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by Jeff
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Mystery · #2314840
A rivalry among neighbors. Writer's Cramp entry.

For the entirety of the time that I’ve lived here, which is approaching the three year mark, old Ms. Ibarra next door had been the bane of my existence. Every party garnered noise complaints. The slightest encroachment of a tree branch or shrub leaf onto her property line elicited a knock on my door and a stern reprimand. And God forbid the Amazon delivery person accidentally left a package on her front step or left their truck idling in front of her driveway. For nearly three years, I rarely had a single day’s respite from some sort of antagonism by Ms. Ibarra, who seemed to have turned the airing of personal grievances against me into her full-time job. So it was a bit strange to have a stint of several days where I didn’t hear a peep from her. Especially after, in a fit of particular pique, I had surreptitiously introduced a little weed killer into her prized rose bushes, and disconnected the battery on her old Dodge Caravan.

The first sign of anything being amiss was when I went out to my mailbox one day and looked over at hers. The mailbox was full, stuffed with catalogs and political mailers for the upcoming election. It was unlike her to leave mail in the mailbox for more than a day; most days the short walk to the end of the driveway was the only exercise she got.

The second sign was an empty bird feeder on the front porch. She loved hummingbirds and always kept those cheap red plastic feeders full of nectar. One of them being empty was an unusual sight, to be sure. But, hey, if Ms. Ibarra wanted to let her mailbox overflow or wanted fewer hummingbirds flitting around, who was I to argue? She made it very clear that her business was her business, and certainly none of my business.

But then came sound of wind chimes from her back patio and, for as long as I’ve lived here, I couldn’t recall her ever having wind chimes anywhere on her property. They were apparently too close to musical instruments for her taste, and music was the work of the Devil.

At this point, I considered venturing across the property line and approaching the house even though that was something generally considered verboten and to be avoided at all costs. But what if she was hurt and needed an ambulance? Or worse? I finally decided that I couldn’t live with myself if she was in trouble and I did nothing for fear of what she might do if she ended up being all right and thought I was encroaching on her privacy.

As I neared the front of the house, I could see through the picture window into the living room and the dining room beyond. It was such a relatively small thing, but I couldn’t help but notice on the dining table that the salt was tipped over and it filled me with an inexplicable dread. Ms. Ibarra was always so meticulous, so exacting about the way she did everything; the tipped-over salt shaker might as well have been a massive tear in the fabric of the couch, or a gaping hole in the drywall.

That’s when I noticed the front door was ajar.

Convinced that something awful had happened to her, I anxiously pushed through the door and entered the house.

“Ms. Ibarra?” I called. “Are you here? Sorry to bother you, but your front door was open and I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

I moved further into the house.

“Ms. Ibarra?”

The living room, dining room, and kitchen were empty. Same with the guest room on the first floor. The garage was a hoarder’s playground (and also explained why her Dodge Caravan was always parked out in the driveway despite her having a two car garage and living alone), but no sign of Ms. Ibarra.

Moving upstairs, the first two bedrooms and the family room. That left only what I assumed was the master bedroom at the end of the hall. The room was dark and, as soon as I pushed through the door, I heard a loud bang, and then felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I looked down to find blood seeping into my shirt.

“Took you long enough,” Ms. Ibarra said from her seated position in the recliner on the other side of the bed. “I was starting to wonder if I needed to drop some additional hints in order for you to put the pieces together and come over to investigate.”

I blinked at her, confused.

“Oh, don’t pretend you’re surprised,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “We both knew it was going to come to this. Once you killed my roses and tampered with my car, this was going to be the eventual result.”

“I ... disconnected your battery. You ... shot me!” I said, starting to find it difficult to breathe. I sank to my knees.

“Correction, I shot an intruder. I’m just a poor old lady who doesn’t see so well anymore ... and you’re that fool of a neighbor who came into my house uninvited and started nosing around when you thought I was out of town. Waited until you noticed the mail piling up and the empty bird feeders and all, didn’tcha?”

A dog barked somewhere, and I could hear the sound of police sirens approaching in the distance.

“I already called 911 and told them I thought I heard an intruder in the house,” Ms. Ibarra continued. “It’s a shame that the paramedics aren’t going to arrive in time.”

I collapsed onto the floor, watching the life run out of me in an ever-expanding red stain on her white carpet. In these final moments, with nothing to prevent the inevitable end, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of how difficult it was going to be to have to clean this carpet.


990 words

Written For: "The Writer's Cramp

Prompt: Choose MYSTERY as one of your genres - which also means include some sort of mystery in your entry. Include all of these phrases in your story or poem - they can be in any order but they must be used exactly as below. and bolded: (1) a dog barked, (2) the salt was tipped over, (3) an empty bird feeder, (4) sound of wind chimes, (5) the mailbox was full
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