Son (who was visiting): What is the man next door up to these days?
Daughter: He seems to have been working lately.
Son: I gather that he has gone downhill quite a lot since he moved into his house, which was about the same time as I moved in here, when I lived in this house. I thought he seemed very nice in those days, bright and enthusiastic, and not at all derelict. But he did make mistakes even then.
One day when I was at home I heard a lot of noise on the roof. I went out into our yard, where I could see the roof and what was going on. There was a long ladder leaning up against the back wall of the house next door, and sitting right on top of his high roof was the man next door.
I called out to see if he was OK.
"Yes", he said. "I've lost my keys, and I'm getting inside through a hole in the roof."
There was no obvious hole in his roof, but there must have been some loose roofing iron that he was trying to move, so he could lift up one edge and squeeze inside, into the roof space.
Alpha: I witnessed something similar one day. First, there was a big crash into the side yard of the house next door, just after I saw a long ladder fall backwards, away from the house. At the same time I heard loud scratching, and angry exclamations from the roof.
When I got outside to see what was happening, there was the man next door perched on top of his high roof, ringing someone on his mobile phone. He was stuck up there, maybe because it was no longer possible for him to get inside by moving sheets of roofing iron. He must have wanted someone to put the ladder back up, so he could come down. It took half an hour for someone to come and rescue him.
ONE EVENING. (The sound of the man next door chopping up firewood.)
Daughter: No matter what time he gets home from the pub at night I hear the man next door outside, chopping up firewood. It must be so cold in his house, now it is winter.
Mother: Yes. Especially with no glass in so many windows upstairs. When the lights are on at night you can see the blue of the back of the sisalation he has installed under the roofing iron. I guess it will be a long time before he replaces the upstairs ceilings.
I wonder how his girlfriend copes with his cold house.
SOME WEEKS LATER.
Mother: I'm pleased to see that the man next door has put sisalation over the glass-less windows upstairs, to keep out the cold and wind and rain.
Have you seen his girlfriend lately?
Daughter: No, she disappeared suddenly a few weeks ago. Since then his old girlfriend seems to be back sometimes, the one who pisses in a bucket outside. He was at the front of the house with her last night, and this morning an empty wine bottle had been left out there.
Mother: I wonder what happened to his nice girlfriend, the one that once laughed a lot?
Older Daughter (who was visiting): Maybe he murdered her!
Mother: I've seen a big hole in his kitchen floor, inside his back door. Now there is a big piece of wood over the hole. Maybe he buried her there.
Daughter: The man next door's ute was towed away again yesterday. That must be about the fourth time lately. If it is continually breaking down I wonder if he still has his job? The ute is out the front today with the big tool boxes still on the back, but no ladders. Alpha saw him making his lunch a few weeks ago, no doubt before he went to work. It was avocado in a roll.
There's nothing happy to say about the man next door at the moment. You just wonder how long he can keep going. He definitely seems to be going down hill.
We saw him outside the pub the other day, and he looked quite derelict. He seems to just match his derelict-looking house, which he is supposed to be doing up.