I've had some dealings with the back-fence neighbor. About eight years ago, he called me one afternoon from his patio. BBs zinging through the cracks in the wood fence that separates our yard from his had him pinned down on his belly. My boys were taking target practice and had the man trapped in their cross hairs.
A few days later, he brought some dry ice by my house for my children to play with.
Last Friday, I spotted my 14 year-old son toting three bottles of motor oil to our backyard fire pit. Whenever that child gets near the fire pit, I worry. Staring into the hypnotic flames of a blaze causes him to lose foresight and self-control. As if I raised him on the Gaza Strip, he stokes the fire with anything that will burn: old tires, furniture, aerosol cans.
"What are you doing with those bottles?" I asked him.
"Mr. Johnny gave them to me for fire starter," he explained. "And he gave me some wood, too."
Horrified, I said, "We're not going to use motor oil to start a fire. And we're not going to burn pressure treated wood. We'd be breathing black smoke and chemicals."
"But Mama," the boy protested. "This isn't motor oil."
I asked what was in the bottles if not motor oil. "Paint thinner and some other stuff Mr. Johnny put in them," answered the child, perplexed at my resistance to accepting a ticking bomb.
I've had some dealings with the back-fence neighbor, and I've come to the conclusion that he has never forgiven us for the BB gun sniping incident.