Flash Fiction 2nd Place – Literary LEO 2015

Good Neighbors Make Good Fences

by Jinn Bug

Jack has a white picket fence he’s been rebuilding this summer. His wife died last year; I catch glimpses of Jack working in his back yard; he’s one house down, hidden behind the old Graninger store. Most evenings I have a little “over the fence” visit with Jack, who sits out on his back porch on fine nights. He was in the Navy, and his garden hose is always coiled in near-perfect concentric circles on his sidewalk when it’s not in use. I’ve tried to replicate his garden hose technique, but I can’t manage it. It takes a discipline I don’t possess…and a patience. Jack’s been building his fence picket by picket, panel by panel, post by post.

The fact that the fence is likely to outlive Jack by many years isn’t something we speak of as he slowly saws and hammers and paints this new fence into being over many months, but I suspect he’s thought about it as he feels his aging back and that one knee that won’t cooperate. I know I’m thinking about it. Living in the land of What If as much as I do, I imagine the day when someone else moves into that house because Jack Is No More, and it makes me sad and riles me up at the same time. Those people—whoever they are—better take good care of Jack’s fence. Those people best not even think of taking that fence out and replacing it with chain-link or that pressure treated pine crap from Home Depot. I will stand at the intersection of Depauw and Stansifer and I will protest, loudly, and make picket signs and sing for Jack’s fence. Long may the picket fence live, and longer still may the picket-fence-maker be my neighbor.