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First, it’s official: They’re GONE!!!

I didn’t quite realize how stressed I had been until it was over. I can stand outside my house without nervously glancing next door every few seconds. I don’t feel like I have to walk Myles to his friend’s house two doors down. I don’t come home to thumping music and raised voices emanating from a source two feet from my driveway.

That said, I can’t help feel bad for Juan. He spent most of the day there Saturday, hauling bags of trash out of the house and garage. He filled his conversion van once, and I think he can fill it a hundred times more. The shed and garage are still stuffed full of garbage and discarded furnishings, and I think the house is probably as bad.

He told Ed he had called the police to see if they could force the thugs to come back and get their stuff. Of course, the cops told him he was out of luck.

Ed could also see into the kitchen area when he was talking to Juan, and he saw that not only are the walls we could see upstairs covered with gang graffiti, it appears that much of the house has been similarly defaced.

I know this is partially Juan’s fault for his lack of discretion in choosing renters. He also should have known he could have kicked them out after two months of not paying rent.

I still feel horrible when I’m watching him hoist bag after bag of garbage into his van.

But not horrible enough to get out there and help him in below-zero weather.

I like to think of myself as a tough girl.

But when a fuzzy little demon with beady eyes bolted through our kitchen today, I did everything but jump up on a retro diner chair. The squealing? Check. The hiding behind my husband? Check. The sweating? Check.

By the way, why do I have a husband and two cats if it’s not to get rid of undesirable furry critters? The husband “tried” to catch it. The cats were nowhere to be found. Actually, I found the fattest feline taking a nap an hour later when the cleaning people cornered the thing in the foyer.

I’m pretty sure the mouse is a visitor from next door. I’m hoping it doesn’t find our place hospitable enough to stick around, and we got some traps and such today to try and thwart that possibility.

I think Juan was over there today — I’m pretty sure it was his van parked in the driveway. I’m sure he got a hell of a shock when he walked in there. I haven’t seen anyone else around there in a few days, but the yard is still trashed, and I’m guessing the rest of the house is, too.

I’m hoping he cleans it up quickly and sells the house. I certainly wouldn’t take a chance with renting after seeing what happened over there.

I think the scum might be moving out. They have been loading up cars and trucks all day.

There are so many people living there that I won’t be convinced they are all leaving until I see the empty house, but I am allowing myself a wee bit of happiness, just in case.

I haven’t been able to muster the energy to write about it.

I was so sure ghetto mama, the fruits of her loins and their charming friends would be kicked to the curb by now that I’m still regrouping.

Friday was their official last day to pay up before a judge could order them out. I called Juan on Thursday to tell him all the paperwork was in order. He asked me to call the court to find out what he was supposed to do next, because he has a hard time understanding English.

I did. The oh-so-helpful bureaucrat I talked to said he needed to file an affidavit but that she couldn’t tell me how to do so. After 15 minutes of getting nowhere with the power-tripping, Fargo-accented psycho on the other end of the line, who at one point actually suggested that if Juan can’t speak English maybe he ought not to have rented his house, I gave up. This is not my fight. I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to spend hours on the phone with condescending idiots when I’m not the one whose house is being hijacked.

I called Juan and told him to get a Spanish-speaking lawyer. Someone to help him navigate the court system.

He said he understood, and he thanked me. I thought he’d be filing papers first thing Monday morning.

I was wrong.

Saturday, mid-morning, I got a phone call from the good neighbors informing me that Juan and Laura were outside talking to ghetto mama. They overheard her yelling about how she just needed a few more hours to come up with the money. There was a lot more talking, and Juan went into the house at one point and came out with an envelope. He returned a few hours later. He and Laura went into the house and exited shortly thereafter.

Laura smiled and waved at me as they walked to their car.

I think they paid him. I think he’s letting them stay.

I understand that if he’d just booted them he’d be out thousands of dollars. I get that.

