I pull into my driveway to find Juan and Laura, the owners of the house next door, walking up my driveway. They are all smiles, as usual.
I genuinely like these people. They are hard-working recent immigrants who probably didn’t know what they were getting into when they decided to rent to the idiots next door. The housing market is rotten, and I can’t blame them for not putting the place on the market. I just hope they learn their lesson after this fiasco.
They wait for me to get out of the car, then ask if they can come in and use my phone. “Of course,” I say.
They grab the handset and step out onto the back porch to make their call.
When they come back in, I ask them what’s going on.
“Um, we call the police. And they want us to wait for them. Can we wait here? They said only a few minutes,” Laura says.
“Yes, of course. Why’d you call the police?”
“Our, um, tenants — is that how you say? — they won’t pay rent. They no pay for two months.”
I had weeks earlier given Juan an accounting of seeing the kid in the back yard with a gun and told him the police were looking for him, as the owner. Told him they wanted to ask him some questions. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of that he understood. But Laura speaks better English, so I’m eager to give her all the sordid details. But I bide my time.
“Huh. That’s really interesting. On top of all the police calls — for which I’m sure you could evict them — they decide not to pay their rent.”
“Police calls?” Laura looks at me, hard.
“Yes,” I say, “Didn’t Juan tell you? There was a pizza deliveryman robbed at gunpoint right outside your house. The police have been questioning your tenants.
“Oh yeah, and I saw one of the kids who lives there running through the back yard with a gun.”
“You SAW the gun?”
“Yep. Police were here most of the day questioning me and them. They eventually took the guy in, but he still lives there, so I guess they never charged him.”
“Well, we want them out of there. We have to get them out of there. When we go there, all these young boys are in the house, and the woman’s daughter is there with them, but they say she not there. And they won’t let us in the house.”
“Did you know there’s gang graffiti all over your upstairs walls? They recently covered the windows with a blanket, but before that, I could see in there. They wrote all over your walls with a big, black marker.”
“Wrote? On walls?”
“Oh, yeah. And on your garage door. Did you see that?”
Juan looks out the window, then hangs his head. I feel bad, because I know he’s feeling very guilty about now. But he has to know. He has to make them go away.
We chat about our kids for about 20 minutes. Finally, a police car drives up. Juan and Laura hurriedly put their boots on and go outside.
They talk to the cop for a while, then come back in.
“So?” I ask.
“The policeman say there’s nothing he can do right now. That we have to go file papers in the court.”
“Well, good luck,” I say.
“Thank you so much,” Juan says.
“Goodbye, baby!” Laura says to Simon, who is milling around her legs. She bends over and kisses his cheek.
I just hope they remember their nice, friendly neighbor and how she’s being tormented by their bad decision when they are in that courthouse.