The Neighbor

My boyfriend Greg lived in a lower middle class neighborhood when I met him. Most of his neighbors were much older than we were and either had retired or were close to retirement age. There was a golf course less than a mile away that had a nice bar, with the not so unique name of “Tavern On The Green”, which served decent food and had live rock and roll on the weekends. It was the early ‘80s and there were a lot of decent young rock and roll bands around. In fact one of the bands that played there called “The Nighthawks” would eventually spawn two groups from its members that would both go on to achieve a decent amount of success. We really enjoyed having a good place to party that was such a quick drive. In fact when push came to shove, or if we got really wasted it was only a 20 minute walk. In the summertime we frequently would walk there. Life was good and we were having fun.

We also really enjoyed using the golf course there as well. Greg, with his buddies and I with my girlfriends. We tried going with each other a couple of times but that didn’t work so well. Women should never have a boyfriend teach them how to golf, men are too competitive. I will never forget the second time we went together with another couple and Greg got so mad at the 9th hole, after he kept hitting his ball out into the field next to the course, that on the third time he did so he threw his club at the hole and bent it. That was when I decided his idea of fun and mine weren’t the same when it came to golfing. After that I went with the girlfriends and wives of his friends who also didn’t understand getting so mad at the golf ball that you would let it ruin your whole day. After all it is supposed to be fun, or at least that’s what we girls thought. We just laughed if we kept hitting the ball so badly that it took up to six shots to get on the green for a par 3 hole. We would let everyone play through that wanted to and drink one of the two beers we put in our golf bags when we left the club house, if you took any more they got warm. With us women it wasn’t a sin to use the wrong club either, something which we had all found out how the men in our lives felt about that. Like I said, we thought playing a game was supposed to be fun. I used to like to golf with the girls on a nice sunny afternoon. Scores were way less important than having a good time. Greg and Larry would spend a whole afternoon sulking in pissed off silence if they had a bad game.

Larry and Debbie only lived a couple of streets over from Greg’s house, we could drive to it in five minutes and walk there in ten and we did both depending on the weather. We used to have dinner at each other’s houses quite often and we would go the bar at the golf course as well and party on the weekends. There was more than one memorable night through the years and some were good and some not so good. Like the time Debbie and Larry got so mad at each other they got in a big fight on the dance floor and we all got kicked out. After we got home neither one of them could remember what they had been fighting about. Debbie had been Greg’s girlfriend about six years earlier and she met Larry when she was dating Greg because they both worked for the same company and attended the same company picnics and parties. When Greg and Debbie broke up Larry asked Greg if it would be alright if he asked her out. Since Greg and Debbie had an amiable break-up he didn’t have a problem with her dating Larry. At least until they got really drunk, but most of the time everything was copasetic.

Greg had only one neighbor who was close in age to him and his friends. I was the baby of our group at 23, Greg was 31 as was Debbie and Larry was 33. The neighbor directly across the street from Greg was 35 and when we had barbecues and other parties we started to invite Bill to participate. We really liked his girlfriend, Jennifer, who was only a couple of years older than me. We really hit it off. As we got to know Bill we found out that he was an ex-alcoholic and didn’t drink. Jennifer did and Bill didn’t mind associating with people who drank, he just said that he couldn’t do it. We all understood we thought, though of the rest of us all drank.

Bill became an asset when it came to going out to bars to dance and drink, since he didn’t drink he could always drive. Greg and Larry had bought a 1968 classic Cadillac to go golfing in, the trunk was a lot bigger than new cars and they could fit four guys in the car and four sets of clubs in the trunk so “the boat” became a popular party car. It was in pristine condition on the outside and because it was a “joint venture” in ownership for the four guys to take golfing, which frequently took them some distance away, they spent the money to make sure it was a reliable “ride”. It was a very comfortable car to sit in for up to six people, it had a lot of acreage, inside and out.

Bill soon started hosting parties for his new friends as well as going to the parties we hosted. He worked for a company that I had been good friends with the president of for several years and several of the friends he had made at work attended these parties. We had a very fun and cool social scene going on. Whenever Greg and I went out of town for any period of time Greg had Bill watch the place and gave him a key to the house. We went to Mexico for two months one winter and Bill watered the plants and kept an eye on the place. When we got back we threw a big welcome home party and invited all of our mutual friends. We noticed that Bill was drinking but he didn’t do anything odd. It got our attention because for the previous three years we hadn’t ever seen him drink anything. When I mentioned it to him he said it had been long enough that he didn’t have a problem with it anymore. He didn’t seem to have any problem with drinking and his girlfriend was alright with it as well.

