I think I'm afraid of my next-door neighbor. I'm not sure I'm afraid of her, because when she's in hairdresser mode she's been very accommodating about cutting Jackson's hair without putting him in full-body restraint. But she also sits on her front porch in the dark, smoking and drinking beer and complaining with the girl who lives in the back apartment, talking loudly about all the bitches she's fucked up. Her three children, ages eight to thirteen, are mesmerisingly well behaved. She once told me how her oldest was "picking soap out of his molars" after the first time he cursed in front of her. Once we met her youngest in the alley between our houses, his arms loaded with toys. "If those aren't put away in one minute, I'll throw them out!" we heard her bellow from her front yard. "She'll do it, too," flinched the boy as he dumped everything into the dirt-floored storage space beneath their house and ran back inside.

So this weekend I'm coming home from taking Jackson to see Cat in the Hat, and he's fallen asleep in his car seat, so I'm hoping to carry him gently inside to let him begin what I hope will be at least a two-hour nap in his crib. But Neighbor Bitch-Slap is in her front yard demolishing a bush with a chain saw. I have to get about eight inches from her face before she notices me trying to get her attention. Annoyed, and without shutting off the saw, she strains to hear me plead that if she would just turn off the saw for one minute I'd be able to get my little boy into bed without ruining everyone's afternoon. With great irritation she shuts the saw off, snapping, "I hope to god I can get it to start again." I run off without saying thank you, which I immediately regret, but rescuing a sleeping child from a baking car seems just a teensy bit more urgent. However, I imagine I can feel her affront ready to be heaved at my fleeing back like a cinderblock.

And this morning as I left the house, even though my path to the sidewalk is shielded from view of her yard by a seven-foot hedge, I was waiting to hear the soft thok! of poison-tipped arrows piercing my flank and that snarling, cat-fighting, soap-weilding matriarch yelling, Hey! Shit-for-brains! You're welcome! The only reason I have the nerve to post this is I'm pretty sure her kids think I'm too boring to Google.

*Also, if you click on the chain saw photo you will find it is linked to a site dedicated to the art of chain saw sculpture. It's almost as good as the amputation and bone saw site that I found while looking for chain saw photos.