By Eric Waldron
There’s trouble brewing on Keswick Road in Royal St. Augustine.
Once a quiet golfing community that prided itself on its summer night cookouts, well-manicured lawns and an absolute adherence to the ten miles an hour speed limit, Keswick Road is showing its darker side.
Roaming cocktail parties have given way to snooping eyes between window blinds and afternoon meetings at the mailbox full of dark whispers of the ‘problematic neighbors.’
Keswick Road is beginning to look a lot like Wisteria Lane.
The trouble began in late spring. Just as the mosquitoes started to make their presence known, a dark cloud rolled in over Keswick Road in the form of three vehicles, all slightly battered from various skirmishes in the sandlot behind Lewis House. Out of those vehicles stepped what every geriatric Republican on the block feared most: three college students with mix-matched furniture, glass bottles of liquid contraband and accounts on Facebook.
We didn’t choose such a neighborhood to escape a checkered past, to bury our baby’s drug-junkie momma in a toy chest in the backyard or become engaged to the pharmacist that will eventually kill our husband. We chose such a neighborhood to become good neighbors. We desperately wanted to fit in.
Despite our noble attempts to join in the neighborhood fun – bringing the bundt cake to cookouts, suggesting we host the next Harlequin book club meeting and offering to baby-sit, despite our secret hatred of anything under the age of 12 and sassier than we are – we have been universally shunned from all such neighborhood games.
Our neighbors must think of 1845 Keswick as some sort of suburban brothel – a revolving door of debauchery, if you will. There are never less than five cars in the driveway, or as I overheard it described once, “the road straight to hell,” with various sketchy characters (mostly of the freshman female persuasion) coming and going at all hours of the night.
But the real problems at our place started a few months after we moved in.
I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type and certainly didn’t move in equipped with my own lawn mower. So the minute our lush green lawn grew over the regulation three-and-a-half inches, the villainous deed restriction board was at our front door – clipboard in hand – demanding we read the ‘Manicured Lawn Manuscript’ required of all residents.
Three-and-a-half inches is a Royal Regulation, thank you.
Obviously, we didn’t want to be neighborhood hoodlums and agreed to take care of this alleged misdemeanor by immediately hiring the only lawn service three students in the food service industry could afford: the Lawn Lady.
I would have naturally preferred Jesse Metcaffe to trim my hedges but evidently he only plays a lawn boy on television. Trust me, I made phone calls.
But with the Lawn Lady’s reputation, we only knew it was a matter of time until she really made our presence known in the neighborhood.
Property lines evidently mean nothing to this renegade of the grass as she proceeded to sever an exposed sprinkler head from the middle of my neighbor’s lawn during her most recent morning buzz job.
Naturally, she failed to mention this incident as I ruler-inspected for the three-and-a-half Royal Regulation on my hands and knees.
A week later that neighbor left a passive-aggressive, handwritten letter in our mailbox pretty much asking us to stop doing doughnuts in his lawn.
Yes, the dark clouds rolled in over Keswick Road in the late spring but its three young residents are committed to waiting out the storm.
You see, the college student’s life in suburbia can be a challenging one with prejudices, misconceptions and wayward maintenance workers but it’s nothing they cannot overcome.
Even in the darkest of days, there is still that 12-month lease binding them there.