Nice Neighbours

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I moved into my aunt’s old house.

Why not! I had just taken a new job in this town and needed a place to stay. And my aunt had just moved into a retirement home and her big wish was that I should take care of the house after all.

It was a semi-detached house from the 1930s in the leafy suburbs. And since I went to work by car anyway, I didn’t mind that I had a longer way to get to my company. I was now working at the headquarters of a corporation as a marketing manager.

On the contrary, I loved living in the countryside. There was a nice, not too big garden. And the noise of the neighbours’ children didn’t bother me much either, I’m not like that.

In a few weeks I had furnished the interior of the house and also the garden according to my ideas, cut back the hedges and removed the old-fashioned wallpaper in the house and painted it fresh. I also threw out the ugly oak wall unit and replaced it with a modern set of lacquer, metal and glass. But I left the sofa, which was already so old that it was becoming hip again.

So I liked to lie in my hammock between the two plum trees after work and browse or sleep or just enjoy the surroundings. It was summertime, hot and I was glad of the shade in my garden.

My neighbour, who lived in the second half of the house, was called Karl.

I found him likeable, he was a small wiry guy with clever eyes and nimble hands. He was also not pushy, more modest, and I saw that he developed a lot of initiative in his garden.

He built his children a climbing frame with a swing, a sandbox and even a kind of tree house in the old walnut tree, and did so with great skill.

I’m not clumsy, but I thought to myself, if I ever need help, I’ll definitely ask him.

Karl had three children with his wife Christine, the older boy was nine, the girl seven and the youngest was six. The little rascals were very bright.

His wife Christine was also very nice. She had an everyday face, her bosom and bottom were quite respectable, already a little motherly thicker, and a wide waist. Otherwise, her figure would probably have been classy.

But I liked the way they brought up their children, calm and unagitated.

And I also made them relax when I explained to them that I had no problem with children who played wildly sometimes.

In the evenings, I often went with Karl to the pub for a beer when the children were asleep and his wife was still tidying up the household. Then we always had a good chat about our work or the garden. Rarely also about raising children and how that could be reconciled with married life.

These conversations were rather delicate, he didn’t go into detail, but it seemed to be a difficulty for him. I did not ask any further questions.

What struck me, however, was that he always took care of the house and garden, while Christine only looked after the children. I hardly ever saw them talking to each other. That didn’t mean that they didn’t have a good relationship, on the contrary, I had the feeling that there was a quiet harmony between them, but really ‘quiet’.

One evening, when the two of us were chatting over a beer again and the occasion was favourable, I brought up the subject of things being so harmonious between him and his wife. Karl sighed and said that Christine was really a good soul, so frugal and patient. He couldn’t wish for a better partner.

I kept silent and enjoyed this harmony with him.

— — —

My company had given me tickets for the city theatre. They were box seats for a Schiller drama. And two tickets of that.

Two tickets!

Why did they give me two?

They knew I was divorced and lived alone.

I asked Karl if he would be interested in an evening of classical theatre. Although, I could have given myself the answer in advance.

Nah, it’s not his thing.

But he wanted to ask Christine, who is more educated in cultural matters and doesn’t get out of the house and away from the children enough anyway.

All right.

Karl then came and told me that Christine was thinking of coming along if Karl would put the children to bed alone.

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