Meanwhile, at the house next door...

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 2003, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved

So here I am, sitting on my couch, reading a book, cat purring on my lap, while over at the house next door, my neighbor's being savagely beaten. The muffled sound of fist against jaw and boot against ribs floats through the open window, constantly on the periphery of my awareness. I can't escape it. Nor can I stop it.

My landlord's responsible for the beating. He keeps telling me it's necessary to protect me. I should be grateful. That guy next door was planning to harm me with weapons he'd hidden in his house. Actually, the guy really is a scuzball. He beats his kids, and he's a thief and a liar. I don't like him one bit. But he never actually harmed me. He left me alone, and I returned the favor. As for those weapons -- they haven't actually found any yet.

But what if the landlord's right? I guess it's possible. I don't know what to think anymore. I just live my life and try to ignore what's going on next door, but I can't. My neighbor may be getting what he deserves, but I flinch with every scream. That's because sometimes the guys kicking the tar out of him miss and punch his kids if they're standing too close. But that's to be expected, says the landlord -- when you're really thumping a guy, innocent bystanders might get smacked too. It's a beating, not a birthday party.

"Just pet your cat and read your book like a good little girl, and let us get the job done," says the landlord. "Besides, it's not like you have any choice."

(Yeah, the guy's a major jerk, but I'm stuck with him for now.)

It's all bull, you know. This beating isn't for my benefit. After they beat the guy to death, my landlord's planning to take his house. (He calls it "occupying." Tomayto, tomahto.) He's got big plans for that house. He's already arranging for contractors to come in and clean up the mess so he can start collecting rent on it.

When I pointed that out, it must've hit a nerve because the landlord tried to justify his actions. Besides keeping me safe, he exclaimed, the other reason for this beating is to set the guy's family free!

Umm, excuse me, Mr. Landlord, but those folks never asked you to set them free. And besides, where will they live after you've trashed their house? Will you let them come live with you in your fancy white mansion?

That really tweaked him. I'm really beginning to wonder if the dude's seriously unstable. You won't believe his response. He said he can do whatever he wants next door because he's on a mission from God. (I have a feeling that God has bigger plans than renting out the house next door, but I dropped the topic. You'd get farther reasoning with a tree than with people who think their god can beat up everybody else's god.)

The worst part of all this is that I don't think the guys smacking Mr. Scuzball around really want to do it. When they went to work for the landlord, they were told their job was to keep the property and tenant safe, even if it meant risking their own lives. And they took the job willingly, because they're noble and courageous, and care more for my safety than their own. That just blows my mind.

The only reason I can live in this nice house is because of them. I owe them everything, and to see their loyalty being perverted like this breaks my heart. When the beating's over, I'll be sure to tell them that they are, and always will be, my heroes - no matter what the landlord made them do.

I feel so grateful to those guys, but at the same time I feel afraid and angry and deceived and worried and confused about the beating itself. And I feel guilty too. See, I'm an accomplice, whether I like it or not. Part of my rent helps finance this beating.

It's not how I want my money spent, mind you. There's lots of other things I wish the landlord would spend my money on, things he promised to take care of when he took over this property, but it's becoming obvious that he doesn't keep his word. The place is falling apart, and he could care less. And he says he has my best interests at heart. Ha. The only interests he has at heart are "special."

So why don't I just move out? Well, the other houses are nice too, but I like this one best. Besides, I know that sooner or later, another landlord will take over. That's the only thing that gives me hope -- that the next landlord will be better than this one. Thankfully, that's no tall order.

I just hope the next landlord gives the house next door back to its rightful owners. I wonder what it'll be like living next to them when they're "free." Maybe they'll like me. Maybe they'll hate me. Maybe they'll despise me for standing idly by while the beating took place or praise me for not getting in the way. I just don't know. I wish I did, but I don't. I can't tell you the anguish this causes me.

Who knows, maybe the landlord is right about one thing. Maybe if we get rid of the scuzball, me and my neighbors will finally become friends. But God help us if he's wrong. It'll make life on this street awfully unpleasant.