My writing class ended in April…but then that class of fifteen or so morphed into a small writing group of five that meets every other week. I’ve heard of writing groups who share their stories with each other, offer praise, constructive criticism, and lend moral support and I’ve always longed to belong to one. Now I’m in…and it’s so much FUN! Why didn’t I do this earlier? We were having way too good of a time to let it all go after GSWP ended (read: we had broken the ice, shared intimate pieces of ourselves via our writing, and heck, who wants to start that process over again with a new group?).
Now that I’m accountable to a group of writers, I’ve told myself (quite sternly) that I WILL get serious and begin working on “that long piece of fiction” that I’ve always dreamed of pinning down. But the last two weeks were crazy and so I brought a short story in today (I promised myself - again, sternly - that I’d get to the long piece of fiction after today). This story is one that I began months ago, but never finished. So after a (hot) morning of music lessons, followed by four (extremely hot) hours of babysitting kiddos, I wisely spent the thirty minutes before class wrapping this up.
“Joey, he’s at it again.”
“Joey?” My toes crept over to his side of the bed and prodded a shin. “Do you hear that racket?”
“Armph.” I responded to his caveman grunt with a sharp tap on the same shin.
“I hear you, I hear you,” Joey moaned, rolling over. “It sounds like he’s re-finishing his floors. At…” he squinted at the green digital numbers for a full twenty seconds, “…six o’clock in the morning. Man,” he yawned, “talk about a weird neighbor.”
“Weird?” I retorted. “He’s plain annoying! He scrapes chairs across the apartment at midnight, runs a full-fledged workshop at all hours of the day, and refinishes his floors at 6AM!” My voice was shrill. Maybe the neighbor could hear me. I was losing sleep over this and my nerves were shot.
“Angela,” Joey began. He was concerned; I could tell by his tone of voice. Maybe today was the day he’d take the stairs two at a time, pound on number fourteen, and angrily berate our inconsiderate neighbor.
I pictured our neighbor’s expression - he would be surprised, like a husband who finds out that his wife knew all along that he was cheating on her. He’d wear a penitent expression, similar to the sorry mutt who was caught relieving himself on the kitchen floor. And he would shower Joey with apologies, much like that altar boy who caught pouring hot wax over all the surpluses. Dry cleaning bills are no joke. That altar boy apologized like a pro, hoping he wouldn’t be stuck with the tab.
And in a humble voice, our neighbor would promise never to make anything screech, bam, or boom again.
“When are you going over?” I asked, bouncing on the mattress in my excitement.
“Going over?” Joey looked puzzled.
“You know, to yell at the neighbor.”
“Ann…” Joey began, “It’s six o’clock in the morning. If my head hits the pillow now, I still get another hour of sleep before work.”
“Not with that noise…” I began.
“Ear plugs,” Joey countered, grabbing a pair from the night table. “Bingo!” He stuffed the squishy red blobs in his ears, made a silly face at me, and rolled over. In what seemed to me like seconds, a soft snore was issuing from his side of the bed.
I lay there, steam billowing from my ears. After a particularly long, loud screech, I couldn’t take it any longer. “Six in the morning or not,” I muttered, “you’re getting a piece of my mind, buddy. Grabbing a ratty UNC Asheville sweatshirt from the dresser, I pulled it over my head while shuffling towards the door. That was a big mistake. “Ouch,” I moaned pathetically, clutching my big toe. I hopped around awkwardly for a minute, my gaze trapped on the fuzzy, dark blue insides of my sweatshirt, before I made it out the door, toe back on the floor and sweatshirt over my head.
I trudged up the stairs and quickly, before I could change my mind, gave two sharp raps on my neighbor’s door. It flew open faster than I expected, allowing me to take in the shock of graying hair, slightly tilted glasses, and irate expression on my neighbor’s face.
“Wait, why is HE wearing the irate expression?” my brain was asking.
“Well, thank goodness you’re here,” he said. “I’ve been hoping to have a word with you for quite some time now. Come to apologize, have ya?”
“Excuse me?” I blurted, trying to figure out how MY conversation with this guy had taken such a wrong turn. “Why would I be apologizing?”
“Why?” he snapped. “WHY? Do you think I can’t hear you at three in the morning, what with those creaking bedsprings and the obnoxiously loud moaning and giggling? I’m not deaf,” he accentuated the last word. “And how’s about that canine mutt of yours, yapping for food in the morning, yapping for a walk in the afternoon, yapping for affection in the evening. Ever heard of a muzzle?” Clearly this tirade had been long in coming. The man was practically foaming at the mouth. “And WHO,” he demanded, “WHO keeps their speakers on that loudly? I was never a fan of all those stupid reality TV shows, but heck, I can now hum ever single intro! And I don’t want to!”
I had taken a step backwards at this point. Was there a chance that my neighbor was certifiably insane?
“And to top it off, you invite your noisy friends over and you all play video games until the wee hours of the morning! And then you and that husband of yours go to bed and set the bedsprings to creakin’. Damn it!” he finished. He followed his curse with a strong glare before slamming the aging door right in my face.
I stumbled back down the stairs in a fog, pushing open the door to the apartment and making my way back to the bedroom. I crawled wearily into bed, sweatshirt and all, wishing I had hours of sleep at my disposal.
“How’d it go, champ?” Joey mumbled. “Did you let him have it?”
“Don’t ask,” I whispered, burying my head in the pillow. “He definitely won round one.”
copyright 2011 by viktorija krulikas girton