he is more than just a neighbour

As I write this, my neighbour lays in a hospital bed with machines helping him to stay alive. To everyone that knows him he is the eternal Hound, he has been there as long as anyone can remember and has outlasted every president, board member, and principal, he's a fixture. To me, he's our neighbour.

My parents moved into our house right before I was born so he was always my neighbour. He would come for Sunday Brunch, and Christmas Eve, he would call us pygmies as kids, and the dogs were always the beasts. My dog, a toy spaniel, is a pygmy-beast, both tiny and ferocious in his eyes.

His garden became our shared garden early on in the neighbourly relationship, but then he became too generous and started to give everything away before my dad could have a crack at it. It was an interesting problem to have, how do you tell your neighbour that he is too generous? If you go over to his garden when the flowers are in bloom he takes out his trusted Swiss Army knife, that is perpetually sharpened, and cuts you a fresh peony or one of his gorgeous giant irises that he special orders from around the world. He is a meticulous and explorative man, always tending to the dandelions, fighting the constant war, (the neighbours didn't do the best job of keeping their yard weed free) on hands and knees with a garden fork and a bucket. He even burned them for good measure, just to "keep the bastards from coming back".

He gives lovely birthday presents. We share a birthday month, I still have a beautiful hand-carved wooden box that I got for my twelfth birthday, it had wooden fish earrings in it.  They were bright and colourful, and really light weight, they were perfect. And it was special because he knows not to give a young girl an empty jewelry box.

He swears like a teenager, probably because he has been surrounded by them for 50 years. But he is the most well read, and eloquent man you will meet. The library catalogue is in his head. If you want a book you have to ask him, you can't find it in the cards. It is organized by theme and some of the books are there simply because they are beautiful. He sometimes gets in trouble for the books that he orders in, but learning about the war of 1812 through a book with vivid paintings is better than any encyclopedia I've ever picked up.

He brings culture with him wherever he goes. Be it, as mentioned, a book, or knowledge, or quite literally the stinkiest monk's cheese I have ever tasted. I bit it and it stayed with me for three days. But you can only get the cheese from the monks, and it only ages once per year. I think I offended him that day because for the first time he told me to shut up. I was so gobsmacked that I did shut up.

I went home more recently for a quick visit and I purposefully cut through his yard to spy on his irises. Usually he is outside in a flash and talking your ear off about this "shit" or that "shit". But he didn't come out. I lingered a while longer, I even stepped into the garden to have a closer look at the giant white iris that had begun to bloom - this is normally met with him appearing out of thin air, he is very protective of the irises. He must not have been home, or perhaps he was having a "siesta".

Walking through his yard makes me nostalgic because of the countless hours that he left me alone in "my tree". I was never a tree climber, my brothers climbed a little but I didn't like getting scratched and heights were not my friend. There is a tree in his yard that has three large trunks that form a perfect little chair with a lean to it. It is the best spot in town to watch the sunset. Many years later I had heard that it was suggested that he take it down because it shaded his garden too much, but he left it. I'm pretty sure that he left it for me. He never bothered me when I was in my tree. He knew that it was my place to think and just be at peace. A house with ten people in it can be overwhelming even for the most extroverted person.

I write this in the present tense because when you write about literature you are taught that they are living things, these words. He is a literary feature, a hyperbole of what it is to be an eccentric librarian, a constant, a figure, my neighbour.

I hope that's not all.


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