|THE WALL BETWEEN US|
by John C. Weil We walked with the wall between us, just as Robert Frost described.
We picked up the stones, each of them still cold from the winter.
I stopped a moment to slip on leather gloves. He pulled on cotton, the kind you buy stapled together three pairs in a package. Sun had barely risen. I looked down the length of the wall to where it traveled on flat ground as far as the eye could see, rocks fallen on both sides. Then the wall and fallen rocks disappeared in the dips and the rolling hills.
“You know, this is the only time we see each other,” I said. “When we repair this wall.”
“Our dads built it. I feel like it’s an obligation,” he said.
We continued another ten-feet, bent over at the same time like bobbing oil rigs, picked up rocks and simultaneously placed them with a clack on the wall. We must be a sight, I thought, him short and squat like a Rhino, me tall and gangly like a Giraffe.
“Robert Frost wondered why neighbors need a wall,” I said. “It only separated his apple orchard from the neighbor’s pines.”
He was quiet for another twenty steps. Then down we went, bobbing once and placing rocks on the wall. “But the neighbor told him good fences make good neighbors… and that’s probably true,” he surmised. “I’ve read stories about people actually building room additions that straddle a neighbor’s property.”
I chuckled then swung my arm across the vast open spaces of rolling green hills and trees, a distant pond whose surface was freckled with black birds, and two modest homes – his and mine – both at least four acres apart on either side of the wall. “Hardly a chance of that,” I said. “So it only comes down to wanting to mark our territory.”
He had kept walking, kneeled and picked up a stone. “Beats peeing,” he said laughing.
I looked at him oddly.
“Marking territory… Peeing…” he said.
“I got it.”
I liked him. His name was Paul. His father used to come over with him to our house for dinner now and then. His wife had died when Paul was young. Our parents built the wall because at one time my father kept cows. Today there were no cows on the property. I was a suburbanite really, having lived elsewhere for twenty years until my father died. Having inherited the property and the back taxes, I returned. My modern furniture, even some Ikea were not in sync with the rustic cabin-like home I now inhabited. But the open fields and hundreds of huge trees on my twenty-six acres were true markers of the seasons. In the fall the leaves changed to bright orange, red and yellow. They dropped like the hands of giants on the fields until the trees were bones. Then the snow came and the world slowly turned white.
The snow went on for miles. As had the bright fall leaves. Our properties provided endless views, endless solitude and endless quiet. Especially at night when stars filled the sky like glitter tossed from an airplane. Although Paul lived close to me by the standards of our area, my other neighbors were more than a quarter of a mile away. From my kitchen sink window I could see their homes like little toys in the fields and I could see the chimneys puff tiny clouds in winter. None of them had a wall.
“We’re the only ones around having to do this,” I remarked, as we bent over, picked up big stones then placed them on the wall.
‘Clack-clack’. We did not place them at exactly the same time.
“I know you want me to say let’s take the wall down,” he remarked. “But I don’t want to. I wouldn’t know what to do with all the stones and I don’t want to have wasted my dad’s time.”
Paul’s father and my father had spent four years building the wall, then as Robert Frost had said, mending wall. They mended twice a year after winter frost. They spent hours walking the wall, talking and sipping coffee now and then, even drinking a beer or two at the end. His father was the first to show his respects at my father’s funeral. So maybe it’s true, good fences – or walls – make good neighbors.
We walked until dusk. We finished our task then opened two beers and sat on the wall we had just mended. Our legs, without thinking, dangled on his side. We clicked our bottles. The day was done. About the Author:John C. Weil lives in La Jolla, California. He graduated San Diego State University with a Masters in Literature and Creative Writing. He has been the Managing Editor of two newspapers and a long term Chief of Staff for a U.S. Congressman and a County Supervisor. He has published in both national and local magazines and newspapers and his stories and poems have appeared in literary magazines throughout the country and abroad. He is currently working on both a book of short stories and a novel.