It started when the landscapers arrived. They tore up the whole back yard, installed a sprinkler system, planted a border garden, and laid a new sod lawn. It all looked nice and normal. It looked, in fact, like someone was trying a little too hard to be nice and normal. But maybe that's just me.
Before I go any further, I just want to say: I am not Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. I don't sit at home in a wheelchair and watch my neighbors through binoculars. For one thing, I keep the wheelchair in the garage and, also, I don't wear pajamas all day long. So now... to get back to the neighbors...
A few days later, a long yellow extension cord was dragged across this perfect little arcadia and connected to a yellow plastic cage light hung from the low branch of a tree. The light stayed on all night. (I know because it casts interesting shadows on our bedroom ceiling as it pierces the venetian blinds).
Less than a week later, the Havahart trap appeared (you know, one of those cages for trapping small animals). The cage was never baited.
Now, in our neighborhood there are only two animals lurking about who could be contained in such a trap. One is a cat. The idea that they are trying to trap a cat has two basic problems. No well-fed house-kept cat would ever fall for such an obvious ploy. The other problem is: Say you get lucky and manage to trap poor Fluffy from next door? What are you going to do then?
The other candidate for trapping would be a raccoon. I can't even entertain this thought since the raccoons in our street are way too fat to climb fences, plus there are other far more accessible trashcans available.
Up to this point it all seems fairly straightforward. Obviously, a furry little nocturnal somebody was endangering about ten grand's worth of manicured loveliness. This, however, doesn't fully explain what happens next.
This is a multi-generational family. There are the grandparents, the young couple, and the new baby boy. Grandma is from the Old Country (China, I think) and she seems to be driving this.
Every night at sundown, without fail, Grams and Mom are out there with bedsheets and comforters, rugs and tarpaulins and they cover every inch of the lawn. No green is allowed to show through. If a tuft of grass remains visible, they'll cover that with a napkin. They weigh it all down with lawn chairs and plastic lids-- whatever they can find. The lawn, thus, remains protected from the (?!!!) all night until 5 am when the whole thing is disassembled and returned to the house.
This has been going on for weeks.
Eventually, I hope this ritual will become such a part of their lives that they'll forget why they ever started doing it in the first place. Then, maybe they can enjoy the wonderful absurdity of it as much as we do.