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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

by Nathanael Hood

Nobody knew how she paid for it, but every Thursday a new shipment of brick and mortar and groceries arrived at Mrs. Vollin’s house at 34 Tatcher Blvd. The rest of the week the old woman built her wall taller and taller into the cloudless sky. After a month the wall surrounding her property blocked off her neighbors completely. After a year the wall was the tallest structure in the county. It reached around her house and front yard, leaving only the driveway accessible to the road that stretched out in front of it. But then came the tourists, creeping up the driveway to take pictures through the front windows and snatch souvenirs from the front porch. And so the wall completed a perfect square around her property with only a tiny space above the ruined driveway left open for the Thursday deliveries.

This being Texas, people paid the woman and her business no mind, at first. In the beginning Vollin’s wall was treated as an eccentric’s folly, the neighbors laughing at it, the police ignoring it. But when the wall began to interfere with local radio tower transmissions, the sheriff arrived one afternoon and demanded to speak with her. A wizened arm poked itself out of the driveway space with two pieces of paper—her deed and the local penal code concerning property rights. When the sheriff looked back up from the papers, his eyes met the barrels of a freshly polished shotgun. He gulped, handed the documents back, and drove away.

Mrs. Vollin lived to be 108. By the time she died the wall was nearly 3/4 of a mile high. A team of rock-climbers were hired to scale the wall and rappel down the sides to confirm her passing after she didn’t respond to the Thursday shipments after three weeks. Her front and back lawn had vanished beneath piles of rubbish and garbage that creeped up the insides of the wall like pyramids sliced in half. What looked like the ground in the center was really the house’s ceiling. The mountaineers labored for several hours to clear enough desiccated bird carcasses and filth from the shingles so they could carve out an opening to get inside.

A coating of dust and grime covered her living room so thick that it swallowed up the shards of broken glass from the smashed television. Her kitchen was choked with fruits and vegetables black with rot and mold. Her bedroom was a macabre mortuary of ruined linens and junk. And there on the bed was Mrs. Vollin, face peaceful and content, both middle fingers stuck up in the air.

Nathanael Hood is a full-time film critic for The Young Folks and The Retro Set, and an aspiring comic book writer. In his spare time he likes to drink whole pots of coffee and smash his face into his keyboard for hours at a time. If he’s lucky, enough of the ensuing gibberish will auto-correct into coherent words which he then submits to flash fiction sites.

Lead image: “Brick wall” (via Flickr user Open Grid Scheduler)