I knew everything—being 13 and all. That’s why when I spied those chicken bones, gnawed clean, mixed with corn cobs and bean cans, dumped in a pile on our side of the fence, I knew who did it and why. It was our neighbors, the Fassbinders. They did it to even the score.
Like the Hatfields and McCoys, we were the Sondags and Fassbinders. A chain link fence marked our turfs. Our side. Their side. Our blade of grass. Theirs. How the feud started didn’t matter. Winning did. Mom won the morning she chased Mr. Fassbinder out of our yard with Great-Great Granddaddy’s Civil War sword. “Don’t you step foot on our property again!” she yelled from the porch, her hair in pink, plastic curlers, her nightgown flapping in the wind as she brandished the sword in the air.
We hadn’t heard a peep from the Fassbinders until that pile of chicken bones popped up.
I knew how they did it, too. The Fassbinder gang—Mr., Mrs., and their bratty twin girls—tip-toed out of their house in the dark, dumped their garbage over the fence, and then crept back, their hands over their mouths. Back inside, they howled like hooligans.
I knew what Mom would say. “They did what? Chicken bones? Where’s my sword?”
No need to bother Mom now. This battle was mine. In broad daylight, I threw that garbage grenade-style back over the fence. I clobbered their dog’s house with corn cobs. Conk. Conk. I pelted their patio with beans cans. Ping. Ping. I hurled those chicken bones so high in the air that when they dropped, they dive-bombed the Fassbinder’s swimming pool. Kerplunk. plunk, plunk.
Mr. Fassbinder threw open his door. “What the heck do you think you’re doing?”
The Brats bolted out behind him. Hands on their hips. Jelly on their faces.
“Giving you back your garbage,” I shouted, a wing bone in one hand, a cob in the other.
“That’s not our garbage,” he yelled.
I looked back at our house and saw that our trashcan had turned over. Raccoons? Possums? Perhaps. Then I remembered Tuesday’s dinner.
I retreated to my house and hid in my room. I knew, as sure as beans come in cans, Mr. Fassbinder would come pounding on our door. And Mom would pound on mine. (My door, that is.)
Cleaning their yard wasn’t so bad. When I finished, the twins invited me to play “Sea Creatures” in their pool. That day I gave up being a know-it-all to become a mermaid. Mom stopped running around in curlers and swords. And we all kept our garbage to ourselves.