Karl was annoyed. He was annoyed at having to knock on the wooden door of his neighbor for the third time in the same month. He was annoyed at the gleaming trailer holding the sleek white boat that perpetually dripped over to block half of his driveway every time Charlie and Marie came back from shore. He was annoyed that his neighbors seemed to have no consideration for anyone else on the block.
The other man’s tanned, lean face hovered at the stain glass window that filled up the upper half of the door. Moments later the brass latch clicked inside and the mammoth doorway swung open. A wave of stale air that smelt of cleaning products, potpourri and Parisian cologne rolled over the threshold.
“Hey Karl.” Charlie smiled broadly and stepped to the side. Karl was motioned in with the wave of some tome Charlie wanted to appear to have been reading. It was thick, leather bound and looked expensive. “Come in, come in.”
“Thanks, Charlie.” Karl followed Charlie inside and was once again, instantly glad he wasn’t claustrophobic.
Everything within the four walls of this house was meant to overwhelm the visitor with excess.
Two tables heavy with delicate vases and fresh flowers had lined the short hallway that took only a few strides to walk down. The passageway opened up into the living room decked with huge padded chairs and a long elbow shaped couch. The rich colors swooned together and blended into the angular shapes within the floor to floor carpet.
On the walls hung one bulky framed painting after another bulky framed painting. There were some smaller pieces that weren’t rimmed with three inch gold just to add to the barrage of distorting angles.
Towering glass cases loomed at each corner, ladened with plates and statues and trinkets of every shape and size. Every other flat surface was covered with piles of academically titled magazines and books large enough to serve as tables on their own.
Karl wasn’t sure if any of it was worth what it seemed, but his neighbors were adamant about making that impression. They liked to make sure you knew they had money and weren’t afraid to spend it on anything that even remotely struck their fancy. Like the book in Charlie’s hand, the fact that their newest toy was parked over Karl’s driveway was not an accident.
Charlie dropped down into one of the cavernous arm chairs and pulled his foot and its smooth leather loafer on to his khaki covered knee. “Sit sit. Sorry Marie isn’t here. She’s out with her mother at The Club. Can I get you anything? A drink?”
Karl waved him off with both hands and strove to stay on the subject. He sat carefully on one of the couch cushions, only slightly worried about being sucked into the depths of the padding. He was more worried about a descent into a discussion of club activities or what the in-laws had their eye on buying next.
“No, thanks. I just wanted to talk to you about your boat.”
“Beauty isn’t she?”
“Yes. It’s a lovely boat. But it’s covering half my driveway again.”
“No.” On Charlie’s brow appeared a deep frown but Karl couldn’t help but notice the satisfied little smile that was creeping on to the other man’s face. “I’m sorry about that. I’ll grab my keys and move it right away.” Charlie started to angle himself out of the chair, but again Karl held up a pair of halting hands.
“Take your time.” For a few seconds, a debate rage in Karl’s mind. He hadn’t planned on bringing this up, but now, facing Charlie’s little smile, he couldn’t help himself. The lingering annoyance that had followed him to the door pushed him over the edge. “But if you could make sure it’s moved by tomorrow morning that would be really great.”
“What’s tomorrow morning?” Charlie’s frown seemed to become instantly more genuine.
“We have a delivery coming in and I want to make sure the truck has room.” Karl kept his tone off handed but the flicker of concern that filled Charlie’s brown eyes made him want to push the point home. He managed to keep himself reigned in, waiting for the inevitable question to fill the pause in their conversation.
“What are you getting delivered?”
“We’re getting a pool put in the back.” Karl’s level of satisfaction rose to a degree that exactly matched the enlargement of Charlie’s widening eyes.
“You don’t say?”
“Yeah, Lisa thought it’d be great for the kids and since things have been going so well for us we thought it was a good time.”
“Really, you guys are doing that well?” Charlie’s voice seemed to grow a bit hoarse. Perhaps he was the one in need of a drink.
Karl shrugged and tried to keep his voice light. “Yeah, we’ve been pretty lucky. Lisa just joined a larger practice and I had told you about my new position right?” Karl savored the other man’s slow nod. “I don’t mean to brag,” but he did anyway. “Director does pay a lot more than Assistant Director.”
“I’m sure I’m sure.” Charlie nodded. “Big investment though. A pool.”
Karl nodded. “We debated it for a while. But this is something we can enjoy for a long time. It’ll be in by the summer and then we’re having it heated so we can use it even in the fall and winter.”
“That sounds great,” Charlie said. His slow nod and corresponding sag in his shoulders seemed to silently suggest otherwise.
“I hope so.” Karl added a worried thread to his tone just to keep the conversation civil. “It should be great for asset. You’ll never believe what that kind of addition can do to the price of a house.” He felt the lopsided grin spread across his mouth but made sure it stayed neighborly.
“Well, that’s just great.” Charlie said, murmuring slightly and nodding once more.
Karl could see the thoughts racing through the other mans mind. He was weighing the numbers, considering the options and trying to figure out what he could buy to counter this new addition. Karl didn’t even want to think about the conversation that would ensue once Marie got back from her Club and found out.
Karl didn’t give Charlie time to come up with a countering bit of news to try and snatch away his moment.
“So you can move your boat?” Karl rose and Charlie did the same.
“Sure, sure. First thing in the morning.”
“That’d be great.” Karl stuck his hand out over a pile of the Economist. “Thanks, Charlie.”
Charlie added his half to the handshake.
Karl gave him a friendly grin. “I should get going. Got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Of course.” Charlie motioned again with the heavy book and the two men walked back to the front door.
“My best to Marie.”
“And mine to Lisa and the kids.”
The brass knob creaked like it was made to do and the hinges worked as silently as ever. Fresh air and sunlight poured back through the open door.
“See you later,” offered Karl as he crossed back onto the wide stone patio.
They exchanged a quick, manly pair of waves and then Karl headed back down the stone path that coiled artfully through clipped grass and towards home.
He went with a priceless bounce in his step.