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Prompt: Begin your piece with the line “My troublesome neighbours…”
Style: Write in any style you please. Including but not limited to fiction, poetry, playscript, non-fiction and creative non-fiction.
Limit: More than 350 words, but less than 450 words. This does not include the title.
Entry 1: A Soliloquy
My troublesome neighbours are nice! A few parties, a barking dog. We get on OK. But you’ve gotta pick your moment to pop next door! The other day I desperately needed a smoke. I had run out. The front gate squeaked as I entered.
“Hiya, wanna cuppa? Kettle’s just boiled.” Julie was hunkered down in her favourite seat on the front verandah, smoking, out of the wind and catching the watery, winter sunshine. “Here’s the rollies, help yourself. There’re more papers over on the seat.”
“Kylie popped in the other day, as I was sitting here. She needed to use the loo and suggested we could go shopping later. She’s after one of those new earbuds; ya know the ones with the pink and grey stripes? Nichole got a pair last week at JB Hi-Fi. Apparently, they deliver great sound, and you can imagine those colours against her new green cardigan!”
“Talking of being caught short, I was in the kitchen making scones earlier, and I ran out of self-raising flour. I luckily had some baking powder, and I mixed two tablespoons with 400grams of the plain flour. It worked a treat, and with the lime marmalade, they will be great for morning tea. Jason will be home shortly. He had to go to the doctors for his annual prostate thingy. Ya know where they stick their finger up – oh yer, ya know all about that, don’t ya!”
“It levels the playing field a bit – we ladies have all of those fingers prodding, and those bloody cold speculums and it, well, ya know, it sorta levels things a bit.”
“I was talking to Melissa last week, and she has found this amazing recipe for spaghetti bog. Ya gotta fry the onions first, then add the garlic, capsicum, tomato paste and wine quickly, so ya don’t burn it. She says that it provides a good base to brown the mince. She only ever uses the premium grade. It doesn’t cost that much extra and, well, while there is still a bit of water in it, it’s nowhere near as much as in the ordinary stuff. It’s what I like about Coles. I reckon they don’t add as much as IGA!”
“We are going to have plums and custard for tea tonight. Jason really likes them, and I thought I would give him a special treat. He has lost nearly three kilograms, since starting his diet. Renee says she sometimes adds vanilla to her custard as Darren really likes that. I cheat, and buy the ready-made stuff from IGA. It is only $3.79, for nearly a litre!”
At that moment I made a commitment to never, ever run out of smokes again!
Entry 2: Ode To A Dumbass
My troublesome neighbour bought a new car
And had it on blocks in just a minute
Spray painted it orange and welded a bar
On the front, with a bull’s skull stuck in it.
The car revved all night, and the welder arced
While I tried writing at a poem or two,
And love grew in the engineer’s din.
While I pontificated, her pit bull barked
One day she came over ‘to use the loo’
Fondled my crotch, and then she moved in.
Wharves of twilight ‘neath the verdant swirl,
Aurora australis of sinecure,
Illumined by the light of stellar burl,
Reflections on the tide-swept shells impure.
Waves crinkled by Selene’s darkened pull
As masses orbit, shadowed from the sun.
Cold spars bisect the sprinkled crowns of thorn
Ionised as ghosts of cotton wool
The crews that haunt the tarrying ships that run
Their clues up in the ever-imm’nent dawn.
As dirty as a day spent building Rome.
Not knowing what is meant by ‘raths outgrabe’
With hand around a stubby wrapped in foam
She coughs and says: ‘What’s with this poem, babe?’
These words upon the dark, high-contrast screen,
These photons that determine my success
Cannot but conjure thoughts that further rhyme
If she just understood what these poems mean,
I could forgive her all her bathroom mess
Or how she calls the Fernwood gym a ‘gyme’.
Planets are nutty orbs that loop the skies
Invisible in daylight, like the wings
Of mortal, jewel-encrusted dragonflies.
Like them, and many other lovely things.
Once, she read a poem about some slugs
Then threw ‘That bloody book’ across the room.
“What the fuck’s a ‘conoisseuse’?” she screeched.
