While the kettle boils, I’ll stand perched on my toes by the sink and watch the neighbours’ TV. Through their blinds I've watched A Current Affair, Masterchef and The Block. Sometimes, I will see a man’s bald spot staring back at me. Once they threw a large branch over the fence and into our backyard. We saw it coming: a branch with hands attached lobbed into our bushes. ‘More firewood for us,’ I thought, although I wonder why they just didn't put it in their green bin.
But the worst thing about them, the unforgivable thing, is the way they treat their dogs. Two blue heelers, one slightly smaller than the other. Both have bellies that hang low to the ground. They live in the backyard and they’ve never been inside the house. I hear them whine at night, when it's cold and raining and they’re left to shiver in dirty kennels.
I go and stand by the fence, when the neighbours’ cars are gone. One of the blue heelers will come up to me, paws scraping at the timber fence. I wrestle with her ear and coo softly. The other has been alone too much, not enough human attention. She (I think they're sisters) won't come. She will stand metres away, barking. I never stay too long, I don’t want someone to see and say something.
They’ve been out of the house once. It was a Saturday when the woman I see occasionally weeding the front garden was walking them. That was the only time they’ve left the backyard in three years. Well at least as far as I know. But I do spend a lot of time at home.
They’ll bark at me in the mornings, when I'm sitting outside drinking a coffee and scrolling through Twitter. They know I'm there and they talk to me. Let us out, they cry. We want to be free, they mumble. I would take them, I would, if the fence wasn’t so high. I’d pick them up and put them in my garden. ‘There you go,’ I’d say, ‘it’s your new home’ and they would bark and circle me in delight.
Last week, I woke up to no barks. Which is strange for a Sunday. I went outside and nothing. I peek over the fence and can’t see them. I run to the side of the house, lean over the rose bushes and stand on my toes. Their kennels are gone, with a trail of dust showing they have been dragged away.
‘They’ve got a better home now,’ I think. I take a moment to kick the fence, then go back inside to make a cuppa.