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by juleschoc 

Posted: 22 November 2004
Word Count: 1368
Summary: sometimes your neighbours can take things a little too far.....

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The neighbours started by putting the kid over the fence. It was a hot day and Dylan was playing in the paddling pool on the lawn. The kid was standing by the fence, peering through the slats. Every so often the breeze would blow his dark, spiky fringe. His mother was in the kitchen. Diane could hear the rumble and spin of the washing machine and the tinkle of what must have been the crockery. The little boy stood at the fence for a long time, then the mother's voice called, 'Bradley, come play away from the fence now. Come away, do you hear?' and their Dylan stopped splashing and cocked his head onto one side. Except for a cuckoo calling in the woods and the gentle wind, it was quiet and still. The two boys looked at each other for a moment before the kid turned around. As he walked away from the fence Diane called to the mother,'It's okay. He's doing no harm. He's okay. he's just looking.'

The mother came out through the patio doors. She was tall and very slender. She was wearing an apron and her yellow hair was tied back. Diane was sure there was a bump underneath the dress. The mother looked at Diane through her beady eyes and frowned. She said, 'Are you sure he isn't being a nuisance?'

Diane smiled. She said she was sure. He wasn't being any trouble at all. Then she said the little boy could come over to play with Dylan. So the mother took the kid back into the house to change him into his bathers. When she came back out she picked him up and put him over the fence. She said, 'Now you behave yourself, Bradley. You be a good boy while you're playing next door.' Then she looked up at Diane and she said,'You just send him back over if he becomes a problem, okay?' and Diane nodded and told her it would be all right and that it would be nice to have somebody for Dylan to play with. The mother smiled quickly, then she went back into the house and Diane heard the television being switched on. Dylan called and Bradley went over to the pool. And that was how it started.

The put Bradley over the fence most days. In the end they stopped asking. Well, it was summer and Dylan was always by himself in the garden. It made sense. The two boys were the same age and they'd play for hours. They'd suck tiptops and play quietly in the garden or they'd go up to Dylan's room until Bradley's mother called him to come to the fence. Then she would pick him up to take him into the house to have something to eat. She'd lift him up over the fence and say,'I hope you're being a good boy while you're playing at next door's house.' Diane would nod and smile and tell her that Bradley was good. Bradley was always good. She never heard a peep out of the two boys while they were playing. Then she'd try to make a conversation but Bradley's mother never seemed bothered. She'd just supply Diane with simple answers such as, 'Yes, I am having another baby,' or,'No, I don't work,'and,'No, we haven't lived here long.' Then she'd go into the house with Bradley and shut the patio doors.

They had a nice garden. There were herbaceous borders and exotic ferns that bent graciously in the breeze. There was trailing ivy over a varnished gazebo and a water feature with a spouting fish. There was a fishpond instead of a sandpit. Diane noticed that it didn't have a safety net.

Dyaln went over to play once. It was just the one time Bradley asked.

'Stay away from the roses,now, do you hear?' Bradley's mother said at the window. 'And don't scuff the lawn.' She told Bradley to go and play on the patio where he was allowed to ride in circles on his bike. Then she disappeared behind the blinds only to reappear a few moments later to tell Bradley off. 'You don't need all those toys, Bradley,' she insisted. 'One at a time, rememeber?' Her voice got shriller with each telling off, until in the end, Dylan began to complain that there was nothing to do. He called for Diane who had been keeping one eye on the pond and she went over to lift him and Bradley over the fence.

When Diane told Greg about it he shook his head.

'They're taking advantage, that's what they're doing.'

Diane nodded. 'They're a strange pair, I'll give them that. She flits in and out with the washing but otherwise she's stays in the house, even when it's scorching. And he's never even said hello.'

Greg agreed. 'It's weird. Their kid practically lives over here and we don't even know their names.'