Greg and Larry got laid off from their jobs not long after this. A mutual friend of theirs had a construction company that was remodeling a motel complex in a small town. It was next to the freeway and about a six hour drive away and he offered to hire them for a month or two. They accepted and so Debbie and I became widows for two weeks at a time. The guys came home for about three days every two weeks. I had an apartment and a roommate that I lived with part of the week and I lived at Greg’s house for the other part of the week. Greg had asked Bill to watch over his house while he was out of town. Even though Greg was gone most of the time I still spent several nights a week there, I enjoyed the privacy of not having anyone around.

One night I was lying in bed reading and I heard someone opening the front door. I got a little freaked out but then I remembered that Greg had asked Bill to watch his house so I hid in the bedroom and waited to see who was letting themselves in. It was Bill and he apologized for not realizing that I was there. I said it was alright and I got up and spent several hours drinking a bottle of wine with him while we watched a stupid movie on TV. He never let himself on the house again while Greg was out of town.

Greg and Larry finished working out of town and started back at their regular jobs. One night soon after that I was at Greg’s and he told me that Bill had called him earlier in the day to tell him he had been arrested and asked him to go over to his house and feed his two dogs and cat. I went with Greg to take care of the animals. I noticed his house was in a state of disarray. There were empty bottles of beer all over the place and girlie magazines spread all over the house, he obviously hadn’t planned on having anyone see it like this. Bill was released from jail the next day. I happened to go over to my roommate and I’s friend Rick’s house the next night. The friend who was the president of the company Bill worked for. Rick’s wife was quite the gossip.

“Did you hear about Bill getting arrested?”

“Yes I did, I went over to his house with Greg last night to feed his pets. Do you know why he was arrested? Greg thought Bill said it was for threatening someone?”

“Yes, it was. He pulled a knife on a gal that works with him and Dana, she works directly under Rick. Supposedly she told Dana that she is pregnant with his child and said she is going to make his life miserable. Dana told Bill all about it and that he was afraid she will ruin his relationship with his fiancée. Bill followed her from work to the store and got in her car and threatened her with a knife if she didn’t leave Dana alone. She started screaming and jumped out of the car and ran. Bill ran away but the cops came and found him hiding behind the store and took him to jail.”

“That’s pretty weird. Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know but the police came to talk to Rick about it today. We found out Bill is a registered sex offender. They wouldn’t tell Rick what he did but if I were you I would stay away from him.”

Trust me I will!”

Erin and I stayed for dinner and then as soon as I got home I called Greg.

“Did you know Bill is a registered sex offender?”

“Who told you that?”

“It was Rick’s wife, Diane. You met her, Rick is Bill’s boss.”

“How did she know Bill is a sex offender?”

“Apparently the police came and talked to Rick about Bill’s threatening the lady they all work with and they told Rick. I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“I’d like to hear what Bill has to say. I think you are overreacting.”

“I don’t. I don’t have any tolerance for people who commit sex crimes.”

“I think we should find out the truth first.”

“From Bill? Do you think he would tell you the truth about something like that? Just to make sure I don’t have any more contact with him.”

“Whatever you want, but I still think you are overreacting.”

I went over to Greg’s house the next night.

“I asked Bill about what the police told Rick. Bill said that he used to a serious alcoholic and did some really stupid things but he was never in jail. He said there were minors involved so they had a file on him and he was labeled as a sex offender. He said they harass him whenever they feel like it. I believe him.”

I didn’t think that sounded right but I just let Greg think what he wanted to. I planned on having nothing to do with Bill ever again.

A couple of nights later I was visiting Greg and Bill came over. I didn’t say anything to him. He had just come over to borrow something of Greg’s and didn’t stay long. He seemed to be the same as he always was which made me wonder a little bit about whether he was being falsely accused, but not much.

The time drew near for Bill’s court date and he told Greg that he was sure that he would end up being found guilty and go to jail. He believed that the police were mad that he didn’t do any jail time from the case from ten years before and that they would make sure he did this time. He said they had questioned him over the years any time they could and that they had it in for him. It was starting to sound like a bit of a set up.

