I’ve had a favorable response to the free fiction I’ve posted on this site so far, my short stories, Santa Cruz and Screwy Louie. So, I thought I’d post another story, in segments, starting today and continuing until the entire story has been published.
This new story is titled “Fraternity House.” The narrator is a 73-year-old woman. A group of fraternity brothers from the local community college move into a house next door to the narrator, and her world is suddenly changed in ways she’d never have expected. I hope you’ll enjoy the story.
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Copyright Jere’ M. Fishback, 2010
I’m a widow, seventy-three years old.
I like things peaceful—I like them quiet—but my life’s no longer calm. There’s always something stirring next door.
My former neighbors, the Sandersons, had died in a car wreck, several months before. Their house went up for sale; a real estate management company bought the home. The company put a For Rent sign out front, and then a group of young men moved in, five of them.
Wouldn’t you know it: nearly all of them had junker cars, and they parked all over the Sandersons’ lawn; they were killing the grass.
Then, one day, I came home from the supermarket, and one of these boys had parked his car—half of it anyways—on my property. Two of the young men stood out front of the Sandersons’; they tossed a football back and forth. After I put my groceries away, I walked over there to speak with them. I was somewhat embarrassed, because both boys were shirtless. So, I kept my eyes on their faces while we talked.
They appeared to be nineteen or twenty years old.
I introduced myself, and I told them I was their neighbor. Then I pointed to my house. The larger boy, a good-looking fellow with dark hair and broad shoulders, told me his name was Joshua. He introduced his friend—a stocky young man with red hair and freckles—as Winston.
I said, “I’m not trying to be a difficult neighbor, but someone’s parked their car on my property—at least partially—and I’d like it moved. A car’s weight is not good for the grass, you see.”
Joshua—the bigger boy—said to Winston, “Go inside, and tell Rezzie to move his car, will you?”
Then Joshua said to me, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Humberstone. We’ll be more careful from now on.”
I said, “Your apology’s accepted,” and then I pointed to my gardenia bush. I told Joshua, “That’s where our property lines meet. If you’ll keep your cars on your side of that shrub, I’ll appreciate it.”
Joshua nodded; he said, “We’ll do that; we surely will.”
Then I asked him, “Are you boys related to one another? Are you brothers?”
He shuffled his feet. He said, “No and yes. I mean, we’re not related by blood, but we are brothers; we belong to a fraternity, Pi Omega Tau. We attend the community college.”
While I spoke with Joshua, a curly-haired boy—Rezzie they called him—came bounding out of the Sandersons’ front door with his car keys. Joshua introduced us, and Rezzie apologized.
He said, “I didn’t know I’d parked on your grass. It won’t happen again.”
He was a curious boy, this Rezzie. He fidgeted constantly, like he was plugged into a wall socket. His eyes darted here and there while he spoke. He was barely as tall as me, and he was skinny as a lawn rake.
His car’s body had more rust than paint on it. It took Rezzie three tries before the engine started. Then, a cloud of gray smoke blew out of the tailpipe; it drifted over me and Joshua, and then we both coughed like patients in a tuberculosis ward.
After we stopped hacking, Joshua said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Humberstone. Rezzie’s car needs some work.”
I watched Rezzie move his jalopy, and then I said to Joshua, “That thing’s a health menace. His folks should have it repaired.”
Joshua looked at me with a grim expression; he said, “Rezzie doesn’t have any folks; he’s on his own.”
I said, “He has no family at all?”
Joshua shrugged; he said, “Rezzie has us—his fraternity brothers.
“We’re his family, I guess.”
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That’s all for today, folks. I hope you’re enjoying the story. I’ll post a second installment tomorrow.