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.
Bruce Holland Rogers has a home base in Eugene, Oregon, the tie-dye capital of the world. He writes all types of fiction: SF, fantasy, literary, mysteries, experimental, and work that’s hard to label.
For six years, Bruce wrote a column about the spiritual and psychological challenges of full-time fiction writing for Speculations magazine. Many of those columns have been collected in a book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer (an alternate selection of the Writers Digest Book Club). He is a motivational speaker and trains workers and managers in creativity and practical problem solving.
He has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado and the University of Illinois. Bruce has also taught non-credit courses for the University of Colorado, Carroll College, the University of Wisconsin, and the private Flatiron Fiction Workshop. He is a member of the permanent faculty at the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, a low-residency program that stands alone and is not affiliated with a college or university. It is the first and so far only program of its kind. Currently he is teaching creative writing and literature at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, on a Fulbright grant.
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