BY MAGGIE NERZ IRIBARNE
For those who’ve had enough of the holidays. Copyright is held by the author.
BETTY WISHED she had someone in the neighbourhood she could ask about the Blackwells, but no one spoke to her. She had a habit of calling the police whenever anything slightly “unneighbourly” occurred-like someone playing audible music, or someone sun bathing in a bikini, or kids talking on a stoop late at night.
It was a hot summer morning when she sauntered next door, leaned in to look through the Blackwell’s windows. She gasped to see the house still perfectly set up for Christmas, the evergreen weighted with ornaments and light strings, surrounded by gifts beneath its still green branches.
Betty walked along the side of the house to peer in at the set dinner table, a turkey in the centre, all the side dishes and gravy boats full. Flies swarmed above the food. A mouse even skittered through the maze of dishes.
Now’s the time to call the police! Betty thought, but hesitated, wanting to be the first to investigate. She entered the unlocked house easily, from the back.
The smell of rotting food pervaded. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” played from some device, somewhere. Upstairs, a wreath hung on every bedroom door. In the girl child’s room a note was scrawled on the white board above the bed.
“Make. It. Stop.”
Just this once, Betty thought, she might be the hero of the neighbourhood.
She knew no other way. She grabbed a book of matches, striking the first and throwing it on the tree. It exploded in flames in seconds.
It was the neighbourly thing to do, she thought.
After the fire engines and police cars and questioning, after the missing person posters and newspaper articles, the Blackwell’s property was clean, structureless. Betty, still alienated, hated by the neighbours, remained vigilant. She watched through her window, catching a silvery gleam in the dirt, a shimmer to the remaining trees. She had a feeling Christmas would find a way to begin at the Blackwell’s again. When it did, she’d be the one to stop it.
Maggie Nerz Iribarne is 53, living her writing dream in a yellow house in Syracuse, New York. She writes about witches, dys/functional relationships, small disappointments/pleasures, the very old, bats/cats, priests/nuns, cleaning ladies, runaways, struggling teachers, neighbourhood ghosts, and other things. She keeps a portfolio of her published work at https://www.maggienerziribarne.com.