Characters are everywhere


I often think of her when I walk past her house. She’d be long dead by now. We were neighbours many years ago. Probably she was around sixty then, and her husband was in a wheelchair; their fights were frequent and loud. I was young, busy, out and about. The day I moved in she demanded a new fence. Broke, I asked her to wait until I could afford it. The next week a new fence was constructed and the bill put in my letterbox. It wasn’t a good start to the relationship. I soon learned she was the neighbourhood spy, reporting every minor event to any authority she could think of, interfering in everyone’s business. I dealt with her simply by ignoring her, after I finally paid for my share of the fence – a cheque accompanied by a sharply worded note.

All these years later I can see that her world had shrunk to her street. She was bitter, lonely, disappointed in the hand life had dealt her. She wanted to be significant. In retrospect I couldn’t have chosen a more hurtful response. She even screamed at me one morning when I was backing out – you pretend I don’t exist! I had no answer to that, and just swung off to work.

One day she will appear on a page. One day I will explore the nature of her particular brand of unhappiness. Although I have long since moved and moved again, ending up nearby, in the meantime I see her scowling at me every time I walk down that street.

by Pat Noad

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