The Invisible Man

This story collection is an exemplar for Short-short Sighted #24, “By The Numbers: The Prose Sonnet”.

When the guy with the junked-out cars moved into the house two doors down, I said to Glenna, “I don’t understand why someone like that would move into a neighborhood like ours.” But Glenna bought a ham, cut some dahlias from our garden, and went over to meet him. His furniture was made of phone cable spools, driftwood, and old tires, and he filled a mason jar with water for the flowers. “Got more time than money, is how come I can fix up old cars and make all this stuff myself,” he said, and told us to call him Jim.

“He seems nice enough,” I told Glenna later, “but I wish he’d put those junkers where they can’t be seen from the street.” Glenna said, “Why not say so?” I let a decent interval pass, and then one Saturday after trimming my hedge I went over in my gardening clothes to ask Jim if he’d like to borrow the clippers to keep his own hedge neat. He said, “I thank you kindly, but I plan to let it grow.”

I told him as politely as I could that the pickup truck with a Go Navy! bumper sticker did not fit in here, not to mention the orange ’59 Chevy. He said, “I have a solution in mind, my friend.” He pointed to the Swedish ivy already twining around the pickup’s bumper and promised that the vegetation, left to flourish, would protect the neighborhood with a barricade of green — a visual levee. I said we’d fight it out in court if that was really what he planned, but I didn’t have the stomach for such a battle in the end.

The hedge and ivy grew as he promised, until a robber wouldn’t know there was a house to rob inside that veil of green, untouched by landscape labor. And the sober truth is, since I never see him or his effects, Jim is not my least favorite neighbor.