Love Thy Neighbour by Boitumelo M

The garden view in the front lawn provided a lush scenery from the living room. Raymond took pride in his picture-perfect garden: the trees were nicely trimmed, his grass was always cut and evergreen, there were no signs of weed. The flowers looked perky on a sunny day. He enjoyed most evenings when the day cooled off in his man-made oasis.
Seated on his favourite leather chair, he read the morning newspaper spread across in mid-air. With reading glasses hovering just above the paper, he kept an eye out for the neighbour's mischievous dog.
"Would you like a cup of tea, Ray?" his wife Nandi his called out from the kitchen.
"Ja," he grumbled.
"Breakfast will be ready in a minute. You should come join me."
"Put my plate in the oven. I need to catch that damn dog in action. I know that creature has been messing around in my garden and the owners are doing nothing."
"I told you to quit fussing about that, it's not good for your blood pressure."
"Finding dog crap on my lawn is not good for my blood pressure." He said.
Nandi placed a tray with a teapot, two cups, sugar and milk on the antique table. She carefully poured the steaming brew in the cups and took her place beside him on her rocking chair. She pulled out her knitting material from a bag on the floor as Raymond stole a sideway glance and just as quickly returned his attention to the paper.
"Aren't you eating?"
"Ray, in the forty-four years we've been married I've never eaten alone and I'm not about to start now."
He reached for his cup of tea and in his peripheral view he spotted movement in the garden.
"I told you!" The cup shattered on the tiled floor in his haste to stand up.
"Raymond! What has gotten into you?"
"It's the bloody dog, Nandi. Messing in my garden."
He hurried to the door on his stubby legs, relying heavily on his cane.
"Hey! Hey! Get that bloody dog off my lawn!" He waved his cane frantically in the air.
"Is there a problem, sir?" asked a lean, balding man staring intently at his cell phone.
"Yes! The problem is I have to avoid landmines of crap when I get my paper in the mornings."
"Milan is just doing a little bit of exploring, he is a very curious boy."
"I don't care, get him off!!! I'm tired of cleaning up your dog's crap. You should keep it on a leash."
"That's no civil way to treat an animal."
"Young man. You need to find a way of keeping that animal far away from my garden, but first pick that up."
He stormed back in the house, pleased to have finally confronted the neighbour.
"Nandi, we can have breakfast now," he called out.
"You owe me a new teapot set, Ray. You just had to break the cup from my favourite set."
"Was it the one your mother gave you on our wedding day?"
"Then it wasn't your favourite."
"Oh, stop it, Ray." Her warm smile defined the creases around her kind eyes. She set the table as she'd done every morning for the past forty-four years. Their marriage never bore them children. For the longest time that reality had left her with an unbearable ache. The years she spent with Ray in this loving union alleviated feelings of inadequacy.
"I'm going to need you to drive by the store, I need a few ingredients. There's a church bake sale tomorrow."
"Making your special cupcakes again? They were the best sellers last year."
"That was a wonderful surprise. I'm just glad we were all able to raise money."
"Ja. That was good. We were able to get much needed renovations done at the church. Write me the list of what you need, I also need a few garden tools."

Raymond washed his hands in the outside sink, he'd been cooped up in his garden shed for most of the morning. Whistling a jazzy tune, he was oblivious to Nandi's approaching footsteps.
"There you are!"
"Jesus! Nandi, you need to stop sneaking up on me."
"You've been in that shed all morning. What were you doing?"
"Nothing important."
"Is that blood?"
"Ja. I cut myself with a tool."
"Let me see..."
"No, it's not that serious. I'll take care of it myself."
"Are you sure?"
"Ja. I am, Nandi. Do you need a ride to the children's shelter?"
"No, Isaac is taking us."
"Alright then. I'm sure the kids will appreciate the toys."
"Yes. We raised enough money at the bake sale to buy them books as well."
"That's great, Nandi. You are doing beneficial work in the community and I'm proud of you."
Even after forty-four years an endearing compliment from her husband filled her with elation.
They heard a car pull up in their drive-way. "Oh that must be, Isaac. I'll see you when I get back and take care of that wound."
"Safe travels."

The afternoon sun blazed on from the cloudless sky. Raymond took refuge in his shaded garden. Reading the newspaper, he frowned upon a story about a corrupt government official.
"Hello, hello, sir," called out a voice.
He looked up to find the lean, bolding man standing on his grass.
"Use the path and stay off the grass," he ordered.
"Oops. The grass is lovely by-the-way."
"What do you want, young man?"
"It's Milan, he's gone missing. I was wondering if you've seen him."
"And why would I tell you if I have?" he charged back.
"Please, sir. He's probably scared and alone wherever he is."
He took a measured sip of his ice-cold glass of water.
"The last time I saw your dog it was defecating in my garden. And you weren't exactly sympathetic when I told you. Now here you are expecting me to help you find a dog I do not care for."
He chuckled and carried on reading the paper.
"You bastard! You know where Milan is. Tell me."
"Young man. I won't be disrespected in my own home. You should leave," Ray said.
"This is no coincidence. A week after your confrontation Milan goes missing. It proves you had something to do with his disappearance."
"It proves nothing because you have no evidence that I did anything. I don't even have to defend myself against your outrageous allegations because I did nothing wrong."
"This is not over," said the man angrily as he stormed off.
"Keep off the grass!
He abruptly turned around and vulgarly flipped Ray off and continued with his speedy departure.

Raymond slowly stirred the pot as he added another pinch of salt. A spice infused aroma filled the kitchen. Cooking wasn't his forte but he could easily whip up a meaty stew.
"Ray, Ray," called out Nandi.
"In the kitchen!" he shouted in response.
"You cooked," she said, disbelief colouring her tone.
"Yes. But it's for the neighbour. He came by this afternoon distraught, apparently his dog is missing."
"That's a shame. When did that happen?"
"He didn't say. But he seems to think I have something to do with his dog's disappearance. It's no secret I didn't like the creature but I didn't do this."
"Of course you didn't. You're a good man, Ray."
"How did it go at the children's shelter?"
Nandi got seated and placed her belongings on the kitchen table. "It was wonderful. The children were a pleasure, we should do such things more often. I brought back some leftover soup."
"I'm not hungry. I'll just finish off this stew and take it to that young man."
"I'll make some tea then."
The last rays of the sun held on to the sky. Raymond made his way across the street, his cane clanking on the surface. He carried the stew in his other hand, holding it closely against his chest. Carefully he navigated the steps leading to the brightly lit porch. He rang the doorbell and waited. Excitement bubbled in him threating to burst out in a fit of hysterical laughter. He heard footsteps approaching the door from the inside.
"Hello." A black average height man answered the door, wearing thick rimmed glasses. He was completely bold unlike his partner.
"Good evening." Raymond tipped his head. "I heard about your dog and..."
"Hold on. Steve come in here. This man has information about Milan."
Steve's pace halted when he spotted Raymond in the doorway. "That man is the one who took Milan."
"No. I did no such thing. I just came to apologize for earlier, so I brought you this stew. I should've tried to be more understanding and if I hear anything about the dog I'll let you know."
"The black man reluctantly accepted the dish. "Thank you."
"And if I hear anything, anything at all I'll be the first to let you know." He turned to leave.
"I'm sorry too," said Steve coming closer to the door. "I shouldn't have accused you of anything especially when I have no proof of what happened."
"It's alright, young man. All we need to do now is to find the dog."
"Yes. We want Milan back home."
A small smile shaped Raymond's lips. I'm certain he'll be found."