As God Is My Witness, Each Individual Shall Tote His Own Weary Load

Behind our house, across the alley, there lives a cohort of quasi-charming renters. Moving in after several disastrous previous occupancies, this group of young men demonstrates that young folk renting a house together don’t have to be feral beasts lacking even the most basic notion of boundaries. I mean, seriously, there’s a reason I regularly urinate a distinct line of piddle at the end of our driveway–no easy move for a dame, incidentally. I do it because I’m sending. a. message.

Indeed, because they behave as though at least one person in their childhoods cared enough about them to communicate the provision of the social contract titled “We Don’t Put Our Figurative Feet on the Figurative Furniture,” these young men have been fine neighbors. What’s more, I appreciate these fellows for restoring my faith in college boys (*typed the college instructor*).

At first, we weren’t sure about them. The previous tenants had behaved terribly poorly (as chronicled here and here, if you care to read stories of Nasty Renters Past), to the point where we were a bit shell-shocked and expecting the worst. Their first weekend in the house, when ten cars pulled up on Friday night and parked out on the avenue, I started warming up my digits for some late-night tapping out of 911 on the telephone keypad. However, in the best of all possible developments, each friend who parked his car out on the avenue also carried, from his car into the rental house,

a computer.

Turns out the new renters are committed computer geeks who host overnight LAN parties, wherein all comers hook up their computers, and then they sit around a big table in the dining room and game furiously into the wee hours.

That kind of partying is Neighborhood Watch Approved, for sure.

All in all, then, we’ve not minded this batch of renters–from a relative distance, with the occasional “Hi, how are you?” tossed out when we’re getting in our cars at the same time. Sometimes, I pull a little Mrs. Kravitz and peer through my window at them hanging out on the driveway, under-dressed for the weather, taking a smoke break in between rounds of first-person shooterizing. One time, I drafted the biggest guy, who then drafted three of his roommates, into helping Byron move an organ out of our basement.

For the most part, we exist in a state of benign indifference towards each other. Some of them are still at college; some of them have graduated and have jobs. We don’t chat, but their behaviors allow us to sleep at night, so I’mma call that a win.

My feelings toward them perk up when I’m feeling particularly Mrs. Kravitz, though. If I’m vacuuming the back porch and see one of them wandering around wearing only one shoe, I am delighted. If’ I’m watering seedlings that gain life on that same porch, and I see a young woman pull up and enter their house, I get giddy for The Lads and sometimes yell, inside the echoing cave of my head, “SCCCCOOOOORRRREEEE!”

And sometimes, when Winter is delivering Her loads, I find myself grinning wildly at this:

PLUM2GCan’t you just imagine the conversation that led up to this?

“It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. Who’s gonna buy the shovel?”

“I’m not buying a shovel. I don’t have any money. Plus, I hate shoveling. Someone else can buy a shovel.”

“I’m not buyin’ one. No way.”

“Not me.”

“Dudes, we need a shovel. I bought the beer last week. One of you has to buy the shovel. I only make $8 an hour; I can’t keep this house in beer AND shovel.”

Silence as they all try to outlast the others in unwillingness to Buy The Shovel.

Finally, the conversation starter announces, with great frustration, “Fine. I’ll buy a shovel. But it’s going to be my shovel, and I’m not sharing it with any of you losers. I’ll use it to shovel out my car, and my car only, and I’m keeping it in my room. You dorks cannot touch my shovel. EVER.”

The next day, six inches of snow fall. One guy easily digs his car out, throws his coveted shovel in the trunk, and drives off to work.

Three other guys are late to work because they had to spend an hour grubbing their cars out with meaty paws and the head of a broom (where did that handle go?).

Eight hours later, three meaty-pawed guys return home with newly-purchased shovels.

During a quiet moment when everyone’s characters are trudging to their next mission in Call of Duty that night, one of the renters notes, a bit too casually, “So, hey. It looks like we all have shovels now. Like, we don’t really need to sleep with them in our rooms or anything, what with us each having our own. Just maybe, you know, leave your shovel wherever. I won’t touch it.”

