>The house Jesse moved into was nondescript, in the best sort of way. Tucked away—or as tucked away as houses could be—in a quiet street lined with trees and pleasant birds, it was a simple brick home with white painted walls and a small front garden that required neither too little nor too much attention to look just right. Jesse took a day off work and began to move in on a Friday, and by Saturday night not only were all his possessions now contained in the new house, they were in just about the places he wanted them to be.
On Sunday morning, he opened his new front door—everything was so new, as if the house and all its accoutrements had just been created—and stared out into the thin mist of a crisp sunrise. Breathing deeply, jangling his set of new keys in his pocket, he started to stroll down his new street, vaguely in search of a Sunday paper, but really wishing his feet to take him anywhere they pleased.
To the right-hand side of Jesse’s house was a small leafy park, where the street intersected with the next corner. Jesse decided to walk the other way, however, to experience the more neighbourly feeling of walking past the houses that shared his street. The house directly next door to Jesse was of an older style, fibro or weatherboard, and seemed slightly unkempt, compared to the rest of the street. It had peeling paint and the roof looked as if it had been picked up and put back down back to front. Still, Jesse thought, it had character.
Jesse wondered if it was too early in the morning to whistle. He decided no, and began an aimless tune that carried nicely through the thin morning air. He made it past the characterful house and walked past the next house along, a slightly taller home with a shin-high fence all the way around the front yard. The lawn was green but bare, save for what looked like a few very healthy lemon trees spotted around in no particular order.
“Morning!” came a rounded, mellifluous voice from somewhere nearby.
Jesse responded, “Morning!” without even knowing whose voice he had heard, such was its friendly tone.
Then the owner of the voice stepped out from behind one of the lemon trees, a shortish man in a paisley dressing gown. His right hand waved in a cheerful, side-to-side way. His left hand was wrapped in one end of a thick leash, which in turn was attached to a fuzzed mound of dog, currently defecating on the lawn.
“Beautiful morning!” said the short man, shielding his eyes from the sun. “Makes you feel glad to be still alive and kicking.”
“Sure does,” said Jesse, although he hadn’t really time to assess this statement for himself.
“Haven’t seen you along this street before,” said the short man. The dog was still squatting on the lawn, its raisin-like eyes turning to Jesse while yet more thick brown sausages plopped from its other end. “Oh, don’t worry about Cornelius,” said the short man, “this is the only time he does it. He’s got to get a day’s worth out.”
“Ah, yes,” replied Jesse. “I’m Jesse by the way. I’ve just moved in next door.”
“Next door?” The short man’s face drew itself inwards. He turned his head to the house with the strange roof. “Really.”
“Oh, not right next door,” explained Jesse. “Actually two doors down. Sorry, figure of speech I suppose.”
“Figure of speech,” replied the short man. “Of course.” Cornelius, finally satisfied that he was finally emptied, walked back behind the lemon tree.
“Lovely street,” said Jesse. “Makes you really feel at home, you know?”
The short man, whose eyes had remained trained on the strange roof house for some moments, seemed to suddenly snap out of a trance. He looked straight back at Jesse. “Where are my manners?” he said. “The name’s Wilson. Welcome to the neighbourhood.”