God of Parking Spaces
“The bastard’s even closer this time,” your husband says, glancing outside.
“Mm.” You’re not really listening, scrubbing an already-clean dinner plate.
For the past three weeks, your Neighbor has been parking his truck further and further past his half of the curbside spots your two households share, leaving you and your husband only inches to spare for your two appropriately-sized sedans. Returning home has become a nightmare of car-shuffling and parallel parking, something you’ve barely done since getting your license.
“We shouldn’t have to be doing it though,” your husband says. He is not so nimble with that first, reverse swoop motion. That’s the key, your Pap always said. That first turn is the whole trick.
The Neighbor—a retired coach—vaguely reminds you of him.
This time, the truck is parked so close it would be almost impossible for you to squeeze between the vehicles, and you are not a large man. You run, eat soy.
“He’s walking all over us,” your husband says. “You don’t even care.”
“I care,” you say. “I’d just rather not start something.”
It’s one of those well-worn things. The kind of argument you have shorthand for. Eventually his eyes go to the plate in your hand.
“We have a dishwasher,” he says.
“Our plates don’t fit.”
A few days later the truck is backed even closer.
“This is it,” your husband says.
“They’re not actually touching,” you say.
Your husband has you take the book you’ve been reading—a chapbook of 17 deconstructed-and-then-rearranged sonnets the jacket claims will rewire the way you think about your relationship to Big Pharma—and hold it between the bumpers while he nudges the car forward until the book doesn’t fall.
The next day, in response, the Neighbor buys a second truck and parks it on the grassy meridian, half in his yard, half in yours. Wordlessly, your husband buys a third car and parks it diagonally across the Neighbor’s lawn.
Together, you watch and wait, but the Neighbor doesn’t come out of his house. The game seems to only be played when no one is looking.
You support your husband, of course, but you also, despite everything, want to somehow resolve this without addressing it directly, not doing anything that would make this neighboring more difficult than it already is.
“Maybe we could build a driveway,” you suggest.
It’s not that you’re afraid of confrontation—are you?—but the Neighbor, like your grandfather, does not exactly have a reputation for friendliness. Once you watched him not chop but beat a sapling to the ground with a shovel, all the fury-energy of a character in a movie who has lost his son to senseless violence, and so, when he finally lays hands to the murderer, resorts to the same, eventually collapsing, grieving, freckled in blood, and you don’t blame him because he’s had such a hard time. The movie father, that is. The Neighbor, who can say?
Turning onto your street, your husband touches a fist to the steering wheel, emphasizing each word with a slow-motion punch.
“Son of a bitch,” he says, sotto voce.
“He must have crawled out the passenger side,” you say. “At his age.”
The truck is somehow parked on your actual porch. It completely blocks the front door, so you both take your shoes off and climb the downspout. You’ve been wanting to exercise more. Reaching the bedroom window feels like something you can be proud of.
“Was this open all day?” your husband asks.
That night, your husband Johnny Appleseeds a box of one-inch nails along the shoulder. A swelling fear chokes the air.
You begin your own campaign, refusing to inflame, compound, aggravate. You leave homegrown zucchini on the porch, bundles of azalea, arranged orchids, a fingernail-sized diamond you cut from its alluvial matrix. You wait for the Neighbor to see and understand your hearts.
But a few days later you return home to find a dozen identical trucks, all parked in the same only-just-not-touching way on all four sides of your cars, including the third one your husband left on the Neighbor’s own lawn.
It seems a waste to use a dishwasher for only silverware, so you hand wash those too.
Eventually your husband says he has to leave.
“Leave?” you ask. “Or leave?”
But he doesn’t clarify. He says he’s planning something, but it’s better you don’t know what. He makes multiple trips to the car—which he can access only after renting an industrial crane. He climbs overtop the trucks, attaching cables, and then lifts the car out of its enclosure, setting it down ever so softly in the middle of the road. He loads it with duffel bags, electrical cables. He gentles a Thermos into the backseat, buckling it like a child.
The house is quiet. Are you single now? Is your husband going to be on the news? You eat meals on the couch, watching and waiting, but nothing happens.
You go to work, come home. Abandoned, there is only one car to park now, so plenty of room, even with all your Neighbor’s trucks arrayed in a radial, dealership-style display across both lawns. He has—conscientiously—left you a neat spot, easy to access, at the furthest point from your front door.
Before you turn the lights on, you catch a whiff of something from the kitchen, a wafting savor you maybe smelled even outside.
The table is spread as if for a dinner party—carefully arranged flowers, bread and sausage, eggs, two platters of hamburgers, sauteed zucchini, tomatoes drizzled with balsamic—and your Neighbor, alone. He keeps eating, nods without making eye contact. He has piled the dishes in a neat stack on the counter.