Neighbour

by S.D. Jones

I heard a voice as I unlocked the front door;

fumbling with the unfamiliar keys.

- Hey, hey, up here it said,

but there was no-one.

It was coming from the top of the stairs

of the shack next door.

I thumped my way up,

unsure if I was doing the right thing,

but I didn’t know

and I try to help where I can.

There was a man sitting on a plastic chair

his back to a frayed screen door

a leg outstretched and badly wrapped,

he didn’t look well; thin and unfocused.

- Hey, hey man can you do me a favor?

Sure why not, I thought.

- Can you get me some vodka?

- Hit by a car, I need something for the pain

- But don’t tell Greg okay?

He needed a doctor, not vodka

but he couldn’t afford it;

he was waiting to see if the insurance would pay

from the crash but it didn’t seem likely.

He'd been on a bike and was Mexican

in Florida

the only thing worse is if you’re black

or gay, or muslim, or Indian,

or anything

it's all pretty bad

especially in that neighbourhood,

though we were only a few streets from the yachts

and the big mansions.

I’d said I’d help so I drove to to the store

where the black woman pointed to the one-dollar vodka

when I showed her the scrap of paper

he'd given me

I thought about just getting him

the bigger bottle

but I wasn't sure, so I drove back

(strange the driving there)

and went back up the stairs.

- Thanks man, he said, and, where you from?

- Ah yeah man, kangaroo, kangaroo

I left him talking

and wondered, as I went down the warped stairs

to my front door,

what my girlfriend would think,

was he an addict?

Maybe I wouldn’t mention it

but would ask about her friend at work

the one who might not be able to afford her chemo

anymore.

But then we’d have to think about that man

and the people who love him

and the hate and the spite

in a place that’s so warm

and that invites daiquiris and cigars.

No I wouldn’t mention her either, the friend,

she would probably die

of her woman’s cancer

and by then we would have left

and we might be able to forget about it,

all of it, though it isn’t likely

because I can still picture my neighbour

who got hit by a car.

S. D. Jones is a Swiss/Australian writer currently living in France. He has recently completed a MSt in creative Writing at Cambridge University and is now working on his first novel. Examples of his writing can be found at Short Fiction Break, Typishly, and STORGY Magazine. 

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April 2018

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