Trudy envisioned a typical winter storm unleashing a torrent which could wash a load of horse s**t off the bluff and into the pool below. It just wasn’t a large enough piece of property to keep a horse on it.

“The Bonetti’s? Isn’t that the county supervisor? He should be able to cut through any red tape that might keep me from getting this property.” The gypsy waxed dreamy in tones of optimistic delirium.

“That place belongs to the supervisor’s son.” Trudy corrected doubtfully.

The gypsy shuffled across the lane and scrambled onto a boulder so she could look over Jasper’s solid fence. “What about this guy over here . . . his place is huge.” Shouting back across to Trudy, “maybe he’ll let me keep my horse over here. This would be a perfect place for my horse!”

“I don’t think Jasper’s keen on renting out his land.” Trudy warns.

“I don’t mean renting. I looked this guy up on the Internet and he owns a ton of land.” Trudy was blown away when this sleuth mentioned the golf course Jasper recently bought in the Midwest, on his cross-country trip. “Maybe he won’t mind letting me keep my horse on one little corner here. I have a trailer I could haul onto his land to hold my hay and supplies.”

“Good luck with that!” Exasperated, Trudy tried to cut her off.

But the gypsy’s optimism flew in the face of clear warning signs, “it would be a win-win situation. Look at this poor soil. This guy might even agree to pay me for the bounty of having my horse droppings all over his land!”

After the gypsy perused the place, she retreated over the hill to coast where she expected to be evicted soon. Within hours, Trudy caught an onslaught of email from the gypsy, like it was her duty to warn Trudy. Clearly this zany bossy paranoid woman had researched all the neighbors in the vicinity and she sent Trudy the dossier as if they were in cahoots together.

One document indicated that the sleazy hoarder from up the hill was a registered sex offender. What the hell?

Within a week, the gypsy moved into a trailer on the land that was for sale, a rental arrangement that the granddaughter-owner, living in another state, had no clue about. The gypsy admitted to Trudy that she didn’t have a key to the place, but the bogus rental agent (aka real estate agent hired by granddaughter-owner) promised her this arrangement was on the up-and-up as she paid him the rent.

No horse was ever moved onto the property. The gypsy put a ton of effort into decorating the place with haphazard junk like bell-shaped powerline insulators made from aqua glass and sea shells and pine cones, along with dozens of newly-potted succulents from recent cuttings. She had every square inch of that trailer and surrounding concrete pad, not to mention trees and propane tank, plastered with colorful whimsical hippie s**t.

Trudy emailed several neighbors who might be impacted by this zany woman’s outlandish gyrations and Jasper took it from there.

He had known the granddaughter-owner for years and knew how to contact her. The gypsy and all her junk was gone . . . poof! . . . in the dark of night. She never returned but her drab-green Land Rover remained parked in front of this trailer. Not too far from the bright pink bomb that used to belong to Jessie.

Coincidentally, Jasper bought the small parcel bordering his spread for half the asking price. Nobody knew how he finagled that deal. But then again, nobody else knew the granddaughter-owner since she lived in a distant state. The same state where Jasper bought that golf course.

Coincidentally.

Trudy was vaguely aware of her neighbor moving into the double-wide mobile home, which was twice as big as his old abode, since he drove past her shack with truckload after truckload of furnishings and woodworking equipment. Lickety-split, he had all his power tools rearranged around his new place and he set to refurbishing and making it habitable with ornately-honed woodworking.

Jasper must’ve been desperate for an audience to show off his carpentry, Trudy thought, when he showed up at her fence asking her to come down and take a look. She’d never been inside the place back when the old man lived there, so she was curious to check it out. It turned out to be one of the weirdest interactions Trudy had ever walked through.

Having forgotten there was this woman in the shadows, commonly referred to as Jasper’s sister, Trudy was reminded when she went inside his new place and noticed the tall painfully thin woman wavering like a ghost with her long white tresses hopelessly tangled. Trudy expected one of them to introduce this woman, but neither ever did. She was shown around the entire house and Jasper talked more than he’d ever spoken, highlighting all his custom carpentry tricks. The sister didn’t follow along on this tour. She stayed in the dining room hovering with vacant eyes, looking as if she might keel over at any moment.

After the walk-through, Trudy hobbled up his steep driveway on crutches. In his carport, she noticed the white truck with a camper shell. This frail wisp of a woman in Jasper’s house just now had driven this truck past her shack from time to time. But the pale specter hadn’t driven this truck lately. In time, the so-called sister was never seen again and her white truck with the camper shell became Jasper’s go-to vehicle, among the three other trucks he owned. His trucks were all economy-size and he preferring driving the full-size truck.

Before pulling out onto the lane, he’d stop in his driveway in front of the trailer where the gypsy had lived for only two weeks. There he’d be in the white truck, idling near the bright pink bomb and the drab-green Land Rover, never budged since their previous owners disappeared.

Life continued as biting flies buzzed every summer and wildfires raged every autumn and endless droughts were ended by ruthless floods on rare winters.

Trudy adopted her first cat, a Maine Coon that adapted to wilderness living a little too readily. After a year, she was never seen by Trudy again. When her cat had been missing a week, Jasper leaned over her fence to ask, “ya getcher cat?”

“Get my cat?” Trudy couldn’t figure how Jasper knew she HAD a cat.

“My cat ran away on July fourth. I saw her with the feral community up the creek so I put out a trap and I caught your cat instead.”

“You caught my cat? What did you do with her?” Trudy was flabbergasted.

