We built a beautiful dream house in a great area with good schools. It was all we ever wanted in a home. It had a pool, a hot tub, built in storage and closets in every crevice, a cooking island, large utility room, and four big bedrooms with en-suite baths, a parlor, and an open concept den/kitchen. We loved it.
One day after I moved in I asked a neighbor why didn’t we have Neighborhood Watch. I said I’d be glad to contact the Chief of Police about it.
“No need,” said my neighbor. “We have Neighborhood Chester.”
“What is Neighborhood Chester?”
“You’ll see.” He said cryptically.
I had no clue what he meant. Soon, to my horror, I did.
All communities in the south have their resident busy body. Usually a retired older lady who owns cats, goes to the First Baptist Church, knew your grandparents, and shuns trick-or-treating kids as if they carried the bubonic plague on their costumes. We had Chester. Neighborhood Chester.
Despite not being a lady or owning a cat, on all other counts he scored off the charts. His house was so blacked out on Halloween you would have thought a squirrel had fried himself by tragically tripping the power grid. He was a busy body, actually knew my grandmother, and he was a Baptist (deacon no less). His lighted Christmas yard displays were so bright pilots flying twenty miles away were momentarily blinded. The Space Station even recorded it from orbit.
No visitor, delivery boy, or extra inch of your grass went unnoticed. As soon as I got home and flopped into my easy chair after a hard day, Chester was banging on the door.
“Did you know you got a package today?”
“Ah, no Chester I didn’t. I was just wondering what that large box was sitting in front of me. Thanks so much for telling me.” He sat there waiting for me open it in front of him so he could note the contents. I didn’t. It drove him crazy. I loved it.
At the time, I served as a local judge. Often, and especially on weekends, police cars came by my house to have search warrants signed. Friday and Saturday nights were exceptionally busy and they came at all hours. A 3 am visit was not unusual. The first weekend we were in the new home was Labor Day Weekend. Lots of traffic. Lots of DUI’s. Lots of search warrants. I developed the art of going right back to sleep. Thirty years later this talent never fails me when the midnight call of nature beckons.
That first Saturday morning promptly at 7.45 am Chester came knocking on my door. “Did you know a bunch of cop cars were at your house last night?”
“Oh, man, I did.” I paused and didn’t utter another word. Of course, Chester was dying to know what was going on. Did he think I had a drug party and didn’t invite him? Did he think I had been beating my wife? (Never happens when you marry a girl from my wife’s family. More likely she’s beating you).
“Chester, I just can’t bear to talk about it. Not now at least.” Slowly and deliberately and with a terribly sad and depressed face I gently closed shut the door on him. This went on for awhile. Cop night at our house. Neighborhood Chester ramped up the next morning begging to find out what the heck was going on at my house. One Saturday he saw me mowing the grass and he came over.
“You the judge, aren’t you?” He offered. I later found out he had stayed up all night and asked an officer what was going on.
We had a pool and hot tub in the back. On occasional nights when the kids were away we would leave all the lights off strip down and sneak into out hot tub. It was wonderful. Then, after a few evening I got the creeping feeling someone was watching through the small slits in the high wooden privacy fence surrounding the property. Once I caught movement. I slipped out of the tub, tiptoed over and proceeded to pee through the fence at the sneaky voyeur next door. I hit my target because someone on the other side fell off his stool and scrambled into the house next door. Got him good. Never said a word about it to Neighborhood Chester.
Next Spring my family planned a camping trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I washed out the pop up camper in the driveway Neighborhood Chester saw me and ambled right over.
“Y’all going camping I see?”
“Well, we were thinking about it.”
“Where ‘bouts?” He inquired.
Seeing no harm in it I told him about the wonderful campsite we found with a stream behind it and said we were leaving the next Monday. He said he thought that was nice and that he liked camping too. I thought nothing more about it.
It was late the night we arrived at the campsite. Luckily, no one was nearby. We had it all to ourselves for a solid week. A stream, campfire, and peace. Not even a tv and this was before the days kids needed inpatient psychological treatment if they experience cell phone separation anxiety.
The next morning I got up early and plugged in my coffee pot. Looking to enjoying an idyllic morning in the mountains I walked outside. Just then an all too familiar voice pierced my consciousness from the next door tent that mysteriously sprung up overnight like a poisonous mushroom …
“How y’all doing?”
Yep, Neighborhood Chester.