Because truth is often stranger than fiction….
This house, this little terraced house is no stranger to the gently gothic, the slightly strange, the oh so ever so mildly odd.
She, the woman in this story has lived next door at 82 for twenty years, seen 3 tenants in that time.
The old lady, hair stained defiantly with a nicotine stripe, died one day, as old women do, alone, neglecting to fill the dogs’ bowl before she went and lay undiscovered for an unremarkable amount of time.
Discovered by a neighbour, a better neighbour, lightly nibbled by her starving pet.
No headlines, no story, just an everyday tale of inner city folks.
And then there was Elizabeth
” I’m Elizabeth, from Londonderry”, head bobbing like a frenetic wren, face tight with something hungry, eyes clocking the sandpit, the push toys in our woman’s garden.
Londonderry told our woman everything she needed to know, meant she never mentioned her roots, her own surname, the ritual of the manager and the baby Jesus carefully placed in the cotton wool on Christmas Eve.
Elizabeth apologised over the fence. Consonants so sharp it seemed they flew, imbedded themselves in the struggling flower beds our woman tried to plant.
Elizabeth apologised for hoovering at 4pm.
Apologised for going upstairs too many times
Apologised for the thud, thud, thud of her tumble dryer.
Our woman took note, took to creeping around her own home, sushed the children, forbade drum and recorder practice. Tried to use domestic devices only between the hours of 10 and 3.
And then one day, Elizabeth was gone, house empty, truly silent.
Our woman ran up and downstairs 6 times, just to celebrate.
The one legged landlord called, said there would be a new tenant, invited her, again, to take a spin in his almost new jag, jingled the car keys against a thigh that sounded just slightly wrong.
The new tenant, she still doesn’t know his name, arrived, hung thick net curtains and closed all the windows.
She saw him once or twice, face unfinished, ugly, as if created by an inept, uninterested sculptor was unfailingly unsmiling and so she didn’t smile either.
So, far, in 3 years,he has complained about
The branches of her tree touching his fence
The ivy on the front fence
The radio being on at 11pm, she wonders if he dislikes Book at bedtime
The radio being on at 4pm
She tries, our woman, to not notice that his windows are never open, even in a heat wave.
She tries not to notice that there are never any visitors.
She tries not to notice that there are never, ever any sounds.
When they pass on the street, she tries not to notice him either.
Her friends laugh, call him the vampire, speculate about the number of bodies there must be under the floorboards, she finds it hard to join in the laughter.
” I reckon he just hangs from a branch, upside down in the dark, like a big lizard” says a friend
” Sush” she mutters “he’ll hear you” and the friends, replete with cold beer and hot curry laugh and shake their heads and change the subject, but later, left alone with the washing up,our woman, standing in the tiny garden, looking up at the moon, last cheeky vodka in hand, cannot help but look into his windows, no light on, no sound, no movement.
She shuts her door with more force than is really needed and goes to check sleeping children far too old to need this nightly check.