Wednesday, January 18, 2006


In Which the Self-Restraint is Almost Killing Me...

Hey, I need you guys to proofread something for me real quick:

Magazine Man
2323 Baltic Ave.
Somewhere, USA

Mrs. B. Belfry
666 Park Place
Somewhere, USA

January 18, 2006

Dear Mrs. Belfry,

We have not been properly introduced, but I am your neighbor, the Magazine Man, husband of Her Lovely Self, who you met last Thursday, January 12 and again this afternoon, while she was walking our dog, whose name, incidentally, is Blaze.

From my wife's experience and that of other neighbors you have encountered over the years (I have spoken to several in the past week) I gather that you do not wish people to know your name, since you have never offered it. Based on this fact--and the obvious care and scrutiny you give to the boundaries of your property--it is clear you and your husband Bob are people who treasure their privacy, and I have no desire to intrude upon it.

However, I must address certain accusations you have articulated to my wife both today and last week regarding my dog and the manner in which I conduct his daily walks.

Oh, let's not mince words: You have now twice accused me of allowing my dog to defecate on your lawn without picking up after him.

Having experienced the result of such rude (and unlawful) behavior myself, I can certainly sympathize with any neighbor who finds herself in the same predicament. I share the indignation that you feel--and that you more than adequately conveyed to my wife.

However, you've got the wrong man.

Oh, I have no doubt that you have seen me, that, as you repeatedly told my wife, you "know" who her husband is (though not, of course, in the Biblical sense). For the better part of two years, my morning routine has been to walk my dog around the block, which would necessitate passing your house at the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place. It is true that my dog--like many dogs in our community--regularly stops to sniff and urinate upon the street sign that exists on your corner (here I use the term "your corner" very loosely, since the sign and the corner upon which it sits exist as part of public easement, and are not private property).

And while I appreciate your curious offer to "guarantee" my behavior, I'm afraid any such guarantee would be trumped by the truth: Mrs. Belfry, I always collect my dog's droppings. I am well aware that many dog owners in our community do not--I see the evidence every day--but I am not one of these people and I cannot be held accountable for their actions.

Nevertheless, as a result of your dramatic arrival at my house later that morning, and the manner in which you addressed my wife, we made a decision not to compound your mistake any further. Since that day last week, I have altered my walking route with the dog so as to avoid completely the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place. We felt such an action would remove us entirely from future suspicion and mistaken identity.

Alas, based on your brief discussion--or perhaps monologue would be a more accurate term--with my wife today, it appears that is not the case.

This afternoon, while she was walking my dog, you pulled your car into the driveway directly in front of her, so close in fact that she, being on foot, felt threatened--especially in light of the fact that she was walking with our 4-year-old daughter.

(In fact, one might go so far as to call your action "reckless," a term I believe you are familiar with.)

I understand that my dog's reaction to your startling appearance prevented you from opening your car door or even rolling down your window, but based on your sudden arrival, one can hardly fault a family dog for responding protectively. Nevertheless, my wife heard you clearly through the driver's side window, and was surprised to learn that you still suspect me of leaving dog droppings as recently as this week, despite the fact that I have assiduously avoided your area of the neighborhood.

Mrs. Belfry, I would be very grateful indeed if you would contact me at my office (my card is enclosed) so that you and I might discuss--and conclude--this unfortunate misunderstanding in a civil manner. If you are on speaking terms with any of our neighbors, I invite you to ask them about me (as I did about you). You will find that I am a respectful and conscientious resident of this community, especially when I am out in public with my family, including my dog. Our neighbors will also tell you that I am a man of my word. When I say that I pick up after my dog, I mean it (and the proof of it sits in dozens of bags in my garbage can, which you are welcome to inspect). When I say I have not so much as driven by your house since the day after your visit last week, you may rely on it.

You may also rely on the fact that I have reached the end of my patience as regards your behavior towards my wife. I feel that she--and I--have responded in an exceedingly reasonable and fair manner to your complaints that, I must observe, were articulated with unnecessary aggression and threats. I'm sure if our positions were reversed, you and your husband would feel the same way. So it should come as no surprise that I must now ask you to avoid further contact with my family, unless you are prepared to do so in a calm and courteous way.

Should you decline to contact me, which is your perfect right, then I will consider this letter the final word on the subject and hope that we may now put this matter to rest.

I thank you for kind attention and hope that you accept this letter in the spirit in which it is offered: as a good-natured attempt to deal with you in a reasonable manner.


