Friday, March 1, 2013

Westbow Press Prompt: Neighbors

     If you've followed my Wednesday WIPpets, you'll have noticed that my novel, "The Beloved Daughter," was recently named a finalist in the Women of Faith writing competition. Since this contest is sponsored by Westbow Press, I decided to check out their website and stumbled across their blog. Turns out that Friday is writing prompt day, and today's prompt is all about neighbors.

     We live in a small circle of houses and share back fences with our neighbors on all three sides. The woman who lives directly behind us is on her back porch all the time. Why? Because she's a smoker.

     Ms. Fence and I probably wouldn't know each other at all if it weren't for her regular habit of enjoying a cigarette on the back porch several times a day, and for my sons' regular habit of pulling down and breaking our curtain rod. Thanks to our usually-curtainless existence, Ms. Fence has seen me through my living room window in my pajamas. She's seen me in my bath towel. She's seen me practicing "Thriller" before chaperoning the high school homeschool dance with my husband.

     Ms. Fence and I smile when we see each other, but we don't know one another at all. The only information we have about each other is based on what we observe through my room. She sees a mom who apparently has more important things to do than get dressed first thing in the morning - a Michael Jackson wanna-be who occasionally busts a move in the middle of her otherwise domestic duties.

     I see a woman who smokes quite a lot, whose dogs like to bark at my boys in the summer when everyone is playing outside. But that's all. I don't know where Ms. Fence works, what hobbies she enjoys, where she grew up. I don't even know her real name.

     A few months ago, I went several months without seeing Ms. Fence and wondered with disappointment if she quit smoking. Of course, it would be better for her health to give up her habit, but what about our mid-morning waves to each other when I wander in front of the window wearing my pj's and sporting a towel on my wet head? I found myself missing Ms. Fence's smile and was actually glad when I saw her on her porch again last month, cigarette in hand.

     Maybe Ms. Fence was out of town for those few months. Maybe she tried to give up smoking and failed. Whatever the reason, I was glad to see those smiles again from across the back fence.

     I hope for her own health that Ms. Fence actually decides to quit smoking for good one day. But until then, I'm going to enjoy our silent greetings each morning. I'm also going to make it a point to learn her real name. That way if I do stop seeing her across the fence, I won't feel so awkward walking up to her front door one day and saying hi.


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