Holly Whitman

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The Accidental Enemy, Part One - Page 2

For whatever reason, Bertha soon quit her job, took her retirement early, and enjoyed
the bounty of a providing husband.  After a few years of this, Jake did some figuring of his
own. Life without Bertha seemed easier and more pleasant than life with Bertha, so Jake
filed for divorce. After all, what good was a wife who only took in money and put out nothing
for it? Thus began a long and stressful process, as Bertha prepared for singledom again
and realized that the money train was about to come to a screeching halt. Since Jake had
acquired the house next door to us after his marriage to Bertha, she looked upon it as an
asset she could cash in on as part of the divorce. She began to harass Bob, the renter.
Bob was sternly instructed by Jake that he was to pay the rent to a bank account and to
never give Bertha any contact information. He made it easier for Bob by never revealing
where he actually was, so Bob couldn’t have told if he’d wanted to. Bertha started
threatening and harassing Bob, who took it all in stride. Bertha accused Bob of having an
affair with her husband, which was so ludicrous that Bob couldn’t help laughing. One day,
close to the end of Bob’s time living in the house, which was about to be sold, she marched
over to him and handed him a bill, telling him that he owed her $60,000 in lost rent because
he was getting too good a deal by trading work for rent and cheating her out of money she
could have been getting. Bob again laughed, told her that his deal was only with Jake, and
asked her to leave.
But it wasn’t always funny. One night Bertha came lunging out of the dark as Jake was
unloading groceries from his truck to the house, screaming like a banshee about rent
he owed her, and other crazy rantings. When someone comes at you from the shadows
at night, it can be terrifying. Bertha appeared to be losing control of her senses, and
Bob made sure he kept the doors in his house locked, after that.
Eventually Bob got married, moved, and the house sold. The divorce between Bertha and Jake was finalized and
Bertha was truly on her own. Since Bob was no longer around to pick on, Craig became Bertha’s new target from time
to time. She seemed to watch our house in an effort to catch Craig doing something – anything – that she could
complain about. We were always nice to her, so her complaints were only occasional and never escalated.

It seemed to me that Bertha had some kind of strange crush on Craig,
kind of like my second grade crush on Wendall Walker. One day I felt an extra sense of love toward poor Wendall and I
kicked him in the shins. He told the teacher what I did and I got into trouble. I felt sad and betrayed. How could Wendall
tell on me? Didn’t he know I loved him? Bertha’s style of picking on Craig seemed kind of like me kicking Wendall in the
shins. We just overlooked it. After all, she seemed like a pathetic and lonely person with nothing but dogs in her life.
Up to this point she vacillated between being somewhat friendly and neutral toward me, while she chose
to either nag at or attack Craig, then later acted inexplicably friendly.  
A good example of this was when Bob was preparing to marry and move out.
He was very busy building his own house, while having to get his rental house ready for sale. Bob often helped us
with various chores and Craig, in turn, helped Bob. Seeing that the palm tree next to our property needed trimming,
Craig decided to help Bob by doing that for him. He chain-sawed old dead palm fronds and was carefully shaping
the ends that remained when
Bertha came flying out of nowhere screeching, “Bob is supposed to be doing
that! DON’T HELP BOB!”

As she continued her tirade, Craig just looked at her and waited until she took a breath. He said, “Bob and I help
each other. Now, please excuse me,” and continued working on the tree, ignoring her completely. Several days
later, a letter addressed to Mr. Craig Whitman arrived in the mail. It was a thank you card from Bertha. He opened
the card and read aloud:
You did a good thing!

Dear Craig,
      Thank you for trimming up the palm at 306 Bird Trill Drive*. You
did a nice job and I am grateful. This is the first nice thing of significant
value anyone has done for me for free. I always pay.
      The palm looks beautiful.
      Your neighbor,
Craig and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. “For HER?” I  said. We shrugged.

“If that’s what she wants to think, let her think it,” Craig said. “She knows I was helping Bob. Besides, it
isn’t even her property. It doesn’t matter.”

We kept the card because we thought someday it might be useful as proof that she had actually thought
well of Craig, at least for a day.

Little could we know how significant that card would eventually be.
          Coming soon: What happens when a nutty neighbor spends too much time alone,
has a vivid imagination, and is unwilling to take responsibility for a situation she causes?

Look for the continuing saga in The Accidental Enemy: Part 2
* Name changed

Please feel free to email
questions or comments to Holly
Whitman at...........


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by Holly
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