To mark this interesting holiday, I'm sharing the short/playette version of my play, "Neighbors" It's based on the real life feud between two neighbors that lived next door to each other down the street from where we lived, over the placement of shrubs on what both believed to be on their property. Never did find out the end result but their verbal updates inspired the play.
By Eleanor Tylbor
CAST OF CHARACTERS
John Taylor, 35, Perfectionist and fussy next door neighbor of PORTMAN
Robbie Portman, 37, Easy-going neighbor of
THE PLACEBack garden
PORTMAN wearing creased shorts and t-shirt, relaxes in a hammock, beer bottle in hand
Wipes sweat with handkerchief, leans onrake while talking to
a reaction after every statement
Too hot for digging, today. Must be a hundred degrees in the shade for sure. 'Course some people don’t care ‘bout how their lawn looks… Take you for example – somebody – anybody - please?
Is that neighbor Taylor tryin’ to be a comedian? Neh! More likely a squirrel in heat
Does the thought ever cross your mind to do something useful like - work, perhaps?
PORTMAN holds beer bottle up to the light
and bends down to pick up another
My bottle is empty and I gotta bend down and get me another in this heat, but somebody's gotta do it. Might as well be me
You have to be the laziest person in the whole neighborhood AND an alcoholic to boot. I won’t even talk about your lawn...
…not to mention the dilapidated exterior of your house is the worst eyesore on the block
Like it? It’s a new look I’m trying out. I call it lawnmower-free-expressive
Condemned-modern more likely. When you gonna do something useful for a change?
But I did. I reached down for a beer
You are aware that your property is lowering the value of mine and everyone else. Some of us take pleasure in having a decent looking garden -
- and some of us couldn’t give a damn. Looks just fine t’me
When you gonna join the real world and become a contributing member of society?
Always with questions and more questions. Hey – I get it! You’re practicin' for a quiz show. Right? ‘Potent potables for a thousand.’ Don’t mind if I do
PORTMAN takes a sip of beer
‘Down the hatch and over the tongue – look out stomach – down it comes!’ Here’s mud in both your eyes
Guess now's a good time as any. About those shrubs of yours…
Take a hike - preferably in the middle of the street in oncoming traffic
I know I've warned you about them in the past but this time I really mean it. They could – like - mysteriously burn down one night. Know what I mean? Fires start so easily in dry hot weather
They ain’t botherin’ me none but you do!
They’re blocking the sunlight from shining on my side of the garden and my tomato crop needs sun to ripen them
You're bugging me. Make like a bee and buzz off
You must be blind not to see they’re a good two feet on my side of the fence. Here - lemme show you the city plan so you can see once and for all that I know what I’m talking about
No need to! You probably paid off someone at City Hall to measure in your favor. Now where’d I put those ear plugs to block out the sound of your nagging…
See, thing is, I got plans for those extra couple of feet you stole
Gimme a break! Wait! I get it now! You wanna make a par-3 golf course and charge people t’get in. Get lost. I’m trying to read this book
And what are we reading these days? The latest in the “See Spot Run” series? Listen you lazy son-of-a-bitch -
Omyheavens! Such bad words! Your wifey is gonna hav'ta wash your mouth out with soap
Cut them down by tomorrow, Portman, or I’m gonna take things into my own hands if you get my drift
In your dreams, veggie boy! I got better things to do with my time than dig up ten foot shrubs
While I have your attention span, which lasts about as long as a flea hunting for dog's fur, the branches of your rotten apple tree are hanging over on my side of the fence, again
Don’t stop you from pickin’ up all them apples that happen t'land in your yard
Why would I want them since they’re full of worm holes, like your brain. Obviously, threats don’t work so I guess I'll have to go hire me a lawyer and take you to court. We’ll let a judge decide who owns what
Got a particular liar – um – lawyer in mind? Try Mitch Cassidy. I hear he specializes in lost causes
That’s right, man. Make jokes and drink away your problems. Your brain is so fermented, you don't realize the ramifications of legal action
I'm so scared! Can't you tell how scared I am? All that hot air comin’ from your side of the fence has given me a ragin’ thirst. To my health!
If you’d simply have checked your house plans before you moved in, all of this antagonism between us could have been avoided and we wouldn't have to waste time being at each others throats
The plan would’a told me what I already know is true. The bushes are on my side! Go stroke your cucumbers or somethin'
I need to cut my grass but I can’t because you never returned my lawnmower you borrowed a month ago!