The house Larry and Debbie had been living in had been for sale while they had been renting it and it finally sold. They were frantically looking for a place to live. Bill offered to rent them his house. He was sure that he was going to do jail time and he would like it if they would live in his while he was in jail so he didn’t lose it because he wouldn’t be around to make the mortgage payments. He admitted he had been drunk and doing drugs again when he threatened Dana’s girlfriend. He was pissed off that she was trying to ruin his Dana’s life.  The sex had been consensual by both of them so he didn’t think it was fair for her to screw Dana over but he also knew it was none of business. He was upset because Dana was so stressed out that he was talking about suicide.

Bill asked Greg if he could stay at his house while he waited for his trial so he could rent his house to Larry and Debbie. He said even if he didn’t get convicted he would still rather rent them his house and live somewhere else that was cheaper since he no longer had a job. He said all he needed to do was find places for his dogs to live. Greg told Bill it was alright with him. I had been staying away since I didn’t know what to believe about the whole situation.

Larry and Debbie rented Bill’s house and moved in. His trial date was five days away. He moved into Greg’s spare bedroom but I didn’t know this yet. I went over to Greg’s house two days later. Greg was gone to a union meeting but I had left some things at his house that I needed the next day.  I was sitting on the couch when Bill walked in the door and sat down. I knew he was living there so I wasn’t surprised to see him.

“Hi, how are you?”

“Alright, how are you?”

“I’m not very good actually. I’m being framed because of some stupid things I did when I was drinking too much and doing drugs ten years ago. I’m sure I’m going to be sent to jail for doing something even stupider even though I didn’t hurt anyone. The police have been trying to send me to jail for ten years and it looks like they are going to get their wish.”

I was trying to be unbiased. “So you didn’t do anything wrong?”

“I did something wrong, I stupidly threatened Kim for trying to ruin Dana’s life. But that’s all I did and I was drunk and did some coke. It doesn’t really matter what I did. The police have it in their minds that I am guilty and they want me to go to jail.”

He sounded sincere. I began to doubt that Bill was dangerous, pretty stupid, but not a threat.

“Would you go out to dinner with me tonight? I really want to have one last dinner at the Valley River Inn before I go to court. I really love their food.”

I have always tried to trust my inner voice and it told me I had nothing to worry about. I felt Greg was right, “Sure I’ll go out to dinner with you, but I’m driving.”

“Fantastic, I will buy you whatever you want.”

I drove Bill and I to dinner at this very nice and expensive restaurant. We had a very good dinner and a nice time visiting, just like before he was arrested. He told me how freaked out he was about the prospect of going to jail. He asked me to stop in the park on the way back to Greg’s house and I did. We watched the teenage kids ride around on skateboards for a while. Then I took Bill back to Greg’s house and since Greg was still at his meeting I went home.

The next evening Greg, Larry, Debbie and Bill were watching a pay per view boxing match at Larry and Debbie’s house (Bill’s house that they were renting). Part way through the match Bill went over to Greg’s house to get something and a few minutes after he left there was a knock on the door.

“We are looking for Bill Snyder.” There were two policemen standing at the door.

“He just walked across the street.” Larry told them.

“Isn’t this his house?”

“Yes, but he is renting it to me right now.”

“Does that Camaro in the driveway belong to Bill?”

“Yes, but he is across the street at my house right now.” Greg is at the door with Larry.

“Can we go over there to talk to him?”

“Sure, I think he is coming right back. I can go over there and get him for you.” Greg left the house and walked across the street. The policemen followed him. Greg walked up to the front door and turned the door knob. He heard Bill say something.

“Don’t come in.” Bill yells out.

“What do you mean, it’s my house.” Greg said and the police are standing next to him.

The unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked can be heard. The policemen pulled their guns out. Greg yelled at them.

“Let me go in there.” He didn’t wait for an answer he just opened up his front door and walked in. He can see Bill lying on the floor with a gun in his hand and he has it pointed at his head.

“What are you doing?”

“Keep away from me!”

“I will. Don’t pull the trigger.”

“Why not? They want to arrest me and take me to jail.”

“No. They just want to talk to you.”

“No they don’t.”

“Why don’t you go to Serenity Lane, maybe they can help you. That’s where you went before right?”

“Yes. But they don’t care if I go there.” Bill still had the gun pointed at his head.

“Let’s go there and you can talk to them.”

“The police won’t let me go.”

