Now I should finish off the neighbor gossip by telling you about Mike Love. I tell you his name because it is not likely to be his actual name.
Just to give you a visual image, Mike is a black man in his 50's, slight of build. On the snowy day that we moved in he approached one of my brothers-in-law and said, "Hey! Would you guys like some help moving in?" My brother-in-law said, "Yes." (He just wanted to get done faster. We had plenty of help already.) Mike said, "Okay. I'll go get some more helpers and we'll get you all moved in." We didn't see Mike again for about 3 days.
Since we started our collection of toddlers we have become anti-coffee-table people. We had a coffee table that my mother-in-law bought from a secondhand store and painted to look like marble. It looked good but just about all of the kids in my wife's family have a childhood story about braining themselves on the solid metal fixture. We wanted to spare our children from continuing that legacy so we left the coffee table on the side of our house when we moved in until we could figure out what to do with it.
One day, Mike shows up at the front door. He says, "What's the deal with that coffee table? Are you throwing it out? It would look great against one of my apartment walls with my TV on it."
I said, "We haven't figured out what were going to do with it, yet." Before I could offer, Mike said, "Well if you decide you don't want it anymore just tell me. That's a good looking table." I said, "Okay." This was pretty much a daily event until we gave him the table. At which point he said he owed us a barbeque.
Mike claimed to be the very first boyfriend of the widow who used to live nextdoor (now those white-trashy people with the pool table live there). We really liked the widow. She was very nice but sad and stressed out. Her 14 year old daughter had a big tattoo on her back that said "Daddy's Girl." She did not look 14. That seems to be the case with many of the young girls around here. The daughter told us her mother would often go to the cemetery to lay down on her husband's grave and have a good cry. They didn't have any money so they sold the house and moved.
But Mike hung around for awhile. He didn't live with the widow. He rented a garage apartment just down the road and would try to help the widow keep up the house. The trend became that anytime there was any item in my front or back yard, Mike would come and ask me, "What's the deal with that thing? What's up with the broken pile of wood? What's up with the little satellite dish? Where did you get that second Jeep Cherokee? I bought a Jeep Cherokee just like yours, could I get some parts off your second Jeep?"
Mike also got a part-time job with a store that rents lawn equipment, like rototillers. After work he would bring home various pieces of equipment and then go door to door to get some pay in trade for some fast yardwork. He kept asking us if we wanted him to bring us anything. We hesitantly asked for a rototiller to get our yards ready for sod. He made numerous promises to deliver one to us. One day he showed up with a trailer full of equipment and asked me to help him unload it. I did. I said, "Is any of these a rototiller?" He said, "No, this is an aerator and that is a power-rake." We ended up borrowing a tiller from the Cowboy Hat People. But before that, Mike came by our house and aerated and power-raked our yard. Later he came to me and said, "I do that for a lot of the neighbors. They'll usually give me like $20." I told him thanks but that we still had plans to till the whole thing. I instructed my wife never to give him money, not that she listens to me.
Mike got fired from that job because of his outside money-making tactics. The Cowboy Hat People were well acquainted with Mike and it turns out they co-signed for Mike on loans for over $2000 and he has not paid them back. When the widow moved, Mike hung around for a little while but then disappeared. They say he was living with some woman who had agreed to let him sell her belongings to pay some creditor down in Las Vegas. The widow was supposed to pick Mike up at the bus station when he returned and the Cowboy Hat People planned to meet him with the police. Mike didn't show up that day. Mike will make a split-second cameo in our neighborhood now and again. I try to give him the benefit of the doubt but have to worry when he tells me things like, "Oh yeah, I knocked down a board when I was jumping over the fence in your backyard the other day..."
He's just one of those people that takes advantage of anyone who tries to help him. I really get to feeling like I live on Cannery Row.