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WHEN YOUR NEIGHBORS ARE LOUD FREAKS by Gregory Purvis

(NOTE: A couple people have asked me to reprint this from my personal blog www.evilrobots.wordpress.com so here goes this sordid tale)

My neighbors are bitching about why hubbie can’t seem to keep his eyes or his hands off that slut at work. 

You see, I have Neighbors from Hell. I probably wouldn’t be AWARE of that if it were not for the fact that I live in a historical building.

And before I go one sad step forward: yes. I realize that I could move. But I happen to LIKE where I live.  The building, in beautiful downtown Fort Payne, Alabama, where I currently live, is a former hosiery mill. That’s a slightly fancier way of saying they used to make socks.

In the ‘Boom Days’ (in our case, the final couple decades of the 19th century), a chunky bunch of New England carpetbagger’s, fat as ticks with plenty of rupees and a nice post-war economy in which to spend them, came looking for a likely place to set up shop. DeKalb County, Alabama (in the extreme northeast corner of the state), seemed like a pretty good place, apparently. One of a couple possible sites, the town of Fort Payne had been around (more or less) for most of the century. The Fort causing all the Pain (as it were) was infamous for being a starting-point for the Trail of Tears, where Native Americans were kindly relocated to make room for See Rock City signs (and the white folks who were following this command to its conclusion).

About an hour from Chattanooga and two hours from the smoldering ruins of the not-so-freshly burned and violated corpse of Atlanta, Fort Payne (who wasn’t smoldering or violated) seemed a likely place to start a new business venture. Or to TAKE OVER THE WORLD, bwah-ha-ha. 

Anyway, long story short, the textile industry (which helped revitalize a war-crippled South) prospered here for a long while. During this period, the W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill was constructed in the middle of Fort Payne, near the railroad tracks that would carry hosiery products to sockless feet everywhere.

The building has always fascinated me, and when I returned to Fort Payne in 2006 to take a no-doubt enviable position as a staff writer at the Fort Payne Times-Journal, well…let’s just say that luck was with me in locating a place to park my underroos, if not in finding a decent employer.

I was overjoyed to learn that a local real estate investor had acquired the building and (after some amount of fixer-upper labor was judiciously applied) loft apartments were being rented to folks just like me.

And then I discovered an Achilles Heel in the property’s value: as a historical building, only so much fixer-upper labor would be tolerated. After all, we can’t just allow fixer-upper’s to come in and fix “er’s” up, willy-nilly!

So the walls are a little…thin. As in paper.

Now let me say this: I love my apartment, even if I am currently having trouble proving this, financially.

I just don’t love my neighbors.

But the Devil does. Oh yes.

So I’ve discovered in the past year. Apparently, Ole Scratch has loved the past three sets of neighbors just as much. Which makes me believe that the apartment may somehow itself be evil. But then again, I am somewhat loony, so you should possibly disregard that opinion (the evilness, not me being loony). Particularly if you are my landlord or legal representatives of the aforementioned real estate investor.

In fact, from this point onward I shall blame everything on my neighbors. It seems somehow safer that way.

The neighbors have a small child. Since I am a kind man, I shall refer to her as ‘the Demon-Spawned One’.

That fact, you must take my word for. But it’s a FAR kinder term than her parents normally employ, let me assure you.

At first, I actually felt sorry for the parents. The Demon-Spawned One was not like other four-year old kids. She listened to horribly happy tra-la-la-like kiddie music…yes, horrible and unrefutable proof of her unholy birth, I know. So you think that sounds pretty normal, huh? Well, before you think me too old-manishly unkind, know this: there is such a thing as TOO HAPPY. And, when such too happy songs are played at an ear-piercing volume, over and over, endlessly, from midnight to six or seven in the morning…well, I believe ANY MAN may be forgiven for a few uncharitable thoughts after WEEKS of this.

