Rear Window: Fear the Spoon Lady
Mark Sanders

You never forget the first time you see someone burying something in your backyard with a spoon. I don't care whether you live in a house, apartment, motel or whatever seeing someone digging behind your home feels a little awkward. Here is my first experience.

My wife and I had been living in Queens a few short months. We relocated to New York not long after 9/11/2001 lured by a great apartment and were sure jobs would soon follow. Since work was scant, a lot of time was spent in our back bedroom which had been converted into a makeshift office.

My desk is positioned directly in front of a window that has a clear view of our rather miraculously sized urban yard that is shared by the occupants of a dozen or so buildings. It's leafy, has grass, relatively flat and kept fairly well by the building maintenance. That said, virtually no one uses it for recreation or otherwise so any movement seen out the window I almost immediately notice.

One fall afternoon I watched an older woman walk purposefully to a spot 30 feet in front of my window. She was carrying a plastic bag of the variety groceries come in. From it she produced a spoon. And she then started digging.

"Oh shit," I thought. "That woman is totally burying parts of her husband or her dead pet."

My wife and I watched as she excavated, threw in an unrecognizable object, reburied and then walked away.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, we saw her bury no less than four other items in different spots throughout the yard; always with a plastic bag and a spoon. Obviously she either had suffered a house-clearing pet catastrophe or she had seperated all her husbands organs for a proper and comprehensive burial.

Winter came and I sort of forgot about the neighborhood spoon-lady. When spring finally arrived, it not only brought out the robins but also our backyard enigma. There was no more burying but she seemed to be paying her respects to each and every burial spot. At one point she even erected a makeshift fence around the plot nearest my window so the lawnmower wouldn't get too close.

And then it happened: a single yellow bloom burst from a slender, thorny stalk. Indeed she was strange, but it also turns out a nomadic gardener.

Also on GUTSY, more stories about neighbors.