Sunday 10 December 2023

Just Being Neighbourly by Sarah Masters, whisky sour,

Mrs Nikopopoulos contemplated the pile of Christmas cards in front of her. The problem with having a name like hers was everyone assumed you liked Christmas. She’d been chided for being the only one in the neighbourhood not to put lights round the porch, scolded for not offering mince pies to the local carol singers, tutted at for not petting every dog clad in a Santa outfit. It was all getting ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was the fact that she’d got these cards to write, when she hadn’t even had a blinking one herself.

She picked up the pen and turned over the first card: a dog with pleading eyes, in a red fluffy scarf. Mrs Nikopopolous sniffed. Three doors down, their red setter regularly did a you-know-what in her front garden. And many a time the owner just took a furtive look around and pulled the dog away. And the box hedge was a disgrace, what with all the yellow patches. Mrs N opened the card. ‘Dear dog family,’ she wrote. ‘Have you thought of buying your poo bags from us? Merry Christmas, from your local pet shop.’ She sealed the envelope with relish. That told them.

The next card was a large Christmas tree. Well, she knew who she’d send that to. She uncapped her pen. ‘Leylandii, so Christmassy, so green, so tall. But do your neighbours feel the same? Merry Christmas from your local tree surgeons.’

Children frolicking around a snowman – Mrs Nikopopolous pushed her sleeves up to her elbows. She could hear the kids outside now, getting up to mischief no doubt.  ‘Peace and goodwill to children and families everywhere,’ she wrote. ‘Have you considered the beneficial effects of a regular bedtime and quiet story time? Best wishes from the Children’s Society.’

There were just two cards left. She examined the robin, glowing brightly on its snowtipped branch. ‘So lovely to hear birdsong,’ she wrote. ‘But what a shame there won’t be any now you’ve landscaped your drive. Love from the RSPB.’

The final card, of carol singers, would go to next door. Mrs N scowled as she remembered all those times she’d had to bang on the adjoining wall. ‘Peace and harmony would be nice. The Noise Abatement Society.’

Pleased with herself, Mrs N put on her coat, and gathered up the cards ready to deliver to her neighbours. She’d just got to the door when there was a rattle and an envelope plopped to the floor. Mrs N put the cards in her pocket and opened the envelope. On the front was a rosy cheeked Santa Claus, enjoying a hot toddy. Inside, the message read: ‘Happy Christmas Mrs N. Please join your neighbours for a pre-Christmas drink.’

Mrs N looked at the picture and considered the message. Then she put it on the sideboard and picked up her door keys. If they thought they could win her round with some grotty mulled wine and a mince pie, they had another think coming.

About the author 

 Sarah Masters (she/her) lives in York and teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages. Her tiny stories have appeared in Full House Literary, The Hooghly Review, Flashflood, Shooter Flash, and Pure Slush. Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

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