“I let her loose right here in your driveway about an hour ago.”

“You let her loose without telling me, so I might try to keep her from running away again?” But Jasper had already turned away before Trudy finished. He walked down the lane shrugging his bare shoulders wildly like they were infested with jumping beans.

Trudy had tried hard for ten years to be decent to her neighbor. All kinds of kooks live in the sticks and if you incite one of these maniacs, it could lead to bald-faced murder in the first degree. Like that liberal couple who got blown to smithereens up the road back in the nineties. A retired redneck engineer, wound a little too tight, didn’t cotton to the next-door couple’s decorating style, their land and trees and fences ensconced in colorful fluttering hippie s**t. The ongoing feud ended up in double murder by shotgun.

So Trudy had tiptoed around Jasper for ten years.

But enough was enough.

She looked up the phone number for the county building inspector. Since hers had been a technical career, she knew all about building codes and the required inspections. She’d seen nary a building inspector out here during so many years of building cabin after cabin across the lane and behind his fence.

* * * * * * * * * *


Photo below is the tall fence made from two-by-sixes.



© 2020 barleygirl


Author's Note

barleygirl
In keeping with my storytelling style, this story is about 80% true and 20% embellished.

My Review

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Featured Review

Just had to read this after reading your poem. You have such a wonderfully natural way of story telling and I found this both delightfully compelling and mysterious.

Dying to know what the call to the county building inspector will bring. :))

Beccy.



Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for a great response! I wasn't planning to extend this story any further. I like to leave .. read more
Beccy

3 Weeks Ago

Part of me says have done with the tiptoeing and go do it. Rest of me says, good or bad he's a neig.. read more



Reviews

Margie you are a Master Storyteller! This vividly told tale is so well-laid that it kept me mesmerized from start to finish. But wait- what is the finish or even is there one?? Your characters are so creatively drawn, like Dickens ‘ Fagan and Steinbeck’s Cannery Row ensemble- great writing! So, please, please add to this so deserving story, with all its mystery and intrigue, whenever the muse moves you sisterfriend. So glad you are well and wonderful. Xo

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

This is definitely on my list to make into a book. That way I can fully detail the weirdo hoarder on.. read more
These cantankerous old farts like Jasper are spread all over the world, it seems. What intrigued me was the sudden disappearance of his lady visitors and their cars staying on his property and gathering dust. Their fates sound ominous. As you described, these out of the way places are usually full of kooky characters and your story is full of them. It was an interesting read, and one that deserves a conclusion from my readers perspective.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

I like stories that are cliffhangers. I hate books where the last 100 pages explain how everything t.. read more
What a script.. plot.. read!! There's a load of clues to characters and goings on here.. could see it longer, could see it shorter too, so much detail to knit from sweater to sqae 0 crips, sublte.. and luv, I know you can do clever subtle!

' He had known the granddaughter-owner for years and knew how to contact her. The gypsy and all her junk was gone . . . poof! . . . in the dark of night. She never returned but her drab-green Land Rover remained parked in front of this trailer. Not too far from the bright pink bomb that used to belong to Jessie.

Coincidentally, Jasper bought the small parcel bordering his spread for half the asking price. Nobody knew how he finagled that deal. But then again, nobody else knew the granddaughter-owner since she lived in a distant state. The same state where Jasper bought that golf course.'

For some reason i found that part suggested another tangent to an evolving trilogy! How, where and for goodness sake. Think I need read again, but could add more here.. trouble is, would end up blathering.. not that i often do... not read the poem yet, love stories as you know, hence why here first. Back later. Til then, smile your smile. x

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

There are some tangents here that could be expanded into chapters. I might do this . . . autumn is a.. read more
emmajoy

3 Weeks Ago

Juices are running! Love strawberries almost as much as apricots! Understand that there's time to.. read more
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Woah Jasper is SHADY. Good for Trudy, finally standing up for herself. Did you experience something similar to this, or did it happen to a friend, maybe?
You make a good storyteller! I hope you write more :)

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for a great review! I am Trudy & most of this happened to me, living here these past 10 ye.. read more
Well he really tested her patience and she such a good neighbour to him too. It was the final straw and he deserved it. Wonder how he was dealt with by the building inspectors. Amazing chracterization of Jaspar, the trying neigbour and a great story, dear Margie!

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for stopping by & plowing thru a long one. Usually I try to keep my stories shorter but no.. read more
DIVYA

3 Weeks Ago

The story held me throughout so the length was very fine. It would be so interesting to know what we.. read more
There's something odd going on there. It creeps me out a little.
With there be another installment? I was wondering if those cabins were meant to keep people locked in.
Ever see The Room? I think between fact with some highly embellished fiction that this could be a great book.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

Read my answer to Beccy to see my dilemma, as far as continuing this story. But aside from all that,.. read more
Ana Papaya

3 Weeks Ago

Even if you did reveal any idiosyncrasies no one would know. :) Woild they? Only Trudy would kn.. read more
This comment has been deleted by this stories author.
Just had to read this after reading your poem. You have such a wonderfully natural way of story telling and I found this both delightfully compelling and mysterious.

Dying to know what the call to the county building inspector will bring. :))

Beccy.



Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for a great response! I wasn't planning to extend this story any further. I like to leave .. read more
Beccy

3 Weeks Ago

Part of me says have done with the tiptoeing and go do it. Rest of me says, good or bad he's a neig.. read more

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Added on August 30, 2020
Last Updated on August 30, 2020

Author

barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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