And, yes. I tried (nicely) to solve the problem. I won’t bore you with the details. But know this fact: never, in the WEEKS that added up to this horrid tale’s genesis, did this child ever seem to tire of the SELFSAME horrible song. NEVER did she ask for “Dora the Explorah” or “The Greatest Hits of Hannah Montana” or even a no-doubt equally horrid (after endless repetition, at least) bout of Alvin and the Chipmunks, just to break up the monotony! No! Always, ALWAYS this one, insane tra-la-la happy fun record, endlessly repeated, every night, loud enough so by the second or third night I was mindlessly singing along, crying and laughing by turns, with the horrible echoes rattling around in the confines of this cold stone pit of hell. Or was that just my poor aching skull?

When the devil child was not blathering along with whatever wicked force was recorded for her, she was SCREAMING at her mother, requesting the most vile things, like Cheerio’s or a fruit roll-up, or help going to the bathroom, or….well, that’s when I began to suspect that–like the Transformers–there might be more than meet’s the eye at work here.

And I discovered, upstairs in my loft, where I don’t spend much time, that I could plainly hear this child’s parents, even LOUDER than that horrid sing-a-long record, and at night and day just as well…as they were arguing, fighting, and YELLING…at each other…and at Devil Childe.(tm)

A child who, I was to discover, was sometimes in need of a good yelling at. Maybe. But was NEVER in need of  the constant verbal assault I began to take note of.

And let me assure you: I was not flitting about my apartment with microphones and stethoscopes, intent on creepy eavesdropping, or pulling private family moments from the apartment next door to blog about. No way! These outbursts could be clearly heard, each and every night of the week, usually beginning about midnight and often lasting until two or three in the A.M. or longer.

On weekends, the mother was often drunk, and soon enough, it became apparent that I was living next to some seriously disturbed people.

And was this really a normal, run-of-the-mill family argument? Am I stretching the truth, embellishing bits and pieces for the “nosy neighbor” in us all? NO! I don’t have to.

These fights were better than any Jerry Springer episode. Better than the most wicked guests from Jenny Jones or Ricki Lake or Dr. Phil or Montelevision…and more VILE than any “normal” human you might have seen in Wal-Mart, climbing over each other, clawing and snarling and cursing for some Roll Back Special…GIVE US THAT SALE ITEM…my preccciioouuussss.

[Cue 70’s porno-funk soundtrack.]

One evening I begin to hear a loud, porno-montage of moans and groans and freaky-deaky-ness that soon had me considering selling tickets. Until this point, none of the things I’d heard were of an…uhm…adult nature.

Now THIS was something new…

Until this point, the loudness was mostly confined to husband and wife fighting about bills; husband denying looking at co-workers’ breasts; wife tearfully (and drunkenly) discussing the particulars of a divorce settlement with ex-husband after (apparently) seeing ex-husband and new wife somewhere in public (usually Wal-Mart); wife tearfully (and drunkenly) yelling at husband for not remembering Mother’s Day; (both) parents yelling at child for spilling bath water/ketchup/some vile product called “Juicy-Juice”; child singing mindlessly; child yelling back at parents, and playing a horror-show of uber-happy kiddietainment at high volumes, at all hours of the night.

But, NOW, we have wife, loudly getting her FREAK-ON with….oh no! With…well, NOT with husband! No. With…another LADY. [Re-cue 70’s funk-splosion. Add “wah-wah” to end.]

The fighting seemed to…lighten up.  But then it was back: with accusations (ocasionally drunken; always loud) of marital infidelity (duh!), more co-worker breast-staring incidents, and plenty of added-in “Shut-UP, BLAIR!!” [apparently name of child] from BOTH parents. This would be followed by child screeching at excessive volume, more yelling, ad naseum, etc. etc. et-FREAKING-cetera.

And you’ll have to pardon me for being so crass. No, I just don’t care, anymore.