Then left a wine stain on the loungeroom rugs
(Fruit of some over-priced Moroccan loom)
Then cleaned that up and left the carpet bleached.
Paper wasps like wisps of forlorn Thought
Frail glissandos etching faint desires
In unrequited paroxysms fraught
With melodies plucked on Sisyphean lyres.
She cracks a can, and whispers in my ear
“Later on tonight I’ll make you come.”
I blush, as she calls me her McMuffin.
Then prances off to get another beer.
I tell her that I like her jeans-clad bum
And try explaining to her ‘a maguffin’.
Cheetahs sprint, and whale sharks softly browse
Their parted plains, yet in grains unground
There rest the tawdry ghosts who gently drowse
And rustle – but make no other sound.
Yet no poet could describe what I now feel
As she pushes our new couch out on the lawn
And sets a bin of poetry on fire.
The smile she gives to me shows she’s for real.
As real as any bogan ever born.
Every burp and fart fills us with hope.
Entry 3: There Goes The Neighbourhood
My troublesome neighbours were simply not house proud. We’d followed their progress as they moved in, slowly building their home, spreading out across the whole block, knocking down everything that didn’t suit them. Which was pretty much everything. They’ll regret that, my partner said as the trees came down, but we doubted they’d notice. The chimney was smoking the whole time, and nights and days were filled with vehicles coming and going, and the whole place blazing with lights.
They were simply never still, never quiet.
It was the noise that really got our attention, that told us things were approaching a dangerous level. Music and other entertainments blaring constantly. And such inanities, being spewed constantly and loudly for all to hear, as though they were the only ones with ears. Yeah, they were a rowdy lot, swearing at each other, and worse. The screaming and fighting could be terrifying, but it never seemed to stop them for long.
It’s the pressure, my partner said. So many of them crowded into such a small place.
It’s not that small, I argued. There should be plenty of room if they’d only share. Maybe take better care of the garden.
So we took a trip past their place, innocuous-like, just a drive-by, not game to introduce ourselves. The place looked all right from a distance, a pleasant enough combination of blue and white and green, if that takes your fancy, but the closer you got, the more you realised something was off.
The state of the yard, oh my! Rubbish everywhere, their animals running amok and digging great big holes everywhere, and apparently at war with anything they hadn’t planted themselves. There was a definite predilection for rocks over vegetation. Delightful natural water features had been built over or left to go filthy with run-off from their habitation.
We’d park just close enough to watch, the whole place slowly turning brown, and their trash spreading further and further.
What if they visit us, my partner said. What if they come knocking?
It was a genuine worry. They started making noises about moving out. We could hear them clearly enough, in amongst their squabbles, talking about needing more room, more space. Not leaving, mind you, just spreading, buying up the neighbourhood.
No, my partner said. We aren’t going to have that.
But what could we do, I asked.
Nuke them from orbit, she said. Before they infest the rest of the solar system.
Entry 4: 2021
My troublesome neighbours were taken last month. I felt as a law abiding citizen it was my duty to call the track and trace hotline and report them for having visitors. The government said it was for our safety and they would only be placed in a quarantine facility for two weeks.
A two week holiday of peace and quiet before they returned and hopefully started obeying the rules.
It’s not been six weeks and they haven’t returned.
I’d originally felt like boasting about having reported them. I was the one responsible for getting rid of the undesirables. Dobbing in anyone flouting the new laws was my civic duty. I even got a bonus stimulus payment for doing so. With each passing week the less I want anyone to know. What if
they never return?
I used to fall asleep at night wondering who the strangers were, visiting my neighbours day and night. Now I fall asleep wondering about the growing reports of no one ever returning. The politicians and the news keeps extolling the need of the track and trace hotline and the quarantine
facilities. However, more and more stories are circulating questioning if we are being told the whole truth.
I’d still be calling those spreading stories tin foil hat wearers, except my neighbours still haven’t returned. The more I try to uncover what might be happening the more I’m left scratching my head.
Any reports different to the official narrative are deleted as soon as they are published. I don’t even know how many will get to read this before it gets censored.
I have to remain anonymous so I apologise you won’t be able to verify any of this. I don’t want to end up being one of the disappeared. If we are ever let out of this lockdown how will I ever face my neighbours friends and family? If they come asking after them, how will I be able to look them in
the face when I am the reason they were taken?
