One Good Turn

My next door neighbour has, a whipper snipper, a leaf blower, a chainsaw, a ride-on mower, and a shredder – well, he used to.

There were other tools in his back shed, like spades and rakes and so on, but they never came to my attention. It was the noisy petrol-guzzling buggers he used to keep his garden under the thumb that piqued my inner good Samaritan.

And that is the point I tried to make after politely knocking on his door last Sunday afternoon.

“There’s no law against leaf blowers,” he grunted.

“Do you think you could maybe give it a rest on Sundays at least.”

“What are you a religion freak or somethink?”

I must admit his massive illustrated biceps and the can of bourbon and cola in his meaty hand took a bit of the steam out of my approach.

“No…no. It’s just that we’ve got a baby…and she still has a sleep in the day.”

He implied that I respect his rights and leave: “Piss off prick! It’s me own fucking property, and I’ll do what I like. OK?”

I like to be diplomatic and follow community protocols in situations of conflict, so that is why I approached him face to face in the first place – I’m no fan of the anonymous note in the letter box. I spoke my truth, and failed.

The mother of my seriously sleep disturbed offspring suggested ringing council first thing Monday morning. “There has to be something we can do,” she added.

“Do you remember when that hail storm blocked the drain out front?”

“Oh yeah.” My wife shrugged and retreated to the bedroom with our crying child.

“Two thousand dollars I think that phone call to council ended up costing us,” I said to no one.

The fluoro-vested council guy with a pipe camera took five minutes to prove beyond doubt that the liquid amber tree on our property was the real culprit and legally, financially, environmentally, and whatever else “-ally”, it was our responsibility.

From next door’s house I heard yelling and things being thrown around. A back door slammed and the unmistakeable sliding aluminium shed door sang out. Then the chain saw started up.

The sonic affront was seriously testing my civic sensibility and, to be honest, my faith in humans. Maybe he was bullied at school, humiliated and beaten by his father, violated by a priest? All things considered, perhaps revving the shit out of a chain saw and butchering every tree and shrub on his own fucking property was perfectly understandable.

The woman of the house, whom I had only ever heard and never before seen, shrieked: “You bloody idiot!” Miraculously she penetrated the racket created by the therapeutic, or was it retributional, pruning. The chain saw stopped. I felt immediate worry for her. A car started up and sped away. She was safe.

Every Wednesday, Kylie, the neighbour, the screamer – turns out my wife knew her name all along – does compulsory voluntary work at the Vinnie’s depot. If you want to know what compulsory voluntary work means you’ll need to ask the Department of Social Services. Her defacto, Bruce – again information provided courtesy of my wife – is never home week days, and often not on week nights either. And Wednesdays is, conveniently, playgroup for my precious wife and child.

No one about. Time for action. Immediate and decisive community service was needed.

I took an empty milk container down to my own shed where I just happened to be in possession of some petrol. Armed with close to two litres of the stuff, I jumped the fence and snuck into Bruce’s cave of noise-monsters. They were sleeping. I chuckled as I poured the accelerant around and over the culprits. They would not suffer, it would be all over in a hydrocarbon flash. I used the last few splashes to make a flammable trail back to the fence.

Back on my side, I moved into phase two. The jumbo sized BBQ matches were my brilliant idea for remote fire-starting – plenty of length and phosphorous. My amateur physics and chemistry calculations did not predict that each and every match would extinguish well before before hitting the now quickly vapourising petrol trail.


I ran back inside my house and circled the kitchen to generate a Plan B. Six laps later I spotted the local newspaper. I ran back to the scene, scrunching up pages as I went. I lit Plan B and lobbed it over the fence.


The explosion had neighbours I had never seen before running onto the street and dialling triple zero.

I explained to the investigating police and insurance assessors that I work at home on Wednesdays. My singed eyebrows and reddened face merely evidence of my heroic and selfless actions with the garden hose. In the mayhem I had to extinguish the bits of burning garden machinery that had landed in adjoining yards and onto the street – basically strewn everywhere within a ten metre radius of the now missing aluminium shed. The officials were satisfied.

Turns out as well that after getting a bit boisterous at the local pub just last week, Bruce my friendly neighbour, had upset a notorious mad bastard who happens to have a track record for settling scores with arson. Stevo, as he is known, is also the brother of the Sergeant of Arms of the local chapter of the Hell’s Angel’s. So Bruce, now minus a shed and its noisy contents, and wisely choosing peace over war, decided to let the whole matter ride.

“Do you have something you want to tell me?” my wife said as she applied paw paw ointment to my peeling forehead.

“Yeh, looks like I won’t have to phone up council’s noise complaint department after all.”

She smiled and the only sound to be heard was the quiet breathing of a sleeping baby in the cot in the corner of our bedroom.