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Nosy Neighbors

by Jamie K. Schmidt © 2005

"Jerry, the neighbors are fighting again." Rhonda said, wrapping her terrycloth robe tightly around her thin frame. The night air felt like Halloween, when you weren't sure if you were shivering from the cold or the excitement.

"Come inside and mind your business," he said.

Rhonda waved a disgusted hand at him and huddled next to the house to block the wind. Leaning closer to the neighbors' yard, she strained to hear every word. If they had been in adjacent motel rooms, she would have her ear to a glass on the wall.

"I can't go on like this. You need to do something."

"You tell him, Lois," Rhonda said softly. She couldn't hear Lois' husband, William, because he was one of those types who never raised his voice in a fight. "Passive Aggressive" is what Dr. Fanny on TV called men like that. William was a big shot reporter for the tabloids. He was constantly keeping late hours and going undercover. Rhonda told him all about that time she got abducted by aliens, but he hadn't seemed interested. Not until she had shown him the proof. It took him many steak and lobster dinners before he wined her enough so she gave him the steel rod she swiped off the space ship. William was going to make her famous. Or so he had said. First he stopped calling. Then, he and Lois went away on a long vacation.

"I'll leave you. I swear it."

A crackly brown leaf skittered across the deck, scritching like a rake of claws. The sound made the hairs on Rhonda's arms stand at attention and bubbly goose flesh covered her legs. The wind droned funereally through the trees.

Maybe if Lois left, William would come around again and they could work on his book together. It was going to be called, "We Are Not Alone." Rhonda snorted. She should write the damned book herself, like she threatened. If only her memory wasn't so spotty. She could barely remember the space ship and the things the aliens did.

All the lights blinked out at the neighbor's house as if someone snuffed a candle.

Rhonda's throat went dry with fear. "Jerry," she croaked. The word was lost in the sudden wind that tunneled through the backyard, overturning garbage cans. She swallowed hard and tried again. "Jerry?"

"Mind yer business." His voice was slurry with sleep.

The wind changed tones and hurtled mournfully at her. What happened to the lights? Maybe she could sneak in and steal her souvenir back. Rhonda didn't even go back inside for her coat and shoes. She threw a leg over the porch railing and dropped down to the ground. Sharp pains traveled up her calves when she hit and she nearly lost one of her bunny slippers.

The only light around was from the television in her house and it gave a ghostly glow that didn't quite reach where she was standing. Rhonda took a hesitant step forward, reaching her hand out in front of her. She walked like the mummy until her hands contacted the neighbor's chain link fence. Moving hand over hand to the neighbors' front yard, Rhonda let herself in at the gate. There was danger in the air, she could smell it. Maybe Lois took a meat cleaver to her lying husband?

Staggering towards the front door, Rhonda wondered, what was the earliest she could get to the beauty parlor tomorrow? She would have to practice saying in her most sincere voice, "We're shocked. Lois and William seemed so happy. They were quiet, nice neighbors."

Rhonda put a hand on their door and wasn't surprised when it pushed open. Maybe, she would have to disarm Lois. Then call the cops on Lois' fancy cell phones. Perhaps, she could find that slutty red dress that Lois wore on New Year's. Yeah, Rhonda would tie Lois up with the house's phone cord, then go up to change. When the reporters got there, after the police had taken Lois away, Rhonda could lean up against the door frame of her house with a cigarette hanging indolently from her two fingers and say, "William had it coming. He liked to seduce women." Then she'd take a long knowing puff from her cigarette.

Footsteps and that shuffling sound came from ahead of her. Rhonda hit the deck and scurried until her head hit the couch. She curled up in a fetal position under their expensive glass and brass coffee table, glad that the room was so dark. It would hide her. Glass rained down, cutting into her face and eyes as a body smashed through the table. Rhonda screamed, but she was effectively pinned by the weight of the table and the body that was still streaming warm blood. She thrashed and managed to free herself, but kneeled in more glass as she tried to get up. Covered in gore, Rhonda screamed again as she launched herself out of the room. She hit smack into a wall and staggered back into strong arms.

"William, Jerry," she babbled resting her head on his shoulder. "I'm cut. I need a doctor."

An eerie flutish sound filled the room, and dusky light pinioned with dust motes and glitter swirled around them. She could barely see through the blood and cuts but Rhonda recognized the steel rod when it touched her cheek and saw William blow into it again. A piercing pain filled her sinuses. The wind, the sounds of the night were in the flute and inside her head. She mercifully blacked out.

Rhonda came to when the paramedics hoisted the gurney into the ambulance. Flashbulbs blinded her. She staggered in the policemen's arms.

"Why did you kill your husband?"

"Why a meat cleaver?"

Rhonda looked up and saw Lois and William holding each other. Off camera, William turned to her and gave a feral grin that wasn't quite human. Rhonda heard Lois say, "We're shocked. They were such nice neighbors."

x x x

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