If you persist in holding me responsible for the misdeeds of another, if you persist in harassing my family, then you will learn something about me that none of our neighbors could tell you: That when I have exhausted all efforts to be reasonable, I am fully prepared to be unreasonable. That the interval in which I will permit my family to feel threatened is very short, and once it has expired, I will not simply react. I will over-react. That as good a neighbor as I am capable of being (and still am willing to be to you), I am that much more implacable and unrelenting an antagonist. You have told my wife repeatedly that you know who I am. If you press me on this matter any further, you may discover to your chagrin that, in fact, you do not have the vaguest idea with whom you are dealing.

But I am confident that is a discovery you need not make. And so I thank you again for your attention and extend to you every good wish. Please give my regards to Mr. Belfry, unless he's already reading this. In which case, he can help himself.


What do you think? Should I slip it in their door tonight?

Or tie it to a rock and put it through their window?

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Well done, sir. You could make a nice living dealing with unpleasantness on behalf of others. Like Harvey Keitel in "Pulp Fiction." Only... not exactly.

I think slipping it in the mailbox will suffice, maybe with a picture of your poop-filled garbage can for good measure. Perfumed, for her pleasure.
"(In fact, one might go so far as to call your action "reckless," a term I believe you are familiar with.) "

No way! You did a background on her and got a police report, didn't you? She's got a reckless driving rap! Am i right?

She is SO fucked if she driving on a suspended license, whipping a car in front of my sister-in-law and my neice!

People, you know I hate to give the kid any credit, but when he gets all scary polite like this, it's time to bend over and kiss your ass good-bye.

I feel so sorry for those poor crazy shits.

Yr. Bro
Well I enjoyed that, but I doubt she will be able to understand it. All the big words, you know!

Maybe you need to add a sentence that includes the words "restraining order" and something about the legal definition of harassment.
I agree w/ Rurality-- I doubt she'll even bother finishing the letter. Doesn't seem like a very intelligent woman. But well written!!

I can't believe she drove up to your house like that!!! I'm all for keeping the peace, but I would absolutely be in her face right now, especially after the second encounter!! GOODness.
woah. deep breathes, mm. as much as i enjoyed reading it, i rather doubt your neighbor will get it - all those big, scary words.

also, one could, if crazy, feel threatened by the second half of your letter and feel compelled to escalate... maybe by going to the police. so far, you're the only one putting anything remotely threatening in writing. that'll come back at you.

in addition, if you put it in her mailbox, you may be violating federal mail laws. i don't know the laws well, but in college we were warned NOT to put any fliers in boxes for any reason 'cause we weren't federal employees.

maybe you could do a rewrite, explain the entire history, send it to the sheriff and cc the crazies? you've got cause since the crazy bitch nearly ran over the brownie and hls.

good luck!!
Lose the last few paragraphs, it is threatening, and I can't imagine you want to put that on paper. Also, you should ask a neutral party to deliver the letter. You should never again set foot on or near her property.

The above written by a father and husband.
That depends:

How good is your arm,

And how fast can you run?

I suggest using this:
I felt it was too strong and too long as well. Writing is generally not a good medium for smoothing out misunderstandings with crazy people. What is that they say about catching flies with honey? Maybe flowers or cookies with a nonthreatening note about how you want to be good neighbors might help. You don't want her to hate you more, right? You just want her to chill.

Stu? Is that the same Stu that wanted to lie and do all kindsa crzy stuff to get back at these folks?

Unless things have really changed and he's gone wackadoo, I don't think this letter's going anywhere. this is how he vents. Even if he was crazy, he's not stupid.

Ok, not THAT stupid.

But I STILL think he did a background check on her.

Yr. BB
As much as I'd love to see you deliver this letter (via rock) as is, I agree with Stu - treat the last few paragraphs as a cathartic exercise, but delete them before you send it.
Good letter.. but too long. How about just enclosing your business card & asking them to contact you to discuss the misunderstanding? Or maybe go over there, without your dog, and ask them to talk about it? I'd stay away from putting it in their mailbox.. as that is "screwing with the mail".. and leave it on their front door. I'd probably tape it on their door, actually.. to make sure it doesn't get blown away or lost when the door opens/closes.

Good luck!

But it is fun to *think* about...

Take that letter - exactly as it is.

Place into a brown paper lunch bag.

Also, place some of Blazey's best, smelliest, most recent "work". (You know, the stuff you have been accused of NOT scooping - the stuff you invited her to "review" in the trash can)

Carefully place the bag, with the letter, and the "deposit" inside on the front porch.

Click that BIC, apply FIRE, ring the doorbell, and RUN!!!

Remember - this is ONLY fun to THINK about... don't actually DO it!

But, take pictures if you do!

But, don't, OK?