“Yes they will. Let me call Serenity Lane and tell them you need some help.” Greg slowly grabs his phone book and looks up the phone number. “Hi, I have someone who has been through your program and he needs your help again. He has a gun pointed at his head right now. If I bring him down there will you talk to him?”

“Sure, what is his name.”

“Bill Snyder, he was there about ten years ago.”

“Alright, we will be expecting him.”

“Okay Bill, let’s go down there. I’m going to out and tell the police what we are going to do.”

Bill got off the floor and followed Greg to the garage and got in the car’s passenger seat, all the while holding the gun to his head. Greg opened the garage door and drove the ten minute drive to the alcohol recovery center and the while Bill held the gun to his head. When Greg drove in the parking lot he could see a SWAT team taking positions around the building. He looked at Bill to see if he had noticed. He didn’t seem to.  Greg pulled into a parking spot and turned the motor off.

He realized the police were probably going to shoot Bill before he got in the building so he tried to grab the gun out of Bill’s hand. Boom. One shot went through the floor of the car. Boom. Another shot went through the roof of the car. Bill yanked his hand free from Greg and pointed it at his temple again.

Greg realized he was not going to be able to overpower Bill so he got out of the car and walked towards where he saw a SWAT team member standing. As soon as he gets there he was grabbed and handcuffed to a pole. They weren’t going to let him risk his life again.

A SWAT team member walked over to where Bill had sat down on the curb next to the car, still holding the gun to his head. The guy started talking to Bill. He seemed to have the situation under control, and Bill lowered the gun and the guy slowly walked up to him. Just when he was almost close enough to touch him Bill put the gun up to his head and shot it. The standoff is over. Bill is dead.

The police told us the reason they came to the house was because the previous night a hooker had been abducted by a man in a 1969 Blue Camaro with a fuzzy dash board and she was raped and tied up to a tree with duct tape. Bill’s car, the one parked in his driveway, was a 1969 blue Camaro with a fur on the dash. They were coming to arrest him and he obviously knew it.

The next day I took Bill’s things out of the spare bedroom at Greg’s house and I found a handwritten piece of paper under the mattress. On it was written “dogs, duct tape, lye, rope, plastic”. I got a very sick feeling in my stomach. We never saw the dogs after Bill said he found them new homes. I felt very lucky to be alive and unharmed. I would never second guess my first instincts again.

Shrimp Chowder with Clam Fritter Dumplings

1 pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned

1/2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced raw potatoes

1/2 cup diced celery

1/4 cup chopped onion

4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

1 cup cream

 

Melt butter in pan and add shrimp, carrots, potatoes, celery, and onion and sauté for about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, mix well and add chicken stock. Gently bring to a boil and add salt, thyme, pepper and paprika and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add cream. Ladle into a bowl and top each serving with a clam fritter dumpling.

Serves 8

Clam Fritter Dumplings

1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced green onion

6 ounces minced clams

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

 

Mix first six ingredients together. Heat butter and oil in skillet over medium high heat and drop clam batter into hot oil by heaping tablespoonfuls. Cook, turning once, until fritters are browned on both sides (less than a minute on each side). Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Place one clam fritter on each bowl of soup.

Yield: 8 servings

 

Cranberry Cheesecake Tart with Gingersnap Crust

6 ounces fresh cranberries

3/4 cup brown sugar

½ cup water

1 orange, peel and the juice

½ cup pecans

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

8 ounces cream Cheese, softened

8 ounces whipped cream (cool whip or homemade)

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon triple sec or orange extract

1 cup crushed Ginger Snaps

¼ cup melted butter

Grate peel off orange with a micro plane add it with the juice of the orange to the water and bring the water to a boil with the sugar. When the sugar dissolves add cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Cook until cranberries pop, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in pecans and refrigerate.  Melt butter and mix with crushed ginger snaps and press into the bottom of a pie plate or cheese cake pan. If you make your own whipped cream, whip until it stiffens and mix in cream cheese, sugar and triple sec. (If you buy prepared whipped cream carefully mix it with cream cheese with a mixer, it will work). When light and fluffy pour into crust and refrigerate for several hours. Pour cranberries over the top.

 

 

Playing With Toys

Hunter and Bella are silly. They argue all the time about all sorts of stupid things. Just this morning Hunter wanted to sit where Bella was sitting and he went over and just stared at her hoping she would get up and sit somewhere else so he could have the spot they both covet. Usually she leaves because she knows he will just keep on bugging her until she does. This morning she decided not to let him get his way and she refused to move.