Thusly, the peaceable line-up of shovels is born.

Moments after Shovel Truce 2013 is established, though, The Short Guy announces, “Time out. I’m hungry.”

He walks to the fridge.

Opens it.

Stares inside.

Turns, accusingly, towards his roommates.


Simultaneously, three mop-topped, meaty-pawed figures drop their heads guiltily. One nibbles at a piece of fat under his fingernail while another picks a tidbit of meat out of his front teeth.

It is the Clever Guy who pipes up with a distracting, “Hey, forecast says snow tomorrow. Was my shovel orange or black? Do you guys care if I use one of your shovels by mistake?”


The answer to his question comes in the form of rapid-assault gunfire ricocheting out of three computers’ speakers. Blood appears on his screen.

How else will he ever learn that

Shovels Are Not For Sharing?





12 responses to “As God Is My Witness, Each Individual Shall Tote His Own Weary Load”

  1. Lil Avatar

    I want to know what you were doing with an organ in your basement, and where did it go?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      We’d gotten it maybe six or seven years ago off a Freecycle list (a church in town was getting rid of it), and it had been down in our “play room” in the basement since then. However, it was electronic and working less and less well–plus, the kids hadn’t touched it in a couple years–so we wanted to get rid of it. We listed it on Craigslist and Freecycle and had a couple nibbles, but no one ever showed up to actually GET it. So it’s been out in our garage, gradually being dismantled into pieces small enough to take to the landfill. Sad, really, but the thing was virtually dead there at the end. We’re euthanizing it.

  2. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar

    The only thing better than decent neighbors is the way you imagine they live together. Never has a group of college age boys been so entertaining and fascinating (at least in the last 15 years) as when I read your interpretation!

  3. lime Avatar

    i think you should use this as a creative writing assignment….alternate stories explaining the profusion of shovels…though yours is quite entertaining and easy to imagine.

  4. christopher Avatar

    …bold sign or not in the Fridge…short guy should know that a bunch of guys living together and leftovers doesn’t compute.

    And I like taking the shovel in the car trunk…to help me get out of snow and assure being able to make a round-trip.

  5. Bone Avatar

    Ah, this takes me back. Except I only had one roommate. But yeah, leftovers were good as gone, no matter how old/disgusting (read: safe) I thought they might have been. My favorite story was when the girl I was dating at the time tried making homemade biscuits for the first time, except she didn’t realize she needed to use self-rising flour. They were pretty disgusting. But we had left them sitting out and a little while later walked into the kitchen and he was eating a couple.

    You have Famous Dave’s there??? (Dave’s? Daveses?)

    Also, I like that we both blogged on the same day after a 2-3 week absence. I feel like our cycles are synced up… or something.

  6. Fennie Somerville Avatar

    That is a hell of a story – but what is intriguing me is why one shovel is bent. Do manufacturers make bent shovels? Or was it part of the pork-in-the-fridge wars and got bent that way?

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      I fancy your idea of the bend in the handle coming from Pork-In-The-Fridge wars, Fennie! Alas, it was manufactured that way. Many shovels have that bend in the handle as a nod to “ergonomics”; it’s supposed to be less stressful on one’s back. Not sure there’s any science to prove that, of course.

  7. A Cuban In London Avatar

    That surely was a fun read. I, too, think that sometimes we rush too quickly to judge our young people (especially college boys). Let me know how they get on with the shovels! 🙂

    Greetings from London.

  8. Secret Agent Woman Avatar

    Oh, I sure don’t miss having housemates! But they do seem like an inoffensive lot, so lucky you!

  9. Ann in NJ Avatar

    I bet they’d shovel your driveway if you brought them cookies. Being the parent of an 18 yr old gamer boy who will be leaving the nest in the fall, I find myself feeling motherly towards your neighbors, rather then suspicious. However, I, too, would have had 911 on speed dial when they first moved in.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      Oh, I’m not suspicious of this lot at all. However, I was nervous when they moved in, for sure, based on the offensive behaviors of the previous college-boy tenants…

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