But, just think how much fun it would be...
Trust me, letters are a waste of time.

Post a no tresspassing sign at your house and call the police the next time she shows up.

Or have HLS videotape you picking up poop throughout the neighborhood, and mail THAT to her. I bet she doesn't actually know who you are.

Or, you could try yelling at her -- that worked in our case.

We had a similar experience with "the crazy neighbor" -- although not involving dog doo-doo. In our case the neighbor came out and screamed at us for putting our recycling in his recycling bin. (The one provided and owned by the city. The one we did NOT use, as we have access to the one right next to our house/driveway, also provided and owned by the city. Every house has one.)

His "proof" was that our recycling bin was full, and so he knew we were using his. He was also waving a letter that he said had our name on it, but I find that surprising since we were never introduced and so how could he know our name? (We referred to them as "the six o'clock neighbors, for reasons that I won't go into now.)

Anyway I was pissed; pissed at being accused of something I didn't do; and pissed at being accused of something so absurd.

So I yelled back at him, making every effort to seem even crazier than HE was. My husband yelled at him too, for yelling at me. It seemed to work, and he moved a few months later.

Yes, it's the same Stu (why do I feel like I should say it in Bob Dole's voice?)... What I'm saying is that lying, done correctly, can't be disproved. Putting something like a threat in print is admissable in a court of law (as compared with a food court, where it won't even get you extra ketchup). I'm for winning here, don't get me wrong, but I'm also for getting away with it.
I bet that felt good to write out.
I wouldn't send it. Crazy people will interpret things in the craziest way possible, and even invent things out of thin air (or thick doggy-doo, as may be.) Mrs. Belfry will take it all wrong. I wouldn't hesitate to call in the cops should she try something else.

Here's some fabulous fuel for the fantasy fire. MM, how many folks with dogs do you know? I bet there are quite a few. Wouldn't it be great if you could get together a few dozen dogs for a big poop-a-thon on the Belfry lawn? With yourself and Blazey conspicuously absent, of course. You could arrange this for when the Belfries are not home.
Hmmm, I see possibilities...
Why not get your dog to deliver the letter.

Have it scratch at their door and then poop on their "Welcome" mat.
i agree with stu. take out the last few paragraphs. it's threatening, it'll escalate the situation, *and* it's down in black and white. not the best move.
OMG, you guys are so sweet! I'm filled with both appreciation for your concern and outright guilt that I should cause it in the first place.

My brother has the measure of me: This is how I vent (of course, he has the advantage. When I was 9, my Sunday school teacher called the house to inform my parents that I had written a story titled "My Big Brother Who Went to Hell").

For the record: I am NOT sending the letter. Never was. Honest. I just needed some catharsis and once it was all out on the screen, it seemed a shame to waste it, so I decided to let you see it.

However, it IS time to put a stop to this nonsense. I have a plan in motion, and I can assure you it does not involve writing overlong letters filled with pretty words that might be used against me in a court of law.

But it's nice to know you guys care.
Leave out the last paragraphs (from "However.." on). It's not necessary, and almost guarantees an increase, rather than a decrease, in hostility from your neighbor (and probably her husband). No one receiving a letter with such paragraphs could possibly see you and your entirely reasonable objections as friendly -- it's the literary equivalent of taking brass knuckles to your otherwise friendly conversation. There may be plenty of time to refer to your unreasonable possibilities if she responds. It's important that, should this situation grow more serious, your behavior continue to be above reproach.

To that end, you might cc: your local police department or your neighborhood association, if you have one. There's no harm in making a record of your interaction with your neighbor and causing her to think of how her actions might appear to a disinterested onlooker. In any case, don't fail to keep a copy of the letter, should you send it.

Finally, re: proofreading, "who you met last Thursday" should be "whom you met last Thursday", and "I thank you for kind attention" should be "I thank you for your kind attention".
"B. Belfry"...hahaha :D
" is clear you and your husband Bob are people who treasure their privacy,..."

Since you asked, wouldn't it be " is clear you and your husband Bob are people who treasure your privacy,..."? I'm conflicted. I think you're right, but it throws me a little in the reading of it.

" is clear you and your husband Bob treasure your privacy,..." is simpler, but then you didn't ask for editing. ;]

I'm glad my suspicion that you weren't going to send it was correct as enjoyable a read as it was.

Writing out simple accounts of the incidents with dates, times, and locations would be useful to get on the record somewhere (neighborhood council, police,...). I wish you the best of luck.
I might suggest screeching into HER driveway when her husband is outside and accusing his wife of shitting in YOUR yard. But I think he might actually believe you. Nutters!
Since you were never go to send it in the first place, I think it's perfect. The $10 words definitely would have gone right over her head though.