When it got to the stage where Bradley's toys began to take over the garden, Greg told Diane it was time they put their foot down. But Diane didn't know how to approach them. They must have heard the shouted hints from that came from Greg over the weeks. The other neighbours had. But, what could Diane say? 'Would you please stop sending Bradley over?' or 'It'd be nice if you fed your own son for a change.' It was an awkward situation. Besides, they had all grown fond of Bradley. He was polite and chirpy. Diane, especially, found him irresistible. He had dark pert eyes and a wide, persuasive smile. He kept Dylan quiet for hours. In a strange way he had become a part of the family. They got used to him sitting with them to watch television or hunting through the cupboard to get biscuits or crisps. He even had his own mug. It would be a shame to spoil it.

It was towards the end of the summer that Bradley's father came to the house. It was late and they were ready to go to bed.

'It's my wife,' Bradley's father said quickly. 'She has to go to the hospital. We need somebody to take care of Bradley.'

Diane nodded. Then she ushered Bradley into the front room. He was in his pyjamas and he looked sleepy. Greg picked him him and carried him up the stairs. When Diane went back to the door Bradley's father had gone. She picked the bags up and took them inside.

'She must be having the baby,' she said when Greg came down the stairs. He saw the bags and frowned.

'Just how long does he think the kid is going to be here?' he said. Inside the bags were toys, books, clothes and a bottle of medicine.

After two days they began to worry.

'It doesn't take this long to have a baby, surely?' Greg said.

'What are we going to do?' Diane asked. 'We can't ring the hospital. We don't know their names.'

'It's irresponsible, that's what it is.' Greg peered out through the net curtains. 'They should have called by now.'

'Nobody around here seems to know anything about them,' Diane said.

'I'm going over there,' Greg said when the boys were asleep.

They knocked at the front door three times and waited. Greg raised his eyebrows. After a few moments they went around the back. They tapped at the back door. It was late and it was getting cold. The leaves on the potted trees began to rustle. Diane shivered.

'Nobody's here,' she said.

Greg's feet crushed the flowery border. He pressed his nose against the window. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust.

'I don't believe it,' he said suddenly. He beckoned Diane with his hand. 'Quick. Come see.'

'It's empty,' Diane said when her eyes adjusted. 'It's empty.'

'What do you think they're playing at?' Greg asked. He looked at Diane as if he needed to be reassured, but Diane didn't answer.

'What are we going to do now?' he asked.

Diane shrugged. They looked at each other for what seemed like a long time and it was quiet except for the call of the cuckoo in the woods.

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Comments by other Members

Jubbly at 10:00 on 23 November 2004  Report this post
Hello Juleschoc, I really enjoyed this tale. I found it gripping and wondered if I wasn't been taken on a rather sinister ride. Is this a short story or part of a novel? It really is very intriguing and the build up of the two boys relationship is beautifully written, you've created a very cosy enviroment that left me quite nostalgic for the suburbs. I'd love to read more.
I think you might have a typo in this sentence - They must have heard the shouted hints from that came from Greg over the weeks.

Well done.


Dee at 06:54 on 24 November 2004  Report this post
Hi, Juleschoc,

I really enjoyed reading this. I did wonder why they didn’t just ask Bradley what his surname was, but maybe he doesn’t know…

A very subtle tale, beautifully written.


Heckyspice at 11:30 on 25 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Jules,

I also wondered why Diane did not ask Bradley about his family. Then again as Bradley became part of her family it perhaps did not matter. It seemed to me that Diane belongs to the time when children did play together and neigbours chatted over the fence whereas Bradley's parents represent the isolated families that have no history of community. Of course I could be reading this all wrong !!.

I did enjoy the story. I liked the observation about Bradley's mug, the leaves rustling to show the emptiness of the house and the simple construction of the sentences toward the end. The start of the story was packed and maybe shorter paragraphs would have made the brevity of Bradley's mother appearances a little bit more effective.

Best wishes,


Anj at 13:43 on 25 November 2004  Report this post
Now this really grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

Partly because I have been there (except they didn't leave the baby) (and I'm guessing you have); but mostly because it's just great. You've taken what I'm guessing is a not uncommon experience and got it down so true, and followed it through to it's logical conclusion, leaving our hosts dangling and us wandering what the hell they're going to do now.

