That was the last time I saw either of the neighbors, or the friend, and just after that, the signs started dotting the windows like a strange political pox.

I’ve never been sure if their bringing the trashcans in was a friendly gesture or a scolding one, but when COVID hit and we were all freaked out about touching surfaces of any kind, it made me crazy to see he’d brought the cans up to our house again. I used a Lysol-soaked rag on the handle as I dragged them the rest of the way back behind the house, washed my hands thoroughly, and quickly became attentive to bringing them up from the curb myself as soon as they were emptied.

We’d been standing twelve or so feet apart, unmasked, and for a few moments, the world had seemed normal. For a few moments, we’d forgotten it wasn’t.

The arborist ended up removing five arbor vitae, creating more holes along the fence line, and a total of nine trees: one big weeping cherry in the front, and eight double-planted spruce in the back. I’d not even realized there were eight trees there. They were huge, in the far corner of the yard, and combined with a lot of overgrown honeysuckle and some hackberry scrub, provided more privacy than I’d realized. When they came down, it opened our yard to the neighbors in back whom we’d not seen or talked to for years.



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