But I thought the help I have given them, and the fact that I told them about the guns and how they have trashed his house and how I’m afraid to let my kids go outside and how the garbage in his shed is starting to smell like sewage and how the police are there all the time, I thought all of that might persuade him that they had to go.

I was wrong.

I’m starting to lose faith in my fellow human being.

Ed thinks he just heard one come from the neighbors’ house — right after he watched a van slowly back into their driveway. It peeled away right after the bang.

The cops drove by a few times, but I guess they didn’t see anything.

Fuck.

First, just let me say, AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

That felt good.

Juan and Laura stopped by after their hearing today. First of all, due to one bureaucrat or another fucking up, the court never got the documentation that someone had served eviction papers on ghetto mama. I’m still working on straightening that one out.

Despite that, the hearing happened. (Which, a court clerk informed me, is unusual.)

At the hearing, as far as I can discern from Juan and Laura, things went down like this:

Ghetto mama shows up. The papers aren’t there. The judge inquires as to the whereabouts of the papers. Ghetto mama catches on, then says she never got the papers. I would have loved to witness how the hell she talked her way around knowing when the hearing was in the first place. For so many reasons, I really wish I would have been in that courtroom.

Anyway, the judge points out the lack of rent and utilities payments, and ghetto mama has the cajones to say she has paid rent all along. That Juan is a liar.

Apparently, that’s the one thing the judge got right. She asked for proof (imagine that!) and, of course, mama had none. Not to be deterred, queen of the delinquents shifted gears. But, but, I fixed the roof, she yanked out of her ample ass.

I will say that we witnessed a group of juveniles on the roof at one point this fall. As a matter of fact, my good neighbor called the cops on one of them for pulling down his pants and gyrating at her. But I digress.

Apparently, the judge bought her story. (Juan and Laura flatly deny ever asking them to fix anything.) But the judge decided the work they did wasn’t worth quite $5,000. In order to stay in JUAN’s house, they have to pay $1,400 by next Friday. Or they might get the boot. That is, if someone finds the papers that got lost. Lost by either the cops or the court, the people I thought were supposed to be protecting the rights of those of us who actually abide by laws.

We can, and will refile papers if they are not located by next week. But we’re not allowed to get duplicates until next Friday. Which means if the papers are lost, the judge won’t issue the order to kick out the hoodlums, even if they haven’t paid. How’s that for a Catch-22?

I’d love for someone to disavow me of this notion, but given the information I have, I’m convinced this is a racist decision. Had it been a white landlord looking to evict Hispanic tenants, I think the landlord would have won. To make matters worse, Juan and Laura speak choppy English at best and probably were not able to convey their side of the case properly. Hence, my wish that I’d been in the courtroom.

And I know you’re all going to tell me I should stay out of it, that they’re bad people and I shouldn’t get involved. But like it or not, I AM involved. And I can’t help but thinking that if I’d been there, I could have provided the missing pieces the judge would have needed to give the assholes the boot. As it turns out, I have a feeling we’re going to be putting up with them for some time to come.

The neighbors have an eviction hearing on Friday. I have not seen them packing or moving anything at all.

Which makes me wonder — are they planning to fight this thing? Because I can’t really think of a plausible argument for paying one month’s rent then just NOT PAYING AGAIN. They owe Juan more than $5,000. Are they going to crap out all that cash? And if so, why haven’t they done it before now? I would really love to be there and hear what they have to say. That is, if they show up. And if they don’t: The sheriff can remove them the next day. Which is to say, by next week, we could be living gangsta-free.

OK, all you sweet, sweet men. I called the cops. They came over. They wouldn’t let me go over there either. So you can rest easy.

The papers have been served!

Now I just have to figure out how to fill out the paperwork, because the cop didn’t want to do it.

I have to go to work in a few minutes — just wanted to say that I get to serve eviction papers on the assholes next door.

But not until I have a proper police escort. For some reason, my husband won’t let me do it alone.

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.