So what did I do? Well, I didn’t sell tickets, as the Ladies-only Porn-A-Rama was (sadly) never repeated. And, to be honest, that incident really only disgusted me further, but that had nothing to do with the sex of the cheating spouse’s partner.  By that time it was just one more loud interruption to my life.

So what did I DO about it?! Well, quite a lot. No…nothing at first, then various things, none of which worked much. Until I took matters more firmly in-hand.

I found the best advice was: embarrass them. That proved somewhat harder to do than it might seem. But it WAS the most enjoyable. It made me feel as if I was actually scoring some points for the aggrieved neighbors of the world.

Since it is possible for me to hear my neighbors, it is also possible for them to hear ME.

I even met them one night, in the midst of a storm, when the power in the building went out. The hallways have emergency lighting kindly provided, so most of us wound up in the hall, getting to know each other. And, soon enough, gossipping about the loudmouths. I found my neighbor’s OTHER neighbors were the most sympathetic. After all, they were getting the same treatment. It turned out that, since their bedroom did not share a common wall with the Devil Childe(tm), they did not have the same enlightened view of the child’s life. They were not, therefore, too impressed with my calling the creature a “Demon-spawn”, especially since the wife was expecting her own (no-doubt Demon-spawned) child soon.

But they DID have a lot to say about the parents. And, I must admit, it was through their opinions that I begin to take a greater notice of the child as a potential victim instead of just (one of my many) “aggravants”.

Yes, I know. I’m a horrid person.

Anyway, during this hallway tete-a-tete, the neighbors-in-question came home. I was absolutely amazed that they treated their child as if she were the smartest, most artistically-gifted, and most-well-mannered child in all of creation…while there were eyes on them, at least. Apparently they had not figured out that EARS can tell just as much truth.

I was also amazed to see that their child was just as annoying, in public, as she seemed to be in private. But I suppose that’s because she is a child in both public and private, and therefore hasn’t learned to conceal the evidence of demonic infestation when around others. I swear she winked at me, as her mother was pulling her towards the door. I made a note to call the local Catholic church to see if they had any of those ceremonial knives used in The Omen to rid the world of the devil’s get. Fortunately, I gave it some more thought, and figured (quite rightly, I think) that the local padre might not have seen The Omen

The problem is…my neighbors make too much noise to hear me when I started talking back to them, in an attempt to embarrass.

I tried sitting upstairs and talking to friends on the phone. They argued on, oblivious.

So I tried talking to myself. After all, I did not want to subject my friends to how sad my life had become.

So, I begin having long, fake conversations. With myself, in other words. When I started I would even find myself holding my (silent) cell phone while I did it. (Always the method actor). At first: nothing. No response. Of course! It was the same as if I’d been talking to REAL people! I had to get louder.

And my “conversations” got…well, stranger.

By the second or third try, I noticed their argument had come to a screeching halt. I began a “conversation” with a “friend” about what he should do now that his wife had caught him having an affair…with her sister.

I even wrote a script.

Before I could stop myself, I was embellishing my one-sided conversations, even putting in artistic flourishes such as pauses of the appropriate length to indicate my friend was giving serious thought to my “advice”.

There was nothing but silence from next-door.

You could have heard a pin drop…though in the distance I thought I heard that damn tra-la-la song starting up in the kid’s room.

Getting into the act, I begin giving my “friend” some admittedly questionable “advice”.

“So, when she caught ya with her sister…did she get mad?” I asked, pausing for my creepy “pal’s” non-existant but no-doubt gleeful admission.

“Well, that’s too bad,” I responded to the ersatz reply. “I guess you’ll just have to kill her, then.”

I heard a gasp–a precious, priceless GASP!–from next door…and then the sound of something knocked over.

“I’ve got an untraceable .38 you can use. Does your uncle still have pigs up at his farm..?” 

I don’t recall how I finished up the conversation, but what I do remember is this: I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks that night.

All I wanted was a decent night’s sleep.

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