In the main, I really liked your style but sometimes I find it a bit matter of fact and (while I'm no fan of purple prose or tricksy writing) I felt a few details would have enlivened the prose. eg "He was in his pyjamas and he looked sleepy" - he looked sleepy doesn't convey much, I'd have found it more effective if you'd found a few words to convey the detail of how sleepy looks to paint an image in my head.

I felt it could do with a bit of streamlining, that sometimes the prose wasn't, conversely, quite as concise as I'd have liked, but that's just a matter of editing.

But when all's said and done, I loved this.


juleschoc at 18:37 on 26 November 2004  Report this post
Thnks for all the comments...I'll certainly think about them.

I know you'd like a little more description Ani, but this is the way I feel most comfortable writing. When i am saying that Bradley looked sleepy i want the readers to imagine he has been dargged away from his sleep in order to convey the urgency of the situation.

I'm a big fan of Raymond Carver and I like his matter of fact minimalist style. I tend to be quite concise...I have trouble sometimes padding out essays lololol. I don't think I'd be able to write descriptive pieces effectively. I tend not to read them or skim over descriptive prose. It's the way i always have been...should be a journalist perhaps.

When you say I have 'been there' Ani, you are right! A neighbours grand daughter spends a lot of time over here with my own daughter. They have lifted her over the fence many times and this was where the first sentence sprung from! As the story progressed i wasn't sure what where to take it..whether to have a squabble erupt between the neighbours or whatever. But it was suggested that the story was quite sinister so I headed in that direction.

I didn't want Bradley to know his surname because I wanted it to add to the eeriness of the situation.

As for the novel..well i haven't got the stamina lol. I think it works better as a short story. I did read a novel about a similar experience once. It was called 'The Godsend' and it's quite an old novel. But it must have stuck in my mind and influenced my own story.

I enjoyed writing this short story and i'm glad you have all found it enjoyable to read.


Anj at 19:37 on 26 November 2004  Report this post

I did realise that Bradley had been dragged away from his sleep - what I was getting at was that "looked sleepy" is such a cliche it conveys nothing to me, whereas the telling detail, maybe the droopy eyelids (perhaps a cliche, but I haven't time to think of anything more impressive), would have evoked an image and added few, if any, more words. As someone said, fiction is all in the detail. Thus I wasn't suggesting you write a descriptive piece, which would anyway have bored me.

I'm also a huge fan of Raymond Carver and love his minimalist style, but wouldn't agree that his style was matter of fact - I'd have said his style conveyed the magic in simple lives in magically simple prose.

When I said your prose wasn't concise enough, I meant that, for instance you say "The two boys were the same age and they'd play for hours" and then later "He kept Dylan quiet for hours". It was that kind of repetition, or sentences that added little, that I was getting at. But, as I said, that's what editing is for.



PS Sadly, I can't claim to be Ani - she's the very lovely & talented Anisoara with the Cornish fisherman boyfriend (sigh). I'm only Anj (sigh)

juleschoc at 20:35 on 26 November 2004  Report this post
I see what u mean now An...perhaps i need to be a little more specific..I mean saying 'he kept Dyaln quiet for hours' isn't specific enough thinking about it now. Thanks for your feed back. i really appreciate it.


Terry Edge at 20:02 on 27 November 2004  Report this post

I'm giving this feed-back without reading what other people have written first, so I apologise if I repeat anything already said. I'm taking you at your word re 'Go on, I can take it!' and therefore these comments are a little blunt. However, there's something about your style that says you're serious about writing so I'm figuring you'd prefer me to take this approach. So …

This is a very carefully written piece, controlled and evenly paced. It's obvious you've thought a lot about the structure and timing. It carries a good degree of suspense, which you set up very well by telling the story mainly through Diane's viewpoint, with the neighbouring wife just odd enough to tip us off that something strange will happen by the end.

I have to say I found the ending a little unsatisfactory. It was predictable but not really believable, and the analogy (if that's what it is) with the cuckoo didn't quite work, i.e. Bradley hasn't pushed Dylan out of the nest, and if he is going to then I think you need to foreshadow this more.

This is purely my view, but the combination of an emotionally neutral style with dialogue and character actions that contain a lot of cliché (everything Greg says, for instance) tends to flatten the writing. If you choose a neutral style, the I think you have to off-set it with striking dialogue, or quirky characters. As it is, there is the feeling throughout this piece that for whatever reason the writer is not going to let herself go and make the story dip and soar in unusual ways.

