"Hey, anyone want another salmon taco? This is smoked salmon in these here tacos. Get 'em while they're fresh."

Another day, and yet another backyard BBQ in the neighborhood. Always the laughter. Always the children. The mindless banter. The touch football games. The badminton. When will the madness end?

Don't they see me staring at them from up here?

Honestly, it isn't easy being creepy and different. Physically, there are no discenable characteristics that would make me stand out in a crowd of 40,000. My legs are intact and my eyes don't wander off in different directions. It is just that I cannot handle the glare of warm, rosy, friendly nothingness.

These neighbors of mine. I have never met any of them. Sometimes I will bump into them. At the stamp collectors' swap meet. In the grocery store. Or even when I am lubricating my shocks in the driveway and one of their kids' balls rolls into my field of vision and I scream.

"Get away from me now... you salmon cookie eating scrubs of bitches! Can't you see I'm dangerously unstable?"

Kids don't listen very well. It takes years to acquire knowledge and the wisdom that comes with it. Yet, we all know that wisdom is reserved for people like me. People who buy those twenty-five cent cans of tuna fish that are all mashed up and contain bits of diapers and blasting caps are notoriously short of it.

Let me put on some nice Irish drinking music and get back to the subject at hand. Something about knowing your neighbors. And well, you should I guess. What if you have a heart attack in your driveway and you've upset everyone that lives within CB radio range of your home? I trampled Mrs. Everygreen's rose garden, so I can count her out. She lives right next door to me. Rex Apollo is out as well. He's caught me stealing Skittles from his six year old daughter too many times...

Who are these people? Damned if I know. They all seem the same in their own unique ways. I'm not sure, but don't worry. It isn't like I have a shotgun or anything. I'm not a violent man. I'm just a bit reclusive, in a harmless, Bob Dylan kind of way.

Here comes old tired Melvin. Hey, I don't know if that is his real name. It isn't like I waste my time introducing myself to these people. I have windows on the second floor of my house. That lets me see everything I need to see. Anyway, Melvin seems to be walking gimpy again. I imagine he likes to talk about that being an old war injury or something. I can't imagine if I actually ran into him on the street. He might want to talk about it. Maybe he stepped on a land mine in Korea. I'm curious, but not curious enough to find out.

Typical. Melvin is waddling over to the cookout. Typical follow the leader kind of monkey. Trying to fit in, even though he's just an old crippled fool. Am I being too harsh? If I was any nicer to these people they might knock on my door. Then I would have to hide all my books about art history and paintings of women without any pants on. They'd steal everything. Just look at the way they discuss things like building a deck on their sorry house or little Lisa going into the first grade this fall. Yeah, it isn't as if I can't hear them. I listen all the time.

Excuse me while I mix a very dry martini and then proceed to make myself a club sandwich.

I don't need any of this so-called socialization. I'm too far advanced. I can stare at a pine cone for six hours. That should tell you something. Yet I can hear their shrill, whiney voices constantly. Even when they aren't there they are there in my head.

I think I'll go downstairs now. Someone is knocking on the door. It is a gentle knock, so it probably isn't the FBI or local police. Eventually someone will try to figure out what happened to the people who actually own this house. It has been twenty years since I "moved in" and one can never tell when the law will catch up with you.

"Yes, what do you want?"

"Hello, Mr. Jones, we were wondering if you'd like to come to our block party. Everyone is invited, but I was worried someone forgot all about you."

Indeed they had. What an unforgiveable oversight. This unkind deed would not go unpunished. I am far too good to suffer this kind of needless neglect.

"I think someone might have mentioned something to me, but I keep to myself most of the time. Can I bring anything? I just spent three hundred dollars on sandwich meats, cheeses and breads this morning."

"That isn't necessary, but we'd love to have the extra food. We have at least one of these parties every summer. You're always welcome."

Right. I can see you talking out of the corners of your mouth with that forked tongue. I know what you are up to. You and all your friends want to find out if I'm the freak your kids tell you I am. I'll tell you one thing. If I find another crayon left on my porch by those kids who draw pictures for me and slip them under my door I'm going to go crazy.

"I'll be over in a couple minutes. I want to change out of my smoking jacket and feety pajamas and into something more suitable for backyard BBQ fare."

"Of course. We'll see you soon."

Her smile turned my stomach. So full of genuine friendliness but with fear hiding behind her eyes. She came to this house not knowing what to expect. I'll give her some points for that. No one knows. I have to find something to wear. I have a sun dress I used to wear in the seventies, but that won't do. I'll stick with the hiking shorts and "I Climbed Mount Monadnock" t-shirt. Now, if I can only find my sandals and black dress socks...

Epilogue: People have me all wrong. I spent over six hours with my neighbors that day. We were up into the wee hours of the night. Some of them aren't all that bad. A few were actually interesting. They let me run into my house every twenty minutes to make another martini while they drank their Coors Light and Miller High Life. Then they told me about what it was really like to going fishing on a lake and one of the ladies told me about her adventures flying a glider plane. I even got to know Melvin. His real name is Charles. I'm playing chess down at the senior center with him on Friday.

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