Excerpt from my in-progress novel
When James, Melody, and the kids moved into town with the fresh optimism of outsiders, they soon met the next door neighbor, who, oddly enough, always wore a smile. There was no “Welcome to the Neighborhood” plate of cookies, but rather a quick education in the New England way. After exchanging initial pleasantries, Tom got to business: “Let me show you where the property line is.” And so he marched James to the rebar pin at the corner of their back yards.
“Paid good money to get this surveyed. Mind the offsets if you’re going to put a shed up or something,” Tom said.
Taken aback by this impressive display of passive aggression, James had little to say besides, “Oh, OK.”
“Oh and the previous owner was elderly, so I mowed the lawn for them, and shoveled the snow too,” Tom continued. “You look young enough, so you’re on your own. Good to meet you. Take care.”
“Oh, OK. Thanks.”
Woodbridge, Vermont, was well passed its glory days, at least according to the old-timers. The teenagers seemed to agree, as they gave the town its unofficial motto. Caught in the middle were many of the 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings, who either hadn’t left town, or found their way into town, and were trying to make a go of it.
But not too many years ago, somebody spraypainted “Woodbridge Sucks” on both sides of the train overpass on the north side of town. As graffiti goes, it was tame enough, and perhaps artistic enough, and certainly true enough, so it stayed. Rumors abounded about who was responsible, but no one owned up, and ultimately no one seemed to care. The vast majority of the traffic in and out of town had that message drummed into their head every day. Most folks stopped seeing it, at least consciously. A few towns over, in a different world, somebody spraypainted in a similar spot: “You’re going to be OK.”
“Woodbridge Sucks” became the unofficial town motto. Highschoolers, longing to break out of the small town, repeated it to each other daily. 20somethings, caught in the grind of low wages, high fertility, and cheap narcotics grumbled it to themselves often. The few professionals in town, who kept to the outskirts and the high ground, shook their heads and thought it often as they passed through town. Retirees, who made up the majority of the population, would never utter such a vulgar phrase out loud, but certainly believed it whole-heartedly. Gone were the simple times. Gone were the days when they had all the influence and control, so for them too, Woodbridge did indeed suck.
Still new in town, attracted by the Vermont landscape and lifestyle, James hadn’t yet noticed the graffiti on the railway overpass. But whenever one of the kids hit a ball too far, or one of the dogs got loose, or even if a random piece of trash was blown into Tom’s yard, James relished the thought of an ever-watchful Tom noticing him linger a little too long across the line.