Private Property


Private Property


As she pumped her legs to convey her bike up my hilly street, her blond pigtails lifted in the wind. When she noticed me watering my magnolia tree, she stopped. Her eyeballs rolled over me from my worn sneakers all the way to my straw hat.

I might have imagined it, but I think she squinted in the same way that the bullies of my elementary school days had squinted before punching me in the stomach. Nonetheless, like them, after cursing me, she sped away.

 A day earlier, my neighbor’s twins, too, had taken in eyefuls of me. While they gawped, they whispered. Their mother had just posted a sign proclaiming that their yard was “private property.” I wondered who might consider a family home as anything else. I wondered, too, whether or not that family would still welcome the delivery of their mail, their milk, and their eggs.

At dusk, I sat on my stoop and slurped a soda. As a rule, I use a straw, but that evening I intentionally skipped that formality; claiming sovereignty over one’s domain every so often requires proactive choices.

Later, I had trouble sleeping. Two hours after retiring, I opened my window. Half of an hour later, I closed it—the air had cooled. A few more hours into the night, I took my robe from its hook, fitted my feet into their slippers and opened and closed my refrigerator door half of a dozen times (each time, I hoped that “the fridge fairy” might have added a new comestible.)

Back in my bedroom, I again stared out my window. My property is typical for the development in which it is located. On balance, my side yard garden had grown a bit ungainly. Perhaps, my neighbors were not-so-silently protesting my: sprawling yam vines, untrimmed roses, apple trees, which dropped more fruit than I managed to harvest, and clumps of dandelions, purslane, and so forth (I value my forbs for their healing power, but my neighbors regard them as “weeds.”) Sighing, I returned to my bed.

The next morning, I found a local homeless man sitting on my landing. I offered him coffee and a plate of cookies, both of which he politely accepted. I also offered him a proper breakfast, but he declined it.

The man tilted his head toward my garden. “Purslane’s hard to come by these days. I see you’re spotting a bit of shepherd’s purse and some dock, too. Trade you some work for a portion of those medicinals.”

In pursuit of neighborly peace and to help another fellow, I agreed. Thereafter, the stranger and I only paused in our labors to eat nut butter and arugula sandwiches around midday (the arugula was sourced from my yard.)

Despite our twinned efforts, my neighbor failed to remove her sign. Rather, she added a second one that declared “no trespassing.” Hours earlier, she had gone red upon seeing who was helping me with my garden. I had ignored her.

Thomas, my new friend, came by with increased frequency. He taught me many of the horticulture principles he had practiced when employed by the state’s agriculture bureau.

He made no mention, though, of the circumstances that had turned him into a vagrant. I didn’t ask.

 Months passed. The blond, pig-tailed girl, who had gotten a tad taller, stopped to admire my pruned apple tree. I offered her a bag of fruit to take home to her family. She pedaled away.

The twins, though, ever looking back to their home to make sure that their mother was still watching them from their driveway, were happy to make lavender wands with me and to collect some of my lemongrass for their family’s tea. Once, on their own initiative, they even asked if they might pick some of my tomatoes.

These days, Thomas, who is busy sourcing local farmers’ excess harvests to our town’s soup kitchen, stops by less often. Both the soup kitchen and the local council on homelessness pay him a stipend for his work. His exertions reduce waste as well as enable poor folks to eat well. Besides being lauded for his altruistic efforts, Thomas is looking better groomed and better fed. I’m happy for him, but, suddenly, I’m lonely.

That is, I’m a little lonely. Margold has filled part of the void left by Thomas. More exactly, one day, one of my would-be young visitors, the girl on the bike, arrived at the edge of my yard with a box in her bike basket. The contents of that box trembled more than did that little, blond-hair girl.

Initially, that girl had stopped her bike, had looked at me and then had pedaled onward. She rode up and down the slope of my street repeatedly until she could no longer huff and puff. When she, at last, stopped at the end of my driveway, she took the box out of her basket and quickly pedaled away. I waited a few minutes before claiming her offering.

Inside the container was a hungry kitten. I took that pint-sized furry inside, gave it a small dish of water and a smaller dish of moistened cereal, and then called the local vet for further instructions.

Cats grow quickly. Marigold now mews at the songbirds in my apple trees and catches the random lizards that stalk the world beneath my carrots’ tops. She prowls through my squash vines and slides under my bean hoops.

Sometimes, the twins watch her antics from their window. Sometimes, Thomas stops by to feed her fancy mincemeat (at this point, he’s probably got more money in the bank than me.) Other times, I sit on my stoop, slurp a strawfree soda, and allow that fierce protector of my private property to purr loudly on my lap.


KJ Hannah Greenberg


KJ Hannah Greenberg's writing chatters, whistles, trills, and warbles. Her words mimic ocean waves and wolf howls. Forty of her books have been published by indie presses. More than one thousand of her brief fictions, poems, essays, and dramas, too, have gone to print. Some of the venues offering her work have included: AntipodeanSF, Bewildering Stories, bioStories, Bound Off!, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Etc.: A Review of General Semantics, JMWW, Mad Swirl, MENSA's Calliope, Mused, Poetry Super Highway, The Jerusalem Post, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and Zingara Poetry Review. 


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