#23: The Case of the Well-Dressed Weirdo
Although the Shut-Ins rarely leave their house, they don’t feel cut off from the outside world. They reside in a lively neighborhood, and from their front window the cousins keep abreast of the many goings-on: the drunken brawls, the fender benders, the passers-by mistaking cars for bathrooms. One recent morning, however, things were more lively than usual. The disturbance was coming from a young man who appeared to be conducting an animated discussion with the Shut-Ins’ drainpipe. Just who was this mysterious man, and what was he up to?
The Shut-Ins were baffled. He did not appear to be using a cellular phone or one of those fancy headsets. If there was technology involved here, it was covert and advanced. Was he perhaps a spy, or a visitor from the future?
Jenny thought the explanation might be more straightforward. “Isn’t that the same young man who sometimes stands in the middle of the street and screams ‘bitch tits’?” she asked. “My guess is he’s drunk or crazy.”
Peter disagreed. “He’s got highlights, and really stylish shoes. I don’t think a crazy drunk would be that on top of the trends.”
Jenny took a closer look. “You’re right,” she sighed. “He’s better-groomed than either of us.” This depressed the Shut-Ins for a minute. While they were wallowing in self-pity, the answer became clear. “I’ve got it!” Jenny shouted. “The young man isn’t a spy—he’s a hipster. Talking to inanimate objects must be some hot new spiritual practice, like yoga.” Peter nodded in agreement. “Cousin, I believe you’ve got it. I also believe this could be bigger than T.M.”
The mystery was solved. The cousins spent the rest of the afternoon talking to the faucets, because they like to keep up with the fads.
#24: The Case of the Creepy Neighbors
Because it is pleasant and sunny, it is Peter and Jenny’s habit to spend a good deal of time on their back porch. This pleasure is compromised, however, by the neighbors whose backyard borders their own. From their third-floor perch, the cousins have a bird’s eye view into this eyesore, home to a thousand rain-soaked beta porn tapes, fifty pairs of broken crutches, and mysterious piles shrouded under blue tarps. Just what was wrong with these people? It was an enigma, all right.
Peter thought they might belong to some secretive foreign clan. “This one time, the matriarch tried to engage me in conversation when she came outside to burn a tire or slop the pit bulls, and her speech was full of alien words: ‘went fer’… ‘puddin’… ‘terlet.’ I bet they use the crutches and beta porn for their arcane foreign rituals.”
Jenny thought they might be involved with organized crime. “I believe they’re operating what is known as a ‘fence.’ They store stolen black-market goods until they ‘cool’ down, and then they unload them at a tidy profit.” “Who would buy soggy porn tapes and broken crutches?” Peter asked. Jenny frowned. “I don’t think we want to know.”
At this point the detectives realized they didn’t want to know one bit more about the whole sorry business. “Prying didn’t do Jimmy Stewart much good,” Peter observed, and with that they decided to suspend the investigation. They further decided they didn’t have the energy to move, or to get the offending neighbors evicted. They resolved to spend time on the porch only after dusk, when the hazy glow of the setting sun and their cocktails transformed the neighbors’ trash into a lovely twinkling tableau.