According to their neighbour on the other side, they were helping those that had resisted the mandatory vaccination program. With growing unofficial reports of thousands of deaths of those that had been vaccinated, I’m left wondering more and more each day if maybe I was the crackpot
believing what we were told.
Entry 5: Home, Sweet, Home
My troublesome neighbours – well, The Knockers, we used to call them. Back in the time, our little row of terraced houses was like an extended family, everyone in and out of each other’s homes, children shrieking, stereos blaring, But one by one, upward mobility struck and everyone began peeling off into smart detached properties with porches and pergolas.
Not us, of course. Nothing upwardly mobile about us. But we found ourselves marooned in the middle of the terrace with invisible neighbours. We never saw them. We certainly never heard them. The once rowdy row was now silent. No singing, no laughter, no music.
Until The Knockers moved in. A strange wizened couple of indeterminate old age. They too were silent to begin with. Then the knocking started. 9am sharp, every weekday. 10am on the weekends. Thump, thump, thump in an irregular rhythm. Thud, thud, thud. Bang, bang, bang. An occasional wallop. A break for lunch, a break for tea. Then the evening shift until 10pm. At first, we thought they were banging on the walls to see which were solid. But the knocking went on, day in, day out. We eventually decided they must be hanging wallpaper by nailing it to the walls, to save on paste.
The knocking went on. And on. Maybe they’d got a treasure map and were trying to find the gold and jewels. Maybe they were covering everywhere with shelves. Maybe … maybe … maybe.
And then, a year to the day exactly, it stopped. Just like that. We never discovered what they’d been doing. The terrace simply returned to its morgue-like state. We started tiptoeing around, whispering in case anyone was listening.
Then one day the Head of the Household held a family meeting.
“We can’t go on living like this,” she said. “Something Has To Be Done.”
So, we went back to singing, playing our musical instruments (badly), turning the stereo and the TV up as loud as we wanted. And we shrieked with laughter whenever we could.
Turns out, all the nearby residents needed to galvanise them into joining forces and becoming allies – friends even – was us. We’re now the troublesome neighbours in the block and everyone complains about us. They hold meetings about us. They write angry little notes for us. They even got a petition going for the council.
But it’s OK. The Head of the Household’s got her eye on a tidy little detached place across the road. It’s going cheap, because apparently the neighbours are awful. Upwards mobility here we come.
Entry 6: Sirens in suburbia
My troublesome neighbours, well, neighbour, has me very confused at the moment. What you need to know about her is that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. And while she’s always been a terrible singer, she’s started getting louder and louder. And she’s started spending more time in the
garden. I can hear her from my living room even when the windows are shut.
It has led to some heated exchanges.
“Christeene, would you please shut up that awful racket?”
“You don’t have to be jealous of me, Richard. I know I have the voice of an angel.”
“An angel caught in the garbage disposal maybe.”
We have one of these exchanges every single day. She tells me that singing is meant to be good for the plants, but looking at the miserable, shrivelled up fruit her trees put out, I think they feel the same way about it as me.
But today I’m confused. She went out into the backyard and started filling up the watering can at the top of her voice, so I went out to shout, and she did her stomp around routine. But just before she went back inside, she winked at me and asked, ‘Same time tomorrow?’ before closing the door. The worst part is that I felt my heart skip a beat.
Alarm bells started ringing. How could I have a crush on a woman whose voice was literally peeling the paint off my ceiling? Did she hit some strange pitch that resonated with my heart? Some kind of auditory hypnotism? Literal brain damage? I thought back to high school where we read about
Odysseus and the Sirens, who sang beautifully to lure sailors to their doom on the rocks. Odysseus, wanting to hear their song, who forced his crew to plug their ears with wax and row near enough to the rocks that he could hear it, without his crew crashing the ship on the rocks. The only thing my 95 Civic has in common with a boat is that it steers like one, and the only thing she’s driving is me crazy, but could it be that her singing is actually making me fall for her?
She’s more like an air raid siren than a naked wet woman on a rock, but I think it might be working.