This week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday is to write about a nosy neighbour.
You can see their beady little eyes through the slits in their blinds, or see the reflection of their binoculars as they are watching you. Always. Watching. You.
Under the cover of darkness on the night before pickup day, they carefully inspect your garbage cans at the curb. They pop in unannounced and barge right in, stating ‘Gee, I hope I’m not interrupting anything…’.
You know one or more of these neighbors. You have one or more of these neighbors. We all do. The nosy ones.
Let’s pay tribute to them this week and spin a yarn about a nosy neighbor. Do you tolerate them, and even invite them in for coffee and a chat, hoping to satisfy their need for information? Or, do you dim all the lights, turn off the ringers on your phones, and silently pray they’ll give up, especially this time, to give you enough time to finish…?
Is your life an open book, or do you really need for all your neighbors to mind their OWN business?
Prompt: Tell us a tale about a nosy neighbor, and include the outcome of one of their routine snoop sessions. Let’s make this even more fun and include the following words in your story: Cellar, bottle, blinds, suitcase, and freezer.
Genre: Any your secretive little heart desires. Word Limit: 1,500 words.
Due: Wednesday, August 8, at 10:00 p.m. CT (I’ve moved to a new state this week!)
I remembered a particular nosy woman who likley terrorized several of her neighbours. My older readers may recognize the characters.
Too Nosy for Her Own Good
“Jeffrey? Yoo-hoo!” I jumped and slammed the freezer door shut. Or at least tried to, I had to first tuck in the end of a leg before trying again. I turned back to the screen door – hopefully she'd seen nothing.
“Hello Mrs. Kravitz.” I caught her staring at the freezer for a moment.
“Oh Jeffrey, you're always so formal, I keep telling you it's Gladys. Look, I baked some pies today, and did a couple extra for you.”
I was betting she'd only baked my two, as an excuse to come over and snoop some more. At least she wasn't trying to peer through the blinds again. I'd learned to always grab a towel before leaving the shower.
“I was going to do some more pot pies,” she said, “but I'd remembered you'd said you were a vegetarian now, so I told my husband Abner I'd better just bring you some fruit pies.”
“Did you save some for him?” I asked.
“They're not good for his waistline,” she said. “Besides, he's off to his sister's for the weekend and I'll have left for my vacation by the time he gets back. I've left him a list of chores to keep him busy, otherwise he'll just sit around and read.”
“Are you visiting friends?” I said.
“No, just a trip on my own. I'll be taking the train to Chicago, then look for a nice cheap hotel. I'll be back in a week or so. Nothing special, I just like to talk to people and find out all about them.”
"You can't be too trusting nowadays," I said.
"Don't be silly Jeffrey, I'm a good judge of people." She held the pies out to me.
“Thank you, Gladys,” I said. “You're too kind.” And she was. It was a nice gesture at first, but I'd tired of pie after pie, chicken and beef and veal and turkey, all with the same bland taste. I'd panicked one day when she brought four at once and told her I'd become a vegetarian. Freezing them all didn't really help, as I really didn't want to eat them at all. Besides, I needed the freezer for other things. It had taken me a few days to dispose of them as it was, as I couldn't just put them out with the trash. I was pretty sure Gladys made a late night tour of the neighbourhood snooping in the cans at the curb. I ended up carrying the pies off, a shopping bag at a time, picking a different dumpster for each trip. I'd done it before, for other things I didn't want found.
“Gladys, come in,” I said. “Here, let me take those pies.”
“They're cherry,” she said. “Fresh picked. Abner and I went out to that new pick your own place. We got several baskets for next to nothing. Well, I did at least. I tried to get Abner to pick some too but he just disappeared.”
I was willing to bet he'd just found a quiet corner and enjoyed the peace. He'd once confided in me that when she'd take off on her annual holiday, all by herself, it was like heaven, and reminded him of the joys of being single. It was the day before her return from her last trip, and he'd been depressed. A nice guy really, just being pestered and nagged to death. I'd wished I'd had a solution for him, other than a coffee and a sympathetic ear.
Gladys spied the empty wine bottle in the bin by the door. “Oh, wine,” she said. “Must have been quite a party.”
“Just me and a friend,” I said. “The one you saw come to my door at supper time.”
“Such a pretty thing,” she said. “Still here I suppose?” She tried to peek into the dining room from where she stood.
“No, she left after dinner, you must have missed her somehow.”
Gladys looked almost insulted that she'd somehow miss something in the neighbourhood, then brightened. “No matter. Here, let me put one of the pies in the freezer for you, they freeze beautifully.”
“No!” I cried. I leaped in front of the freezer. “No room. I, ah, I bought a lot of vegetables at the market. On sale, and froze them all. Here. Sit down, let's try that pie.”
I made some tea and cut us each a slice of cherry pie. It definitely was delicious, and still warm. Gladys obviously enjoyed it too, trying to talk and eat at the same time, the thick red juice staining her lips like blood.
“I see you've been busy with spring cleaning,” she said. “You had a big pile of boxes last garbage day. And that huge suitcase, all strapped up, big enough ...”
“For a body?” I smiled. “I found it in the attic, all musty. I filled it with junk from the garage.”
“I was worried the men might find it too heavy to throw in,” she said, “So I was outside ready to give them heck.”
And hope it broke open when they lifted it, I thought.
“I must say your kitchen is even cleaner than mine,” she said. “Everything sparkles. So unusual to see a man so tidy.”
“Well, I did end up with a bit of a mess in the kitchen last night,” I said. “Sometimes I get a little carried away when I entertain. Even did some steaks.”
Gladys opened her mouth to speak.
“No, for my friend, not me,” I said. I noticed some dried blood on the floor by the table leg, and slid my foot over it.
Gladys pushed empty plate. “That was good, if I do say so myself. But I'd better get back home and get ready to go.”
She put the dishes in the sink then picked up the other pie and turned toward the freezer.
“I'm sure we can find room for this,” she said.
Before I could get to her, she opened the lid, then screamed. The pie fell to the floor, bursting apart with a red splatter.
I stepped up behind her, and held her by the shoulders.
“Well, you've caught me now, Gladys. What ever will we do?”
She stared into the freezer, speechless with shock for a few moments.
“My god,” she said. “So many pieces, all cut up and nicely bagged.”
She turned and looked up at me. “There must be half a cow in there.”
Great story! The last line made me laugh. My interpretation is that Gladys is a quick thinker . . lol
Posted by: CMStewart | August 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Nice story. I generally don't like misdirects, but you played fair: the text itself gave the opening for the twist ending (not a serial killer after all, but just someone who was just embarrassed about getting caught in a little white lie -- about being a vegetarian).
Posted by: Glenn Ricafrente | August 10, 2012 at 03:32 AM
I agree with CM, Gladys is just faking so she can try and get away. Well done!
Posted by: Beach Bum | August 10, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Thanks to all for the comments. I do mean for the audience to think at first maybe he's a serial killer, and maybe he'll have to do Gladys in. And if she never returns form the holiday - Abner will not be that upset. At the end I did want the secret he's hiding to be only that that he's not a vegetarian.
Maybe sentence "I'd done it before, for other things I didn't want found" needs to come out to tone our suspicions down a bit.
Posted by: Ravens | August 10, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Oh how slick this is. You really had me going, right up until the very end. Quite the whammy there, and in a good way too. I love the pacing, you almost can't catch your breath all the while, just knowing Gladys is going to push him too far and then...
This is great fun. I feel sorry for the guy though. What lengths he had to go to trying to avoid more pies!
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | August 11, 2012 at 05:58 PM