Fiction: Lori D’Angelo’s “Neighbors”

Thomas hired a neighbor woman to spy on his wife. He told himself that it was for his wife’s own good. His marriage had fizzled, and he wanted to know why. His wife’s name was Donna. The neighbor’s name was Donnetta. At times, he felt like he wasn’t even spying. The neighbor was like an extension of his wife.

The neighbor woman spied on his wife with a telescope. The telescope was long and thin. This was the perfect way to spy, Thomas thought. If Donnetta did it at night and got caught, she could always claim that she was gazing at the stars. If she did it during the day and she got caught, she could always say that she was gazing at the clouds.

Some days, Thomas went over to Donnetta’s house first, before he went home. While they sipped beers together in Donnetta’s cozy kitchen, Donnetta told him everything that Donna had done that day as well as everything that she had done herself. If he paid her extra, she would even tail his wife when she went out. Today, she had gone to Lowe’s and the Home Depot. Donnetta didn’t want money. So he paid her in birdseed. She had a large feeder out back.

What was she doing there? Thomas asked.

I’m not sure, Donnetta said as she took a sip of her beer. She appeared to be looking at blinds.

From Donnetta’s house, they could both watch Donna on the telescope. Sometimes, Thomas preferred watching Donna on the telescope to watching her in real life. Blinds, Thomas thought with panic. She won’t get blinds.

The next day, when Thomas got home, he saw that Donna had installed the blinds.

He tried to act casual. If he went over to Donnetta’s, maybe she could tell him the time when his wife had bought the blinds.

The blinds are nice, Thomas said as he pretended to examine them. But why do we need blinds?

The neighbor woman stares at me, Donna said as she watched the television with contentment. Thomas was restless

Really? Thomas said. Why would she do that? He was sweating a little.

I don’t know, Donna said. But I think it’s kinda creepy.

How do you know she isn’t looking at the sky? Thomas asked.

Because of the angle of the telescope, Donna explained. And, sometimes, she moves it abruptly when she catches me looking at her.

It’s weird, Donna said. Because she looks a lot like me. We could be sisters.

I haven’t noticed, Thomas said.

The next day at work, Thomas kept sneaking outside to call Donnetta and yell at her.

Couldn’t you have been more careful? he asked as cars roared by the parking lot.

I’m sorry, she said.

Don’t you care about what we had?

Thomas was sorry too. Sorry that he would no longer have an excuse to sit with Donnetta and talk to her after work. Instead, he would have to go straight home to his wife. The thought was almost unbearable.

Let me just ask you one thing, Thomas said. Did she ever appear to be cheating on me?

No, Donnetta said. All she ever does is go to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Why did you agree to do this? Thomas asked.

I don’t know. The free birdseed? Plus, I was bored.

What if I still bring you some, sometimes? Not every day though, but sometimes. Would that be okay?

Donnetta paused. Yeah, she said, that would be fine.

At first, Thomas only brought the birdseed over once a week, then twice a week. Then, every other day. Eventually, he started going to Donnetta’s every day after work, after he stopped by the birdseed store. The guy at the birdseed store even knew him. It was a specialty store in the yuppie strip mall that only sold pet accessories.

What kind of bird do you have? he asked.

Um, no, Thomas said. We don’t have a bird. Then, he explained, we just like to feed the ones in the neighborhood.

That’s nice, the birdseed store guy said. Very neighborly.

Yes, Thomas agreed, hoping that the birdseed store guy would leave him alone.

One night, Donna confronted him.

Are you having an affair? she asked as he sipped a beer from a bottle. It was the kind that Donnetta liked to drink.

Um, no, Thomas said as he coughed up some beer. Why would you think that?

Just, I don’t know, she said. You seem to come home later and later. You’re always making up excuses not to be here.

Um, that’s not true, Thomas said.

This thing with Donnetta was going to have to stop, he realized. Donna wasn’t cheating on him. That night, when he made love to Donna, he thought of Donnetta.

The next day, he called Donnetta and said, Look, I can’t stop by anymore after work.

Okay, she said. I figured as much.

Why? he asked. Did she say something to you?

No, Donnetta. Nothing like that. It was just. Well, it had to end.

Why? Thomas asked. They hadn’t even done anything.

It was too good to be true, she said. It was so pure and innocent.

After work, instead of going to the birdseed store, Thomas went to the mall and bought a telescope. He put it upstairs and pointed it skyward. But, when his wife wasn’t looking, he pointed it across the street at Donnetta’s house. One night, he saw her looking back at him. She started to wave at him, but then she turned.

The next day, she got blinds. Thomas bought some birdseed and left it outside her house, but it was too late.

***

Lori D’Angelo’s work has appeared in various literary journals including Word Riot, Drunken BoatStirring, and Literary Mama. She lives in Virginia with her husband, son, dogs, and cat. She is currently working on a novel.

Photo credit: mensatic, morguefile.com

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