Just yesterday I brought home a toy for each of them, the exact same toy so they wouldn’t have anything to fight about, or at least that was my hope. They both followed me when I came in the house with the bag of stuff I bought from the store. They were fairly patient as they watched me put the groceries in the refrigerator.

Then when I finally got to the last two items in the bag their eyes got big when they saw I was taking two toys out. Rather than have them make a mess on the floor with the packaging I decided to take the toys out of the cellophane wrappers before I handed them over.

Their eyes were glued to the toys and I took the wrapping off and handed each of them a toy. Hunter took his toy and quietly went over by the couch to play with it. They were noisy toys and he delighted in the noise his was making. Instead of playing with her toy Bella just watched Hunter excitedly playing with his. She barely even touched her toy and just kept watching him play with his. I could tell she wanted to take his toy away. She is three years older than him and has always loved to steal his toys. He frequently tries to hide when he gets a new toy so she can’t steal it. She gets really mean and threatens to beat him up when he won’t let her have it.

I thought I had solved the problem by getting them the exact same toy. Same toy, no reason to covet it, or want to steal it, or so I thought. Wrong I was. She didn’t want him to even have a toy it seemed.

The last time I gave him a toy she waited for him to get tired of playing with it for half an hour. She watched him intensely and walked around waiting for him to quit playing with it. He finally got even with her. When he broke it he tore it up so she didn’t have any reason to want to steal it. It worked. When he left the broken toy on the floor she didn’t even pick it up. He finally won a battle.

Pretty smart on his part I thought. This made me think that they were making progress in getting along with other, at least as far as playing with toys anyway. I figured that by buying them the exact same toy there wouldn’t be a problem anymore but she dropped her toy on the floor and just stared at him playing with his as soon as I handed them out. He wins again and he didn’t even have to tear up his toy this time.

Back to this morning, Hunter of course came back to where Bella is lying at the front door and she starts snarling at him as soon as he approaches her. Maybe he won by not letting her have his toy but she isn’t going to let him make her leave the spot on the floor by the front door where you can look out the window and see all the action outside. It is especially cool when a cat or a squirrel walks by.

Like I said, Bella and Hunter are silly.

Orange Gingered Cranberry Sauce with Pecans

1 package fresh cranberries

3/4 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 orange, juiced and peeled

1 cup water

1/4 cup minced candied ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup triple sec

1/2 cup toasted pecans

Grate the peel off of the orange and add to a pot with the sugars, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Juice the orange and add the juice to the pot. Turn the heat on medium and when the sugar dissolves add the cranberries and cook until they pop, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add triple sec and pecans and cool the sauce. Best if made a day or two ahead.

Three Cheese Spinach Quiche

1 bottom pie crust

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounce package spinach, fresh or frozen,thawed and drained

1/2 cup red onions, minced

2 cloves minced garlic

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

½ pound cooked bacon

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup green onions w/tops, sliced

Make the crust and set aside. Chop up the red onions and garlic and sauté them in butter for a couple of minutes and add the spinach and cook until the moisture comes out. Drain and place them in a mixing bowl and add the blue and Swiss cheese, cream, and spices. Whisk the eggs and add to the vegetables and cream. Stir in half of the bacon  and pour this mixture into the crust. Sprinkle the remaining bacon, Parmesan and green onions on top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is golden brown and puffy.

Bacon and Blue Horseradish Potatoes

1 pound red potatoes cut into chunks or slices, divided in thirds

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons horseradish

4 ounces blue cheese crumbles

4 ounces brie cheese, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons salt, aprox.

1 teaspoon pepper, aprox.

2 tablespoons minced green onions

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Before you assemble this dish fry the bacon, mince the green onions and parsley and chop the brie. Place one tablespoon butter in the bottom of a casserole. Place a layer of potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the potatoes and then the minced green onions. Lightly salt and pepper this layer. Spread another layer of potatoes and top with the brie and parsley. Lightly salt and pepper this layer. Spread the last layer of potatoes on top. Mix the 2nd tablespoon of butter with the horseradish and dribble it over the potatoes, lightly add salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 375 with foil on top for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 15 minutes longer, or until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with the bacon crumbles and broil until the top is browned and crispy, about 5 minutes.