My Mother’s Knives

Christina Hoag
16 min readMar 26, 2022

A nosy neighbor’s obsession with the new guy downstairs spins out of control.

Photo by k z on Unsplash

I was glad when the downstairs neighbor moved out. I didn’t like Gladys at all. She’d make a face when she saw me and tell me I needed to see a skin doctor or go on a diet or take a shower. She was always complaining that I jangled my keys too loud and thumped up the stairs when I came home from work at two in the morning. It wasn’t my fault she was a light sleeper.

But I fixed her. I told Mrs. Priscoletti that Gladys’ teenage son had moved in. If there’s one thing Mrs. Priscoletti hates, it’s “unauthorized residents.” I also told her that he was smoking pot, playing loud heavy metal music and bringing over friends with pierced noses. It worked. Mrs. Priscoletti didn’t renew Gladys’ lease. Gladys tried to get back at me when she moved out. She took my “Welcome” doormat with the picture of the rose-covered cottage and the calico cat. I went to Wal-Mart and got another one exactly the same.

Mrs. Priscoletti always moved fast to line up new tenants, not like when she had to make a repair. So, I sat at my typewriter by the attic window, making up stories about the people I saw on the street below, and waited for my new neighbor. I’ve had this portable typewriter since I was a kid. That’s how long I’ve been writing stories. I’m lucky my mother never threw it out. She tried to, but I hugged it so hard to my chest she couldn’t get my arms off. So, she ripped up my stories instead. I hid them after that.

The new tenant arrived the Saturday after Gladys left. He pulled up in a car filled with junk. I leaned out the window to get a good look. I caught sight of the bald patch on his head as he unlocked the front door and stepped in. A woman with mousy, shoulder-length hair followed him. I rushed downstairs but stayed on the steps. They didn’t close their front door so I could hear almost everything.

“Paul, this is real nice!”

“Look at the little back yard.” Their voices faded out. I ran to my bedroom in the back and yanked up the window. Paul had black hair and a mustache, big glasses and a belly hanging over his belt. She had a flat stomach. He pointed at the flower bed. “I can plant string beans over here, eggplant there, put my tomatoes in this sunny spot.”

Christina Hoag

Journalist, novelist, world traveller. Author of novels Law of the Jungle, Skin of Tattoos and Girl on the Brink. Ex Latin America foreign correspondent.