I can hear them.
Fifty yards away, they laugh, bellow, whisper,
All the while not knowing that I'm listening,
Remembering. A year ago Old Man Eberson collapsed
On my floorboards. Everyone said it was age,
But I know what happened. Four minutes without air.
They thought he had cash in the safe, but they found
His only treasure, my deed.
For a week, his sap soaked into the wood.
He's here forever.
I remember eighty years of feeling his footsteps,
Light and wobbly, gradually more confident.
And toward the end, his pace unsteady again.

Some nights the wind mourns for him, too.

Now plywood blinds my windows. A board is clamped
On my door, which someone tried to pry open.
Easier for the next person.
No one else here except the feral cats,
Eyes glowing, bodies ready to pounce.
I have much to learn from them.

I am a bell jar for his fury.

Six o'clock in the morning I feel his anger
The most, as though he's screaming
There's no more dawns for him.
It is the hour the walls are painted red.

I'm becoming his skeleton.

It's just a matter of time. A bet. A dare.
Someday, someone will rip off the board
That shields the world from us,
Releasing the fetid breath of rage,
And when he does, we'll be ready.

# # #

The House Next Door by Patricia La Barbera
originally published December 16, 2009



Patricia LaBarbera is the author of The Celtic Crow Murders and is a member of Mensa and Mystery Writers of America. She has had poetry published in journals and has written prize-winning fiction. The writer lives in the Florida Keys with her husband. Visit Patricia online at www.patricialabarbera.com.

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