The Brother and the Mormon

by Bella Rum

One day The Brother answered a knock on his door. It was a woman from the neighborhood.

We don’t live in one of those developments where everyone has moved from somewhere else, a place where no one actually originated, a place where people only know each other from that moment forward, where no one shares a past – only a future. No, we don’t live in that sort of neighborhood.

I’ve lived in those communities, where everyone is in the same ballpark economically, and everyone can boasts adequate educational backgrounds. All the houses have a similar appearance, and the community association makes sure they are not painted some unsightly color that will bring property values down or, God forbid, cause one moment of discomfort to the sensibilities of another neighbor. In fact I own a house in one of those communities right now, and was living in it until I came home to care for Dad.

Within a few weeks of moving back home, I found myself immersed in the familiar, the personal history and the deep connection that can only be found in a neighborhood like ours. There are millions of them across America. We live in a neighborhood where a number of families have lived for hundreds of years, and we know each others aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters and parents and grandpappies. We know the histories and tales of relatives long dead. There are legends and stories and even a few ghosts, each with histories as rich and colorful as the Southern backdrop on which they’re spun.

We know who is honest and who will screw you; who has a strong work ethic and who is so lazy they would starve to death with their food right in front of them; we know who has money in the bank and who didn’t pay their electric bill last month. We know who has big money and how they came by it: honestly, dishonestly, inherited or by the sweat of their brow. We also have a few crazy people who we just call eccentric. We kind of like our crazy folks in the South. All of these things add character to a place that you just can’t find in one of those beautifully planned, homogeneous neighborhoods.

There’s no faking it when people knew you when you were still pooping in your diaper, and will probably come to visit you when you’re old and pooping in you diaper again. We have very deep roots here. I’m not saying that’s not a good thing, but you better not get caught with your pants down, cause everybody is gonna know it before you get home.

So when my brother opened his door to the familiar knock, it wasn’t surprising that he knew the woman on the other side. What he didn’t know was why she had made her way down his very long driveway, and what she wanted from him.

She smiled as she pushed a petition in his direction, and the following is the conversation that ensued.

Neighbor: I’m sure you’ve heard that the property across the creek sold and the new owners have applied for a building permit.

Brother: Yes, I heard that.

Neighbor: This is a petition asking the City not to issue them a building permit. I knew you’d want to sign it. You’re the closest neighbor besides the Hoggs.

Brother: Why is that?

Neighbor: I’m sure you’ve heard what they are.

Brother: What who is?

Neighbor: The new people. The ones who bought the property right across the creek.

Brother: Is there something I don’t know?

Neighbor: Well, apparently so.

Brother: What?

Neighbor: They’re Mormons.

Brother: Mormons?

Neighbor: Yes. Mormons.

Brother: They bought and paid for the property and it’s theirs. They can do whatever they want with it. I’m not going to sign something like that.

It was obvious that she was annoyed with him and he with her. She left in a bit of a huff, but that wasn’t the end of it.

A few days later, her son approached my brother and said, “You upset my mother.” My brother said, “She shouldn’t have come up to my house stirring the pot like that. Those people own their property just like we do.” It was uncomfortable, but they eventually agreed to disagree.

Jump forward several months. There was another knock on his door. He opened it, but this time it was a man, and he was not a familiar face. He too had a petition and handed it to my brother. He looked at it and realized it was the petition that everyone signed to prevent the Mormons from building.

The man said, “I’m your new neighbor. I’m the one who built the house across the creek from you.”

My brother stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”

The guy said, “Yours and your father’s names are the only ones missing on this petition. I just wanted to say thank you.”

My brother said, “No thank you needed.”

I did mention my brother’s long driveway? It turns out that the Mormon owns a landscape/snow removal company. Whenever it snows, my brother wakes to find his driveway the only one in the neighborhood that’s as clean as a spring morning.

The Mormon and my brother have little in common other than living across the creek from one another; only a wave or a nod or a clean driveway ever passes between them.