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Lawn Nazis, Hostages,
and Dating in the Suburbs:
Welcome to My World

by Sherry Smith Gray

Today is the last straw. I am under attack by the lawn police.

Masquerading as a homeowner’s association, these nazis patrol the streets of my well-manicured concentration camp like killer whales circling a wounded seal, playing gleefully with their intended target before consuming their prey in one nasty toothful gulp.

They demand that I pay through the nose for the privilege of having my home scrutinized and my box papered with all manner of letters.

I bought a Housing and Urban Development home. Everything is wrong with it. Everything. This entire development is built out of corrugated cardboard and wallpaper paste, smack on top of a swamp. My house sat empty for eighteen months, decaying, while the Homeowners’ Association did squat. Evidently it was not as vitally important that a home sit in the neighborhood with the gate sagging and the lawn non-existent as it was for me to turn my basketball hoop to face my house.

* * *

One of my neighbors got drunk and took himself hostage with a steak knife. I am not making this up! He locked himself in his bedroom and called the police, telling them he had a knife and wasn’t afraid to use it. Does anybody remember Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles? When I arrived home, there was a paddy wagon, an Emergency Medical Transport vehicle, and two police cars down the street. His wife was outside chewing her nails.

Half an hour later, there were seventeen — I counted! — assorted police vehicles. They called out the entire SWAT team to deal with this loser. They blocked off the street for hours. Domino’s Pizza had a record day in Lake Mary; we all picnicked on the lawn, waiting for something to happen. Oddly, the news reporters did not show up, but one of my neighbors filmed the whole standoff, just in case the National Enquirer might be interested.

I was worried about his kids; there was no sign of them. The police would not allow us down there “in case of gunfire,” and an hour passed before someone showed up who knew that the kids were not in the house but around the corner with a friend.

So, here we were, on the lawn, wondering if he’d got a knife to his son’s throat. The guy across the street was filming the whole mess, and yet another SWAT guy pulled up. He had to park in my driveway; there simply wasn’t any other room. He was very serious as he strapped on this bandolito gunbelt and pulled a grenade launcher or something out of his Range Rover. He was wearing one of those black shirts with POLICE stenciled on the back.

I told him that as far as I knew, yes, the guy was a loon, and no, he didn’t have a gun... as far as I knew. The policemanŐs trunk was full of assorted weapons. It looked like a scene from a Schwarzenegger movie.

Katie, an ex-neighbor pulled up, drawn by all the excitement. She was single and fairly attractive, and immediately began a blatant come-on to the SWAT guy shouldering the bazooka. “I love a man in uniform,” she bats fetchingly.

I wonder if John got that on tape. I smacked her. “Down girl,” I say, “the man has a gun.”

“I know,” she replied, “I can see the bulge.”

I could see where this is going. I said, “Well, he is kinda cute.” Before the standoff ended, she had collected four phone numbers and lined up two dates. That girl really knew how to work a crowd.

Now the SWAT team had all arrived; the pizza was here, and Katie was making the rounds. Most of the neighborhood had turned out for the festivities. Someone had popped popcorn for the kids, and there was a pool going on what time he would give himself up. We all knew it was a cry for attention, and unless the cops shot him accidentally, he’d just give up. The last time he got drunk, he decided to walk to New York. Hell, I’d have given him a ride.

There were SWAT guys on the roof of his immediate neighbor. Snipers. There were SWAT guys in the yard behind his. There were SWAT guys in the bushes in his front yard, on both sides. A steak knife is a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.

There were SWAT guys on his porch, about six of them, in full riot gear, complete with those crowd-control shields and bulletproof vests. They stormed the front door. It wasn’t locked. Two minutes later, he walked out cuffed, and Frank won the pool.

His wife rushed to the police station to bail him out. Imagine. He was on disability anyway, didn’t work and still got a check. I’d have left him there and asked if they could keep him longer. He was home the next day.

My Homeowners’ Association is planning to sue me. I don’t pay my dues. I won’t move the basketball hoop. I’ve painted my house — GASP! — pink and white. They say I am bringing down the property values.

Copyright © 2002 by Sherry Smith Gray

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