A few years ago, two of my neighbors were the top news story. One had legally forced the other into court. A legal suit was being fought over property lines. Before this action, these two families had been arguing for months. At issue was a new fence erected presumed to exceed a boundary line. Even though it was probably only a matter of inches, these two homes constantly at war could not reach an amicable settlement. I worried about the outcome of their problem, because we had just built a six-foot high wooden fence on one side of our yard. It was high enough to resemble a wall. Now, if either my wife or I were sunbathing, or using our hot-tub outdoor Jacuzzi in the nude, we could not be easily seen by outsiders. In the U.S., personal privacy is very important.
On the other side of our property, near the front of the house, a long stretch of hedge growth served as another border marker. This second neighbor became angry when I trimmed the hedges that ran a short way between our land and his. It was his opinion that we had no right to cut the hedges that ran along our driveway. Years ago he had planted the hedge bush. It was debatable as whether or not the hedges had grown mostly on his side, versus our side of the legal line of ownership. He said he would only trim the dense, sprawling hedges when he felt "good and ready." This meant late in the fall when everyone else was pruning thick branches, leaves, and other greenery. I would have to wait. For a longtime we had not been speaking to each other. No friendly "Good Morning" waves, smiles, or head nods of acknowledgement. We were visible "enemies".
The problem was the rapidly thickening overgrowth of hedges was scratching the paint on our new, shiny, black automobile. Whenever I parked my car in the driveway alongside my house, the damage to the exterior of my freshly washed and waxed vehicle was noticeable and vexing. Due to shrubbery overgrowth, it became difficult for passengers to even exit the car from the right side. I had tired of waiting for my neighbor to fulfill his promises to eliminate this domestic nuisance. He was not the type of person offering to pay for refinishing my car, which had by now many scratch marks, and was rapidly losing its shine and luster on the side where the hedges grew. And the truth of the matter was, he never actually trimmed the hedges on our side, simply because he did not have to look at that angle of wild outgrowth everyday.
As far as this neighbor was concerned there was no problem. To him, what harm could a little brush from nature's greenery inflict on a luxury automobile made of hard steel. From his view point, spiny green thistles scraped dead insects off automobile paint. "Hedge growth," in his opinion, "was a more economical way of keeping our car clean." He always made a joke about the matter. From this growing dispute it was clear that we were headed for big trouble. Perhaps we were going to advance from our war of silence, to verbal shouting matches, and perhaps even a physical fight, and both end up in jail. There had been stories of worse things happening when neighbors squabbled. Whatever the case, a court hearing was inevitable.
"Honey, you should talk to him again! That ragged looking shrubbery is making our property look bad. If you don't persuade him to cut those hedges away, I may have to go out there and trim them myself."
"I know dear, I know. I'll do it. Trim them away, I mean. Our car is already looking three years old on one side, and we've only had it six months. He's just being a shithead."
"Well, if we have to take him to court, that may be the only way to resolve this. I just hate wasting time on this trivial matter."
Reflecting about this situation, I would often think of words by the poet, Robert Frost, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall.That wants it down!" when he penned "Mending Wall". In the United States, such property disputes are common. It seems so sad that our fences do not seem to make good neighbors at all.
1. 题目借自美国诗人罗伯特•弗罗斯特（Robert Frost, 1874—1963）的诗《修墙》（“Mending Wall”）中的一句：Good fences make good neighbors。该诗和诗人在本文末尾有提及。fence: 围栏，栅栏。
2. legally: 法律上，合法地。
3. legal suit: 法律诉讼，起诉；property line: 建筑红线，界址线，即指某处用地的权属界线。
4. at issue: 争议中的，待解决的；erect: 建造；presume: 推定，假定；exceed: 超过。
5. amicable: 和睦的，友善的。
6. resemble: 类似，像。
7. sunbathe: 洗太阳浴；hot-tub: 热水浴缸；Jacuzzi: 杰库齐浴缸，是美国一世界顶级按摩浴缸品牌；in the nude: 赤裸地。
8. hedge: 树篱。
9. trim: 修剪。
10. driveway: （从住房、车库等通往大路的）私人车道。
11. bush: 灌木丛。
12. 按照房产的法律界限来分，这些树篱是在他那边比较多还是我这边比较多还有待争论。debatable: 成问题的，可争论的。
13. sprawling: 蔓生的，疯长的。
14. prune: 修剪；greenery: 绿植。
15. visible: 显而易见的。
16. scratch: 刮擦，划伤。
17. exterior: 外部；waxed: 上过蜡的；vexing: 令人烦恼的。
18. shrubbery: 灌木丛。
19. eliminate: 消除；domestic: 家庭的；nuisance: 讨厌（或麻烦）的东西。
20. 他根本不是那种会花钱帮我的车重新上漆抛光的人，而我的车现在已经布满划痕，挨着树篱的那一侧早已黯淡无光。refinish: 给……再抛光，补漆；luster: 光泽。
21. angle: 角落；outgrowth: 长出物，分支。
22. 对于他来说，豪华轿车的坚硬钢板被绿色植物的枝条蹭几下，怎么能算得上受伤呢。inflict on: 使遭受（损伤）。
23. spiny: 多刺的；thistle: 蓟（野生植物，叶有刺）；scrape: 刮掉。
24. economical: 经济的，节约的。
25. verbal: 口头的；shouting match: 大声嚷嚷的争吵。
26. squabble: 争吵，发生口角。
27. court hearing: 庭审；inevitable: 必然的。
28. ragged: 参差不齐的。
29. trivial: 琐碎的。