Feel better?

I'm more excited & curious about the plan you have in motion. Intelligence, sanity & shrewdness can be a hell of a lot scarier than crazy sometimes. Especially if you are leading a coup with the neighbors.

With MM's tenaciousness - there could be a for sale sign on that property before you know it!
Hon -

As a paralegal, trust me when I say that you want to be very careful about putting a "threatening" message in writing. Please seriously consider rewording the last few paragraphs. You don't want her to be able to take your letter to the police and have you arrested for "terroristic threats".

If you really wanted to cause a stir, you should use a soldering iron to burn it into their front door. :)

OK, probably not.
I think it's a great letter, but I'm glad you're only using it as a catharsis. I've had to write several letters lately to some crazies of my own (my apartment complex management) and trust me, they do no good. The letter could come back to bite your ass, but I do NOT think you should just leave this alone.

I can't wait to hear what you DO decide to do to fix this problem of a woman. :) We're all on your side, MM!
An absolutely *wonderful* letter, MM! Except for those last two paragraphs. Trust me, I understand the desire for her to see them, but I'm certain she will get the message if you leave them out (I did!!). I'm in law school and, on a technical note, if anything does happen to her or her property after she receives that letter, no doubt she will think it was because of you - she's nuts - and that road is a stupid and expensive one, so just don't bother.

Especially as you get in a LOT of REALLY good, well-written, insults at her all throughout the rest of the letter, and they're politely facade-d (oh if only I had your talent!) - wonderful, just wonderful. Mail it to her by certified mail, return receipt requested (Post Office has forms). That way you don't have to set foot on her property, and you'll know she received it. Getting a process server or sherriff is completely unnecessary.

Good luck to you MM! I've enjoyed sharing this communal cackle and rubbing-o-the-hands. Have a wonderful day! :)
OK, you've said it was just a cathartic exercise and others have already pointed out that sending a threatening note isn't very good from a legal standpoint. Understood.
However, I'd seriously consider one of two actions.

Send a toned down letter (removing the last couple of paragraphs, or any reference to vengeful tactics) and cc your local police department. In that way, you will be on record as having tried to amicably settle the situation, should any escalation occur on her part.

OR you could relate the entire story to the police, without using the letter in any way, and see if they wouldn't like to do your dirty work for you. I believe you might have a reasonable claim that she drove to endanger. Of course, it's your word (or HLS's) against hers, but you also have the rest of your neighbors to back you up as regards the character of Mrs. B. Belfry.

In any case, please let us know what happens (as if you wouldn't...)

And, yes, it is illegal to put anything other than USPS deliveries in a mailbox. I know, because when I ran for state rep I had to avoid doing so, just in case someone might have wanted to hassle me unduly and cost my campaign time/money/aggravation.
A) Glad to hear that this was just a venting and not a plan of action. Venting is an excellent way to avoid jail (or Hell)

B) If you address someone directly, it is "You respect *your* privacy." If you address someone indirectly, it is "You are someone who respect's his/her/their privacy." (Correct/Incorrect?)

C) I like the idea of accusing the wife of shitting on your lawn; that is a fabulous seed of funniness.

D) Don't feel bad Mr. Man. I won't speak for others here, but for me, it feels good to support you. Your writing has been such a boon, and yet I get it for free. So to be able to pay you back in even the slightest way, well, that makes me happy.
I think the most reasonable response would be to tie the letter to an exceedingly bag full of dog crap and toss that (along with some photos of a hand putting said crap in the trash) through the window.
exceedingly full bag, I meant. Am a dyslexic typer today.
I'm so sorry your family has become the focus of the neighbourhood wing-nut. My advice is to actually call your local community police station (is there one close by?)…not to be a fraidy-cat but just because I worked for the police for a few years including two as a 911 operator, and it’s always wise to make a report and get it in writing. Especially since she was reckless yesterday while she was in her car, and HLS and the wee Brownie were on foot.

What a ridiculous woman. Just have the police know your side before SHE calls them and makes you out to be the bad guy...
Okay- not only do I find it HILARIOUS that most everyone thought the request to "proofread" was a serious one, I am secretly laughing that no one has pointed out the fact that Mrs. B. Belfry is quite a clever pseudonym. As in Bats in her Belfry. I've lurked here, and read everything, since almost the beginning (being a fan of the Elizabeth Cherry) and MM, you should know- I have never been quite so entertained. You are an incredibly gifted story teller. Thanks for that.
*pouts* Well, I guess my comment was short...
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