Sometimes it’s an art form, and sometimes it’s just your neighbor.
I thought the Bowsering, boozing extended family that surrounds me on three sides — three complete households each bursting with old oversized vehicles, untrained mutts and empty Budweiser cans — were as redneck as it gets in Arlington County (“a world-class community ™”), but the lady on the other side of Ma and Pa Kettle seems to have thrown down the gauntlet.
What happened was, last winter in the thick of the snowy single-digit weather there was a ripsnorting fire call on my block, which grew in a matter of minutes to a complete roadblock involving three engines from different jurisdictions, the fire marshal, and cops arranging cones at the end of the street. Black smoke was blooming out of Neighbor Lady’s third floor window; the houses are all on about the same template here, meaning that floor is a finished attic with head-bonker dormers and indifferent insulation, like the room where I sleep. If it’s anything like mine, the wiring is a post-construction homeowner job, probably not to code, and no one in their right mind would plug a space heater into it. I use cats, myself.
Over the course of the year, various window glass, fire damage, and similar contractors parked at Neighbor Lady’s curb for a day or two. There’s a nice new window where the fire guys had to ladder their way in.
Last night the Cute Engineer and I took a walk after supper, appraising seasonal light displays from the sublime to the ridiculous, and noticing on our return loop a rackety thrum ricocheting through all the open spaces at my end of the block.
An old window-shaker air conditioner was mounted in the nice new window, operating in reverse as a jackleg heat pump, struggling to extrude cold air from the drafty attic and trickle in whatever heat it could extract from the near-freezing air outside. The coils were encased in a rectangle of white frost.
I try not to say anything about middle-aged single women living alone in a house with a cat or two. I really do. But I hope someone calls the social services people if I get to this point.