The Red Bucket

My new neighbors own a red bucket.

Their house is mint green. I mention this because if it was Christmas green I might not have had a problem. Who doesn’t like cheery holiday combinations? And, for the record, I purposely do not live in a community with HOA rules I could never obey.

Twenty-six years ago, we owned the property where the mint green house and the bucket now reside. From my living room and kitchen, I watched my children swing like Tarzan from live oaks. They raced go-carts through jungley paths. When the kids grew, we sold the lot to pay for college.

For years, the land remained undeveloped. Through the large picture window, I saw cardinals flit through tree branches, squirrels caught in Spanish moss. Once, I spied a red fox running through the brush. 

Then a house appeared. The new owners emptied brand-new gutters. I didn’t remember the last time I cleared mine. They built a shed to store unsightly lawn equipment. But, on the side of the house I viewed each day, a red bucket took up residence.

The brightness of the bucket caught my eye when I gazed at birds or mindlessly swayed to the rhythm of tree branches. A sudden believer in telekinesis, I stared at the bucket and willed it to move. Surprisingly, the bucket rolled onto its side and skittered into the middle of their yard—where it stayed. My powers failed, or the wind stopped blowing.

Every morning, I flung my curtains wide, praying for the bucket to be gone.

During a family dinner I pointed out the bucket. My daughter said, “Maybe the neighbors

don’t appreciate our weed-filled yard.”

“At least my weeds are green.” I defended my bucket obsession.

Another daughter told me to pick up the bucket and give it to them.

“That would seem rude. We’ve never met. It’s in their yard.”

My family dished up dessert. I stood at the window and mentally kicked the bucket.

Finally, a riding lawnmower roared out of the neighbor’s garage. He mowed a small patch of front lawn before he was interrupted. I stirred spaghetti sauce while my neighbor left with a friend.

The next afternoon, he mowed again. He raced around his house like it was the Daytona 500. He passed the bucket several times. I closed the curtains.

At this point I knew it was myproblem—not my neighbor’s. I squinted at the bucket and imagined a pot of geraniums or a beach ball.

A few mornings later, the bucket vanished. It had been three weeks. I wanted to shout to the world except no one cared but me.

For eight days, (why was I counting?) I lived bucket-free. I danced in my kitchen, lounged on my couch by the window, curtains opened wide. 

On day number nine, a strong wind blew an empty cardboard box into the neighbor’s yard. It rested just inside the boundary of their yard and the easement between our properties. 

It’s been four days, three hours, and twenty minutes.

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