Yesterday, Sophia showed me another letter her father received from our Homeowners’ Association. It seems an unidentified neighbor had complained about “some new architectural elements” installed in Vito’s backyard. The Association’s communiqué informed him in a not so friendly fashion that all outdoor improvements to his property were supposed to be approved by the Architectural Design Committee, in advance. As the notice further stated, in the event Vito failed to submit an application for approval within seven days, severe penalties would follow.
The letter’s August 15 date leaves me only until Monday to submit the required application. Yes, me. I knew I’d been drafted to resolve Vito’s problem as soon as Sophia showed me the notice. Nonetheless, she felt compelled to confirm the obvious: “That’s right Richard; you’ll have to take care of this. God knows you need all the brownie points you can get, since you’re sure to piss off my parents again sooner.”
Though her general conclusion seemed accurate, I refused to let the mangled idiom pass uncorrected: “Honey, the expression’s supposed to be ‘sooner or later’.”
“Yes Richard, I know the expression. But in your case …”
My first thought this morning after surveying the in-laws’ backyard was: For a Sicilian who’s so adamant he’s not in the mafia, Vito certainly shows an unnatural love of concrete. The last time I’d gazed upon his property, an expanse of verdant grass had stretched from one end to the other. But as I gaped at what used to be a yard, all I could see were concrete constructions and dirt. In a few short weeks, Sophia’s father had terraced half his land from top to bottom with stone pavers, installed a large concrete patio below his second floor deck, and cordoned off the balance of his acreage (for use as a garden) using cinder blocks.
Practically the only grass remaining was an isolated swath in the center of the property – a green island in a sea of grey and brown. It looked positively forlorn, but not for much longer. Before I had time to ask my father-in-law if he’d had accidentally missed the spot, a truck bearing an enormous stone fountain arrived. I’d seen less gaudy structures in the Piazzas of Rome. Sure enough, Vito installed the monstrosity in his backyard directly atop that last lonely bit of carpeting.
I’ve handled my fair share of weak cases and lost causes, but none of them seemed as bleak as the application for Vito’s concrete paradise. Where we live, people prefer to see emerald vistas surrounding houses, and not what resembles the makings of a survivalist’s bunker. It’s times like this when I wish Sophia’s father actually had mafia ties. Because let’s face it, without threats, bribes or an outright whacking or two, I fully expect the Architectural Design Committee to deny Vito’s application. And when that happens, guess who’ll resume his near permanent spot on the in-laws’ shit list?
Add one fountain, and it’d look a lot like Vito’s backyard.