Thursday, January 14, 2010

THE NEIGHBOURS ~ By Laurita Miller of Harbinger*33

By ~ Laurita Miller

It was disgraceful. 

Marilyn’s attention was fixed on the other side of the fence, even as she continued to pull wet clothes from the basket and attach them to the line.  

The Pattersons moved just over a year ago, into the tidy little home next door.  It was obvious that the new owners did not place emphasis on aesthetics.  The house, once lovely, had become little more than an oversized shack.  From her perch at the clothesline, Marilyn had an unfortunate view of their backyard.

The grass spread sparse and thin between patches of dirt and weeds.  Scraps of tar stained wood cluttered the far corner of the yard, propped against old buckets and boxes.  The shed door, green paint cracked and faded, hung askew on its hinges.  A rusty ladder stood against the house.  It rattled in the breeze, and in the night Marilyn would hear it clatter to the ground, only to see it back in place the next day, unused but ready.  

There had been one small attempt to improve the place.  They had constructed a flower bed with landscaping bricks and filled it with perennials.  Now the yard was littered with leftover bricks, and the stalks of last year’s plants stuck out like tiny skeletal arms, dry and broken.  

“Some sight, eh?”

Ed Grable stood on his back patio, hands shoved deep into his pockets.  “Sad what they’ve done to this place.”  He wrinkled his nose at the stench of dog droppings.

Marilyn smoothed her shirt front and shook her head.  “So much for pride of ownership.”

“Glad I’m not planning to sell anytime soon.  One look over the fence here and any prospective buyers would turn tail and run.”  Ed studied the patio railing, ran a hand over the surface.  “Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll go the way of the Mayers.”  

Marilyn looked over her shoulder, toward the slate blue bungalow down the street.  The Mayers moved in a few years ago and promptly painted the house a bright purple.  They had weekly get-togethers with loud, beer-guzzling friends and a collection of garbage raiding cats.  They were a curse on the neighbourhood.

Then one day they were gone.  Their house was empty but for a few pieces of furniture and a lone plastic flamingo in the garden.  Even the cats were gone.  

A few weeks later new owners moved in.  They restored the house to its original colour and invited the neighbours to an elegant wine and cheese meet and greet.  Perfectly normal.  Perfectly acceptable.

Marilyn nodded.  “Yes,” she said.  “Maybe we’ll be lucky.”

“Of course.  Again.”

Marilyn placed her book in her lap and raised a hand to her forehead.  She thought they would finally have a quiet evening, six o’clock and all was still.  She had barely begun the first paragraph of her book when it started – the loud, wailing bark of the Patterson’s hound dog.  

Bark, bark, bark.

Her husband, Neil, stood at the window.  “They’ve parked that van in front of our house again.”  The large paneled van, more primer than paint, was positioned squarely under the lamp post.  Neil was annoyed by the obstructed view, and horrified that someone might think the ugly thing belonged to him.  He took pride in his weed free, neatly manicured lawn.  Now no one could even see the damn thing. 

“They’re...offensive.”  Neil lowered himself into his easy chair and scowled.

“Ed Grable and I spoke about them this afternoon.  He hopes they go out like the Mayers.”  Marilyn paused, letting the thought hang between them.  

Bark, bark, bark.  

“Perhaps someone should deal with it.”

Neil sighed.  “Do you think we should go over there?”

“It’s gone on long enough.”  Bark, bark, bark.  “Yes.  I think we should.”



The doorbell was broken.  Neil knocked.  

Joe Patterson opened the door and belched. “Yeah?”

Marilyn and Neil looked at each other, then back at the distasteful creature before them.  “Mr. Patterson, I’m Neil McGuire from next door.  We’ve come to talk to you about a few matters.”

Patterson grinned, wide and mocking.  “Come to have a chat, have you?  Neighbourly.  I suppose it’s about Bud.”  He cocked his head toward the back of the house where the dog was howling.  “Can’t say I can help you there.”

Marilyn moved closer.  “Actually there are a few things.  May we come in?”

Patterson frowned, but stepped back and let them into the small foyer.  Marilyn noted that the house smelled of mothballs, and the hardwood floor was dull and scratched.

When it was apparent that they would not be invited further into the house, Neil continued.  “We do have a problem with the dog, his barking, and the smell from the backyard.  Maybe if you let him in from time to time?”