A few specific comments made while I was reading your story:

The mother looked at Diane through her beady eyes and frowned. She said, 'Are you sure he isn't being a nuisance?'

These two sentences jerk a little. First, it's the 'her' before 'beady eyes' – this implies that Diane already knows the woman, i.e. that her eyes are always beady, but you give the impression this is the first time they've met. Also 'Beady' jerks because it's a cliché description and you haven't used any up to this point. Then, what the woman says doesn't fit with 'beady', i.e. beady is challenging but here she's more looking for Diane to find fault with her son.

With the third paragraph, I'm feeling that your style is beginning to work against the story flow. For example, the first three sentences could probably be cut altogether, without losing any meaning. They don't actually tell us anything. Most of the rest of the sentences in this paragraph are similarly flat: you're just giving us a series of actions without providing any significance for us.

Throughout the piece, there is a lot of Diane nodding and smiling, and the boy being lifted over the fence. Okay, this lets us know what's happening, but we want some writer-fizz, some writer interpretation, some writer guidance. Unfortunately, the clichés – e.g. 'she never heard a peep … ' adds to the flat feeling, as if the author isn't really concentrating on making the story take off. Another example: 'They had a nice garden'. Yes, I know this is sort of in Diane's viewpoint, but it's still a flat statement because we don't know what Diane would think was 'nice'.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this and think it has tremendous potential. Maybe all it needs are a few tweaks and snips in the narrative, and a bit more punch in the twist.


Elsie at 23:24 on 27 November 2004  Report this post
Great story - and so true about neighbours - lifting kids over the fence etc while they get on with their own stuff.

juleschoc at 18:11 on 28 November 2004  Report this post
Thanks everyone for the comments.

Terry, I really appreciate your honesty. I always think it's better to be honest. I believe that pandering to peoples' egos just does not help them in the long term. To develop as a writer you should be able to take criticism and do something about it lol. I think you must know what you are on about because you're the published novelist here.

Regarding the timing and structure I really didn't plan it. I just wrote this as it came lol. I must be lucky and have a natural ability or it's just a fluke lol.

I will certainly takes these comments into consideration and if I get the mood will have a re-write.

Thanks for the comments..they were certainly encouraging.


Terry Edge at 10:10 on 29 November 2004  Report this post

This may seem a little harsh, but it might be an idea if you were to state more clearly up-front what kind of responses you're looking for. You've ticked the 'Go on! I can take it!' box which suggests you're serious about this piece of writing and want serious feed-back. Hence I spent a good 45 mins of my time providing some. But your responses to the feed-back appear to indicate that you aren't that bothered really, that you may get round to re-writing when the mood takes you, or you may not. And we all know that 'I will certainly take these comments into consideration' means exactly the opposite, i.e. because a person either takes up suggestions made or they don't.

So, it may be an idea in future to flag up that you're posting a piece that you just knocked off, that you're not too bothered about turning it into something really special, and therefore that no one should bother commenting on it unless they just happen to like it and feel like saying so, or not. Yes, I am a little angry about wasting my time, but I do take responsibility for that – I should have read the other comments first, and your reactons to them, and then I would have known not to bother. However, you could help a little too.


juleschoc at 21:24 on 29 November 2004  Report this post
I'm really sorry, Terry, it's nto that I am not bothered but I just take things on the chin if you know what I mean.

I really appreciate the fact that you have taken the time. I am sorry if i have upset you.


Terry Edge at 09:39 on 30 November 2004  Report this post

That's okay. I apologise for coming on a bit strong. It's just that I get frustrated sometimes because I can see how writers could really improve, and their work soar, but there seems to be some kind of blockage preventing them. They think it's lack of time, or the pressure of other commitments, but I don't think that's the real problem. I think it's more to do with not wanting to take a chance on really committing one's heart and passion and full effort. I blame the society we live in, where everything's supposed to be easy and happen for us just because we deserve it (oh-oh, Prince Charles alert). Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts.

All the best,


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