You could always use a cow. Wait a minute! You’re married to one!
Shut your – your - filthy mouth! You’re treading on dangerous ground, now, so be very careful what you say next
'Oh Mommy – save me!’ What a joke you are, man!
Fine. If that's the way you want it. I’m finished with the threats. You can expect a registered letter in the mail from my lawyer
You sendin’ me a love letter? Always had my doubts ‘bout you if you get my drift. Now I know why there’s so many of them there panty hose hangin’ on your line
Why your wife hasn’t left you is beyond me but like they say, love is blind. How is the lovely Harriet anyway? Still working? Thank goodness, since someone has to pay the mortgage payments
That new car o’yours fixed yet? Too bad your Julie ran it into the garage door. Got a problem with her reverse and drive but it’s understandable being married to you and all
At least we have a car that runs unlike that bundle of rust that’s been rotting in the driveway for who-knows-how-long. Then again it matches the rest of your house
Don’t bother me none
I’m feeling ambitious today. Just might go rent me one of those big tree cutters and do the job myself
Over my dead body you will!
That can easily be arranged. Just stick your head through the shrubs while I’m cutting. That way you can save money on a hair cut
Keep your slimy hands off’a my shrubs or…
…or you’ll what? Stop me? You’re so out of shape you can’t lift one leg over the fence
PORTMAN jumps up, runs to the fence and
’s shirt through the fence slats TAYLOR
Wanna see what these hands can do? They can squeeze your throat ‘til you turn blue
Let go my shirt! If you tear it…
…you’ll go cry to Julie how the bad man next door ripped it?
PORTMAN releases his hold
Forget it. You’re not worth the trouble
PORTMAN returns to his hammock
Go on! Go back to what you were doing…what you always do,nothing. Zippo. Nada. Don’t be surprised if you hear a loud noise in the middle of the night and wake up to find a bunch of holes where your shrubs used to be!
Blah-blah-blah - been there, heard it all before
Don’t think I won’t do it – ‘cause I will! I mean it!
Sure you mean it. You’ll do it like you’ve been doing since we’ve lived next door to each other. By the way and because I'm a nice guy and all - it’s gone nine o'clock already
Shoot! You made me miss my morning train commute! Now I gotta wait another hour for the next one. Somehow, you always manage to bring out the worst in me
And you know you love every minute of it. There’s a word for people like you
And what would that be, he asked, afraid to hear the answer
Pain-in-the-butt neighbor. Uh-oh - you’re gonna miss the next one if you don't move your butt
Are you planning to watch the big game tonight?
Wha'cha wanna know for? You ain’t gonna call the cops on me again
Hey! I thought someone was robbing your house and I was just looking out for your best interests
Bull-doo-doo! So how come when they asked you if I was the owner of the house, you told them no. I ended up spending half the night in jail. Thank goodness Harriet came t'bail me out
Doesn't she always in more ways than one. Anyway, it was a case of mistaken identity. Pure and simple. I was thinking here that maybe –um - we could, like, watch the game together?
Since when do you like sports?
I’ll have you know I used to play on my company’s croquet team
Croquet. Now that's a serious contact game. You’re serious. You wanna watch the game - together?
I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t mean it. I’ll even bring over some beer
You mean that yellow-colored pissy-crap you drink? Lemme bring over some real stuff. If we’re gonna watch together, you gotta drink my brand
You know - we've been bickering like this for how many years, now? Twenty? Maybe more? Yet somehow, can’t figure out how, we've managed to stay talking to each other. That has to mean something. Something binds our friendship
Maybe friendship would be pushin' it a bit but you're right. You talk – I gotta listen
By the way you can tell Harriet the tomatoes are ripe. Left a bag on your front porch. Ask her if I supply the apples if she'll make another one of her delicious pies. Your wife is one great baker!
Don't hav'ta tell me that. Gained ten pounds this year with all them apples you been supplying her with. You tryin' to gimme a heart attack?
Oh and Portman - maybe during half time, we could – like – discuss the shrubs? I mean, it doesn't hurt to talk about them calmly. Right? After all – at the heart of all, there's a deep brotherly love for each other. So are we still on for tonight?
Brotherly love and shrubs. Why do I even bother?
Figured it was worth a shot. Anway,I’m out’ta here. Don’t stay out in the sun too long ‘cause it’ll fry whatever brain you have left. Some of us gotta work for a living...
…and some of us like to watch our shrubs grow tall.
© 2013 Eleanor Tylbor
© 2013 Eleanor Tylbor