The Old Lady Next Door (Writing Prompt)

I finally stumbled on a Writing Prompt that clicked for me (after weeks of casually searching).  Hope you enjoy it. From Reddit:

 

I still remember the first night I ever really saw her, the night I call the beginning of her oddities. I was in the kitchen grabbing another beer and it was rainin’ like hell outside, wind and lightning and the whole works. A bitchin’ storm, really. Hadn’t seen one like that in a while. I had my curtains open to watch the rain and even cracked a couple windows to better hear the thunder. The window over the sink was one of them since the wind was blowing the other way.

So I’m cracking the top off another soldier and looking at the night sky, all black and writhing with clouds, lightning flashing like paparazzi, and there she is in the side-yard just rummaging around in her trash can. I had to blink at first, thinking the shadows were off from the storm, but no. It was her alright. I don’t know why, but I flipped off my kitchen light fast as I could so she wouldn’t see me. I knew someone lived next door, but I had no idea who. This was the first time I’d seen who it was, so I was pretty curious.

She was dressed for the occasion, no doubt. Yellow rain coat that hung so low over her body it almost scraped the ground and a big, yellow cap to match. She was a tiny little thing, barely tall enough to reach into her own garbage can, and she had long, white hair that hung out from under her rain cap and draped over her shoulders, sopping wet and sticking to her coat, the clumps hanging down streaming rivulets.

I took a drink thinking, the fuck is this old lady doing out in the rain? Trash trucks weren’t coming the next day, so that wasn’t it. What kind of garbage could be so important you gotta deal with these elements? She was dropping in small, black bags, and not just one or two. She had damn near a dozen of these things, apparently trundled them out by the armful, and was dropping them into the bin one by one.

I leaned over the sink, the thick smell of rain blowing through the screen, and watched. Each plastic bag fell in with a thump. Heavy, whatever they were, but with the bags being black, I just couldn’t tell. Just one after another, thump, thump. Then she turns and waddles off down the side-yard between our two little houses. I lean way over the sink and watch until she rounds the corner to her back porch. When I turn to leave, I notice she’s left the lid open, and only one thought occurs to me: She’s coming back with more.

Sure as shit.

But this last bag wasn’t little, oh no. Now she’s got this heavy-duty piece of plastic that looks like a body bag, dragging it over the slick grass. I can still remember the sounds her boots made as she struggled, these sloppy, squishing, sucking sounds like the flooded lawn was trying to swallow her up.

The hell is this now, I’m thinking, watching her hunched shoulders pull on something that must weigh as much as she does, if not more. I remember hearing her curse a couple times, a raspy voice like sandpaper over asphalt. Her grip kept slipping because of the rain. Once she slipped so bad she almost fell right on her ass.

She drags this damn thing all the way down the side-yard, and I’m just watching and thinking, there’s no way. She’ll never get that in. Then the damnedest thing comes out of my mouth, like I said the words before the thought even formed in my head.

I just blurt out, “Hey, you need help?”

She stops. Not a freeze, not a type of stun or surprise where you find out someone’s been watching you and you stop what you’re doing to turn and see. No. She stops dead like she’s turned to stone, like she’s a fucking statue in the garden now. She stops and just stands there, shoulders hunched, stretched plastic in her hand, water streaming off the bend in her elbows, off the rim of her yellow cap.

I wait. She doesn’t say a thing. Doesn’t move.

“I said, you need h—”

NO,” she says before I can even finish the words, and this time her voice ain’t all raspy and thin, hell no. It’s a boom, like the thunder, like someone just pounded a drum. I can still hear it to this day. NO. Thank god I was leaning over the sink cause I damn near dropped my beer. I caught it before it really fell but some of it still spilled.

She never turned. Never looked. Never even moved. Freaked me the fuck out, no joke, so I just backed away. I didn’t say sorry or okay or anything. I just backed away.

After that, I only saw her two more times in maybe six months, and both only at night. Once it was late, like 2 am or something, and she was out near her shed. I didn’t see her, but I heard something coming from her yard. I wondered if it was her, so I slipped out the door real quiet and crept across the grass.

She was digging. I could hear the little spade she was using chopping at the dirt, hitting the rocks in the soil. When I finally got the nerve to peak over the fence all I could see was her tiny little body hunched over, her arms working, white hair hanging over her slumped back.

I didn’t say a damn thing to her, just watched for a while then went back inside.

The other time was right at the end of dusk, just as the last bit of sunlight was fading from the sky. I was grabbing something from the kitchen again, windows open, and got this funny feeling. I looked up expecting to see someone outside, but no one was there. Side-yard was empty. I kinda glanced around, no biggy, then just as I turned I saw her. She was inside, standing behind her curtain, one faded-yellow eye staring at me, one clawed little finger pulling her drapes back just enough for a peek. Most of her face was shrouded, but I could see that one eye looking through, looking right at me with the same kind of raw power her voice had when she told me NO after my dumbass offered to help.

Haven’t seen her since, but she’s still living next door. Gardeners still mow and manage the bushes. Packages still get dropped on the front porch and disappear by morning.

I keep the curtains closed on that side of the house now.

 

 

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