“Bud’s an outdoor dog.  Doesn’t like to be cooped up inside.”

“Well, apparently he doesn’t like to be left outside either.” Neil went on before Patterson could respond.  He kept his tone and smile friendly.  “The neighbours feel that your home and yard are not kept in a condition befitting the neighbourhood. They’re upset and are hoping you will do something to spruce up the place. ”  

“That so.”  Patterson’s frown deepened.  “Well seems like the neighbours ought to mind their own business.”  

Val Patterson came to the top of the stairs, arms crossed, brow furrowed.  She said nothing. 

“It wouldn’t take much.”  Marilyn looked around as if she hadn’t noticed the hostility.  “A few minor repairs and some cleaning up and the place would look just fine.”    

Patterson snorted.  “I don’t give a damn.  I ain’t into doing people favours.”

Neil hissed out a breath but his smile didn’t falter.  “That’s unfortunate.”  A growl rumbled in his chest.  

Friendly, neighbourly smiles grew long and wide, sharp teeth dripping and snapping.   

“We do so regret dealing with uncooperative neighbours,” snarled the thing that was Marilyn.  

Patterson opened his mouth as his neighbours closed in.  

His throat was gone before he could scream.

Marilyn and Neil enjoyed every minute.  It had been a long time since the Mayers.

“Hi, Ed.  Just wanted to drop by with these treats I baked.”  Marilyn smiled and offered the tin of cinnamon raisin cookies.

“Thanks.  That’s neighbourly of you.”  He nodded toward the moving truck next door.  “Looks like we’ve got some fresh blood coming in.  That was strange how the Pattersons up and left, huh?”

“Very.  They even left poor Bud here chained out back.”  Marilyn patted the old hound’s head.

“Well, he’s got a good home with you.  And no more barking.”  He smiled down at the dog.  “There’s something to be said for good neighbours.”

Marilyn stepped out onto the walkway.  A bright patch of yellow near the edge of the path caught her eye.  Dandelions.

“Yes,” she said absently.  “Good Neighbours.” 

(c) 2010, Author Laurita Miller

And to think I've been liking Laurita so much I was thinking of putting a bid in on that place up the street from her, you know the place, the old Jinkers' house. Whoops - wrong story but our Double*Feature Author Laurita Miller never has a wrong story to bring a crooked grin deep within. 

Tantalizingly talented Laurita Miller is stranded on a rocky island in the North Atlantic.  She enjoys writing in the dark and walking through revolving doors (and it’s rumored she once dated Poe). (Raven rumours are flying).  Her work has been featured at Gloom Cupboard, Six Sentences, Flashes in the Dark, and will appear in several anthologies, including the upcoming Harbinger*33Need to read more Laurita? Sure you do! Check out some of her recent writes at The BIJOU Showcase Show*Off Wall, over to the right. And, she inimitably blogs right here: Brain Droppings.

Thanks Laurita for knocking on the stage door to ask for a good home AT THE BIJOU for the debut of THE NEIGHBOURS. You said you were looking for adoption. Readers here of our strong growing global following will take you into their homes and hearts as well. They may be a little shaky, but that's natural. (You're that scary). 

~ Absolutely*Kate and the staff of renown, currently out front weeding the shrubs ~ AT THE BIJOU


Michael Solender said...

A fine howdy-do. Right neighborly I'd say. I'd like to borrow them..very finely woven tale here right down to the cookies. Nice touch.

Unknown said...

My kind of neighbors. A good edge this one has. Sharp.

Marisa Birns said...

Impressive story!

Thought that Ed Grable had something to do with the Mayers "leaving" but surprise, surprise.

Like it very much.

pegjet said...

Now I want to know how they feed when all the neighbors are, well, neighborly!

Well told story.

Anonymous said...

Well that was a fine howdy ya do. I'm so glad we moved to the condo on the bay. Great read.

Karen from Mentor said...

I had neighbors like that, the dog, the rusty van, the loud parties...too bad I never thought tale! Thanks for sharing..

Linda said...

Wonderful tale told well, your trademark! You've made the next-door neighbors come alive, so much so I kinda wish they lived closer. Perfetto! Peace, Linda

Crybbe666 said... perfectly wonderful. I was thinking that the Patterson's house sounded a bit like mine. Thankfully, I dont have those kind of neighbours!!
Again, fantastic tale. Thank you!

