Writers’ Workshop – Neighbours

My second Writers’ Workshop was just as enjoyable as the first. Here my story.

Old Neighbours

“Morning, Dad. How are you today?”
“I would be fine if it weren’t for that crazy witch next door interfering again”.
“Dad, have you been arguing with Mrs Gibson again? Why can you not just ignore her? You know she has been slightly odd since Mr Gibson died”.
“Odd? Completely off her rocker, you mean. She was out in her garden at 7am deadheading roses. At 7 am!”
“Perhaps she couldn’t sleep and wanted to start on some chores. After Mum died, you had trouble sleeping. It is not unusual after bereavement”.
“I didn’t get up and disturb all the neighbours by gardening at dawn”.
“Dad! She couldn’t have disturbed you, unless she was deadheading the roses with a chainsaw? And 7 o’ clock is hardly dawn”.
“Don’t be cheeky, young lady. You are not too old to be laid over my knee. The old bat is as mad as a coot. She told me last week that I could do with a haircut and that since she used to cut old Jack’s hair, she would trim my hair for me. As if I would let the crazy woman near me with a sharp implement in her hands”.
“Oh, Dad. You have never laid me over your knee, not in 35 years. Maybe Mrs Gibson fancies you, and is trying to lure you into her house to have her wicked way with you”.
“Wash your mouth out with soap, Cecilia Anne. Fancies me! Ha! More likely she wishes to murder me and bury me under the rose bushes”.
“Hmm. Not a bad idea, you would make good fertilizer”.
“Are you trying to say that I am full of shit?”
“The thought never crossed my mind. Gotta go, Dad. I have a meeting. Call you at the weekend”.
Putting the phone down with a smile, Robert thanked his lucky stars that he had such a funny, caring daughter. Since the death of his wife two years before, she had cajoled, spoiled and sometimes berated him out of the gloom that had surrounded him those first awful months. He was struck by the thought that Mrs Gibson was not so lucky. That good for nothing layabout son of hers hardly showed his face. When he did, Robert suspected it was to tap the old bat for a loan.
Perhaps he should be a bit nicer to his neighbour. It was painful to watch her, to see how deep in the fog of grief she was, so lost and confused. He resolved to throw her a lifeline. Just as his daughter had done for him. He drank a second cup of coffee and planned Operation Gibson.
Steeling himself for the task ahead, he searched his cupboard for the jumper with the hole in the sleeve. Cecilia had offered to sew it for him but at the time he was being obstinate for some unknown reason and told her he liked it with the hole.
Crossing the driveway, he skirted around the damned rosebushes and rang the bell of his neighbour’s house.
“If you have come to complain about me deadheading the roses, think again, old man”.
“Old? Who are you calling old? You are the same age as me, Mary Jane Gibson”, Robert gritted his teeth, “Actually, I came to ask a favour”.
Mary regarded her neighbour suspiciously, “A favour? What?”
“This jumper. It has a hole. Cecilia refused to repair it for me, said that it wasn’t worthwhile repairing, that I should throw it out. It is only 15 years old and there is plenty of good wear in it yet”.
“Throw it out! Heavens, the youth today. It is a lovely jumper. I remember Cathy buying it for you in that store on the High Street, the one that’s now a mobile phone shop. Let me have a look at it. Come in the house, you are letting all the warmth out”. 
Shuffling through the house to the dining room, Mary gestured to Robert to follow her. It had been several months since he had been inside the house, not since the week that Jack died. Looking around he noticed that there a couple of odd jobs needing done. The skirting board in the hall was loose and one of the curtain rails was falling off the wall.
“Go and get me some tools and I will fix that curtain rail for you”, Robert told his neighbour, “you can fix my jumper while I do that and secure the skirting board. What else do you need done?”
“I don’t need anything done, thank you. I manage quite well on my own, I will have you know”. 
“Don’t be daft. I am good at DIY but can’t sew. You fix my jumper, I will fix your house. If you feel that I have done more than my share, you can cook me lunch”. 
Mary sniffed, and turned away, returning a few minutes later with her late husband’s tool box. Gently stroking the lid as she opened it, she stared at Jack’s treasured tools. It was the first time she had taken them out since he died. She did not hear Robert walk over to stand behind her, but felt his warm hand awkwardly pat her back as he looked over her shoulder. “Aye, he was a good man, your Jack. Kept a good tool box”.
Strangely comforted, she nodded. “I will darn that jumper of yours. I suppose I could make us some lunch afterwards. I have a bit of chicken that would do, with some potatoes and veg”. 
Switching on Radio 4, Mary sat in her favourite armchair and picked up her sewing bag. When her needle was threaded and the work begun, she looked over the top of her bifocals and watched Robert work on the house. Jack had always said that they were lucky to have such good neighbours. She smiled. As usual, Jack had been correct.

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