Invisible Fences

Colleen Kearney Rich


The people in this neighborhood have their lawns cut by immigrant men on standing mowers. These workers ride around in white trucks with black spots and cute names like Mow Cow written on the side. Their houses are cleaned by women in equally cute vehicles with pink print and names like Merry Maids. The woman with a vacuum waiting for her ride at the corner doesn’t look merry.

The people in this neighborhood hate the cut-through traffic that backs up on weekday mornings because of the traffic light. They may or may not want the intersection redone. They attend public meetings and complain about the plans, but they want everyone to vote for Plan B.

The people in this neighborhood may or may not hate the state legislator who has involved himself in these plans. He may or may not get re-elected although he robo-calls them and has his supporters go door to door, hanging his image everywhere.

The people in this neighborhood like conspiracies. They believe developers want the adjacent land to build a road bringing more traffic, the nearby college wants it for a football stadium, the county wants to build a new baseball diamond with lights since they tore down the other one in 1993.

The people in this neighborhood almost organize a Waze campaign. It is the app’s fault there is cut-through traffic. It is all the app’s fault. They plan to report the road closed each day—a tree down, a crash, flooding. They plan to take turns making daily reports on the app. They almost come up with a plan. Almost.

No one talks about the motorcyclist who died in the intersection and closed the road for hours.

The people in this neighborhood play bunco on Fridays and drink too much wine. They walk home in the dark and stop to see what the Buchanans are watching on TV. The Buchanans never close their blinds.

The people in this neighborhood like their invisible fences. The little white flags that line their yards flap in the breeze. The postal worker steps inside one fence to throw a ball to old Jasper almost every day. He has been doing this for years.

The people in this neighborhood walk their dogs at all hours. There are purebred dogs and rescues that need walking near midnight and in the early morning hours. Sometimes these people wear reflective gear; sometimes it is surprise.

The people in this neighborhood wrap their dog shit in tiny pastel-colored bags and leave them there by the side of the road: A gift.


Colleen Kearney Rich is the author of the chapbook Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her writing has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, matchbook, and Harpoon Review, among others. She lives in Virginia and you can find her on Twitter at @colleenrich.