Nosy Neighbors

Time for my first “Yes, I exercise” post.

It’s a busy world. We all need exercise, right? Well. I’ve decided that the best exercise for me is writing exercises. I don’t have to get off the couch. I don’t have to sweat…(unless it’s hot out and the AC is broken.) All I have to do is make sure to lick the grease off my fingers before I touch the keyboard. Here’s the exercise, and stay tuned afterward for a little more information about it.

Eden

“What seems to be the problem?” I asked as I shifted my weight to my left foot. It had been a long day, and I had the feeling it was about to get longer. I hooked my thumb in my belt and Mr. Jordan frowned at me. It was a bad habit I had. It made people uncomfortable when a cop had his hand so close to his gun. I was a newbie. I was still getting used to the fact that I had a gun on my belt.

“Nothing. No problem at all, officer,” Mr. Jordan answered.

“That’s not the story we heard from Eden Hope.” That was my partner, John Lopez. He looked as Mexican as they come, but he didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, and he hated it when people called him Juan.

“Yeah, well Eden is always complaining about something or another. There’s no problem at all officers, really,” Mrs. Jordan responded.

Just then Eden opened her front door and walked across the street to us. Mrs. Jordan’s face went sour as her neighbor approached.

“Good morning, officers,” Eden said as she stepped up to John’s side. She was inappropriately named. I think of the name Eden and I see some drop dead gorgeous woman, slender, long blonde hair, something like that. Eden Hope could only hope to look like that. Her hips stuck out like the wings of an airplane. The auburn color of her short hair obviously came from a box, and the crop cut did nothing to hide the rolls of fat on her neck or the black hairs that dotted her chin.

John cleared his throat. He looked ill. “Are you the one who called, ma’am?”

“Yes. I would like you to arrest these two.”

I raised an eyebrow. “On what charges?”

“They have a dead body in their home.”

Mrs. Jordan’s jaw clenched.

“How do you know this?” John asked, then rubbed his nose.

“I can smell it. Day and night. Any time the wind changes.”

Just then the wind changed. I certainly smelled something, but it was too close to be coming from the Jordans’ house. I almost gagged.

“You can’t smell anything but your own stench,” Mr. Jordan growled.

Eden stepped forward, and John was brave enough to put a hand on her shoulder and keep her back. “Please, Miss Hope. Let’s just see if we can figure this out without any trouble.”

Eden glowered at him, but she folded her arms and stepped back. “I don’t smell like rotting flesh, Robert,” Eden said.

John cleared his throat again and looked away.

“Look,” Eden turned to address me now. “All I know is that these two moved in, they had some old man come over one evening, and he never left. After that the neighborhood started stinking. They killed him, I tell you, and his body is rotting somewhere inside that house.”

I bit at my lip, it wasn’t so much a gesture of indecision as it was an effort not to hurl. “I’m sorry Miss Hope, but there’s really not much we can do about this. You say the old man never came out, but perhaps he left when you didn’t see him.”

“He didn’t. I have security cameras on my front door and they happen to overlap the Jordans’ front door. The old man never came out.” The wind shifted again and Eden stuck her nose in the air. “See? There! Don’t you smell it?”

I wasn’t really brave enough to take a deep breath, but I did sniff the air a little. There was certainly something unpleasant on the breeze, and it wasn’t coming from Eden’s direction. Perhaps the lady was right.

“Hey,” John said to me, then motioned me away from the group. We stepped out of hearing range and John frowned. “What do you think?”

I shrugged. “We should probably look into it. I mean, she does have the video.”

John shook his head. “It’s nothing. She’s just a bad neighbor. Besides, do you know all the paperwork this means if we pursue it?”

I pursed my lips. Avoiding paperwork didn’t seem like a good reason to ignore a complaint like this.

“Just like Mr. Jordan said, she couldn’t possibly smell anything other than herself.”

I had an uncle who lived on a farm. Every time I went there all I could smell was cow manure and muddy hay. Uncle Tony said the place didn’t stink at all, except when a cat died in the rafters. He could smell the dead cat, just not the cows. I opened my mouth to mention it when Mrs. Jordan spoke up.

“Can we please get this over with? I have something on the stove.”

John took a deep breath then exhaled. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Mrs. Jordan. Go ahead and get back to your stove. Miss Hope, there’s really not much we can do.”

“You’re kidding me.” Eden raised one eyebrow at him.

“We’ll make sure to file a report and if any of the other neighbors mention anything then maybe we…”

“All the other neighbors are gone. All moved out a long time ago.”

“Why?”

Eden just shrugged. Mrs. Jordan said, “Nosy neighbors?”

“Have a nice day, Miss Hope,” John said.

Her response was not the customary one that followed a statement like John’s. He ignored the obscenities and headed back to our patrol car. I walked back a little more slowly. Before I reached my door I heard Mrs. Jordan say, “You’re going to regret that, you freak.”

I watched them in the mirror as John drove away. That was the last time I ever saw Eden Hope. The case stuck with me a long time, and several years later I went back there. I learned that Eden had mysteriously disappeared some time ago, and even though her sister had cleared out the house and sold it on the market, the neighborhood still kept that funny smell for years.

So this exercise was inspired by one of my Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group exercises that we do every month. The prompt was to write a scene that had dialogue with four or more people. I decided to write it in first person mainly because it cut down the number of names I needed to say in order to tag the dialogue. And speaking of dialogue tagging, I tried to use beats instead of using “said” or other tags.

Overall it was a fun little exercise. I certainly enjoyed writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it. And, why not? If you’ve got time, or if you’re stuck in a little bit of writer’s block, go find a way to write a scene with more than four characters speaking. Let me know how it turned out.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

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