My mother told me to stay on our side of the yard. Every time I came to visit, after moving out and starting my own family, Mom said that I needed to say on our side of the yard.
The Andersen’s house always looked vacant. Even after watching one of them pull into their garage as the sun spread its last hue of pink across the setting horizon. Mom said she didn’t trust them. There was something off about them. My dad, a police officer, paid them no mind. “If they ain’t causing me trouble, I’m not troubling them.”
Mom always chopped onions or signed checks for utilities bills in front of the kitchen window, which overlooked our back fence and the Andersen’s backyard. One time, Mom swore she saw a body bag sticking out of their garden shed. Just the feet. Dad was quick to dismiss it as a bag of dead leaves. No one had gone missing in town. No family members rolled into town searching for their lost loved ones.
“I don’t even know how many kids they have, ” Mom said one blustery summer afternoon. I ate a Popsicle while playing Nintendo 64. “If they have any…”
We lived across from the Andersen’s for twelve years before one day, they moved out in the middle of the night. The only evidence of their departure was an abandoned standing lamp laid across a musty couch. I imagine the entire insides of their house as damp. You could smell water.
We moved a week later. Mom got a new job at a different law firm and uprooted from Indiana to Arizona. Trading humid heat for breath-frying heat. Another neighbor, Mrs. Childs, forwarded Mom an email a week after we settled into our new house.
In the Andersen’s basement, home inspectors had found a perfectly laid out child’s outfit on the cement floor. Small Converse chucks. Jeans with an elastic waistband. A Winnie the Pooh shirt. All arranged as if on an invisible rag doll.