The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
The Bad Neighbor
Frank Mancuso was awakened by a noise from outside. He sat up in bed.
“What the hell is that?”
“I think it’s our new neighbor taking out the garbage,” his wife Doris said.
“What the hell time is it?”
“After midnight. Maybe they have a lot of stuff to get rid of after their move.”
“Hah! I’m going over to talk to him tomorrow.”
“Okay, but you’ll watch yourself, won’t you? You remember what we said.”
“Yeah, I’ll watch myself.”
The next day after supper Mancuso went next door and rang the bell. A small birdlike woman answered the door. He introduced himself and said he’d like to talk to her husband. A large hulking man of about 40, his own age, was already there. “Get inside,” he told the woman. He looked Mancuso up and down and said, “Yeah, what do you want?”
Mancuso told him about the noise waking them up as the garbage cans were right outside their bedroom window. The man said, “You from back East, New York, I bet.”
“What’s your name, Frank something?”
“Ha! You belonged to the mob huh?”
“I was just kidding. You don’t look like a mobster. You work in an office, I bet?”
“I’m an accountant.”
“Bingo! Name’s Bickman. You heard of Bickman’s Flooring?”
“That’s me. Built it from scratch.” Bickman put out a big hand. Mancuso shook it. Bickman squeezed hard and Mancuso winced. “Ha! How’s your flooring?”
“It’s fine. About the garbage cans?”
“Yeah, I heard what you said to the old lady. What’s the matter, interrupt something with your wife?”
“It interrupted our sleep.”
Bickman laughed. “Just kidding. Okay, I’ll try to get them out earlier but no guarantees. I’m a night owl. Oh, I should warn you. I invited the guys from my business over Saturday for a pool party. Might get a little noisy.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“Sure. Okay, I’ll let you get back to your little woman. Heh, heh.”
When Mancuso returned home his wife asked how it went. “He’s a jerk, and a bully. I know his type. I think his wife is scared of him.”
“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll take her some calzone.”
“Won’t make any difference to him. Oh, yeah, they’re having a pool party Saturday.”
“You’ll be able to put up with him though, right?”
The pool party, as Bickman had warned, was noisy. Mancuso turned their air conditioner on and closed all the windows. “It’s not too bad,” said Doris.
“Yeah. Guess there’s no point going over there. I could end the party early.”
“You won’t do that, will you?”
“Nah, just kidding.”
A little after midnight it became quiet. They went to sleep.
Doris brought the calzone next door and met Bickman’s wife. Her name was Lily, she reported to Mancuso. “You’re right, she’s scared of him. I think he roughs her up. She had a bruise on her arm, said she fell. I don’t believe her.”
“Somebody should teach that guy a lesson.”
“You’ll let somebody else do it, right?”
The summer went by. Mancuso’s neighbor, the one on the other side of the Bickman’s, complained to him that Bickman was letting his shrubs grow all over their fence and into his back yard. “Did you see him about it?” Mancuso asked.
“Yeah, he told me to stuff it.”
“What did you do?”
The neighbor shrugged. “What could I do? You know how big the guy is. I just pruned them from my side.”
One of the other neighbors told Mancuso that they’d gone to a barbeque when the Bickmans were there. They’d been invited because the hostess felt sorry for Bickman’s wife. Bickman had ignored his wife and tried to hit on every other woman there. It had gotten very uncomfortable. The host had tried to talk to Bickman and there’d almost been a fight. He wished the Bickmans had never moved there.
“Me, too,” said Mancuso.
“Do you think there’s anything we can do about him?”
The next week when Mancuso got home Doris told him she’d been outside pulling up weeds in the front yard. She’d worn what she usually did during the summer, shorts and a halter. She’d looked up and there was Bickman, leering at her. “He said I had nice legs,”
“He said a few other things.”
“So, is it time?”
“Yeah, it’s time. Will you call somebody?”
“Nah, I’ll take care of it myself.”
“It’s taking a chance.”
Mancuso shrugged. “Don’t forget, I’ve done this before. I’m pretty sure I can cover it. I read in the paper there’s been a few break-ins around. It shouldn’t be too hard to make it look like one.”
After dinner, Mancuso went into the garage and unlocked a cabinet door. He took out the Walther 523. He balanced it in his hand, then put in the back of his pants. Funny, he thought, people figured he was the hothead, but Doris had always been the spitfire. Bickman had made a mistake when he tried to hit on her. He’d wait a couple of weeks, then Doris could ask Blickman’s wife over or somehow get her out of the house, then he’d do it. He imagined Mrs. Bickman wouldn’t be too broken up.
© Martin Green April 2014
The Lady from San Diego
The phone rang. I was having my morning coffee. I picked it up and growled a hello. “My, my, Arnold, you sound so grouchy. I bet you haven’t had your coffee yet.”