Lily Mulholland said...

Loved the first and last sentences Laurita! Classic. And also 'from her perch at the clothesline'. Fab.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please can I borrow them! Fantastic story Laurita. I worried that their 'food' might be a bit unsavoury. That's wrong, isn't it?

Harry said...

I probably was the Mayers in my youth and I have had the Pattersons for neighbors before. But it's always the ones with the too perfect lawns that you have to look out for. Great story Laurita!

Scott King said...

What impressed me the most was juggling such a large cast in such a little space. I couldn't do that.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Great job, Laurita. I'd comment more, but I think that I should go out and clean up the garden a bit...just in case...

Wendy said...

Wow, Laurita, your tale caught me by surprise! Good scary stuff.

shannon said...

Well, I'm just glad they didn't eat the dog! :-) Entertaining as always, two thumbs up!!

Anonymous said...

Loved these lines even before what came later: "They restored the house to its original colour and invited the neighbours to an elegant wine and cheese meet and greet. Perfectly normal. Perfectly acceptable." So well characterizes suburbia and I love that juxtaposition with the "normal" later behavior of Marilyn and Neil. Might say something important, not just be a fantastic twist. ;)

EC said...

Excellent setting this scene Laurita; your details are crisp and colorful. Poor Bud is right-he just might become an outdoor dog afterall.
Now I think I'm going to follow Alan's lead-I'm not so sure about my neighbors either;)

David Masters said...

Great opening, full of tension, scintillating throughout.

"Fresh blood" was a nice touch.

Poor Bud. What will happen to him?

Genevieve Jack said...

Entertaining read Laurita. I was expecting them to poison the Pattersons- not to eat them! Terrific twist and your descriptions of typical suburbia in the beginning were right on.

Carrie Clevenger said...

This was a blast Laurita. Two thumbs up. So Kate DOES allow evil small doses. I was beginning to wonder. ;)

Barry J. Northern said...

Ooooh! :) That old "Monsters under the thin veneer of respectability" trick -- love it! :) I wouldn't want to live next to either of those extremes! But this piece was so well observed -- how many times have I complained about those things myself?

Helen Ginger said...

Where is this story set? There's a Neil and Marilyn up the road from us.

Always keep an eye on your neighbors.

Straight From Hel

Unknown said...

The trademark Laurita tale at the Bijou... Glad Kate hosted the chiller of a tale!!

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Kate is absolutely glad she plugged the spotlights in to shine on the spark which is a Laurita twist of a tale.

Such a deserving outpouring of chattering BIJOU folks in the theatre, and yet no one's said it yet ~


Laurita, of all the grin-joints in all of WebTown, I'm so glad you knocked on the door to pick mine to ask for a 'home' for this street-wise story. You're gonna clean up the blood and the dog'yard, right?

Thanks*again dear lady of the mukluks for the taunting-pleasures lining the folks up all around the block. Did I mention this story is a killer!

~ Absolutely*Kate
and the fine staff of renown AT THE BIJOU

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story. That's one way to make sure the neighbors are always...neighborly.

Anonymous said...

Fantastically told story Laurita! Now I'm off to, ummm, straighten those shutters. :)

Laurita said...

Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. I have had an assortment of odd neighbours, but I haven't eaten any of them...yet. :) I just write about them.

Thank you, Kate, for letting these Neighbours in.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

You are most welcome Laurita,
for your talent, your classy presentation,and your tending to the weeding of your front garden beds. The neighbourhood AT THE BIJOU, with you moving in as regular family is interesting to say the least.

We also like those baked goods you leave around and are glad that Harry and Michael taste'test them first, by Jinkers. Thank you for debuting this very fine story AT THE BIJOU. We all look forward to your publishing range in this here world.

Gentle applause,
~ Absolutely*Kate

Mark Kerstetter said...

I was kinda hoping the Pattersons would eat the McGuires - very annoying people.

Madam Z said...

These are a few of the reasons I like this story so much:
1. All the dialogue sounds so natural.
2. The descriptions of the Pattersons' house, yard and van were excellent, making it easy to visualize them.
3. Marilyn and Neil's solution to the problem was a total surprise.
4. The wicked glimpse, at the end, of Ed's probable fate.

Now excuse me while I go sharpen my teeth.