Neighbors' Noise - Part 2

"The Catalog" (Short Story Title)


When the Breck’s catalog arrived, Mrs. Savellini lifted it out of her mailbox and started thumbing through the pages.

“Hmm,” she sniffed, “junk mail.” But the photos of colorful spring plants kept her thumbing past dahlias, coneflowers, and hydrangeas.

All around her, except for the color of the buildings, the street looked like a black and white photo from times’ past. Tree trunks and branches, bare and dark, contrasted with mounds of white and gray, road-stained snow.

Mrs. Savellini turned the cover over and saw her neighbor Flora’s name and address. “That spirited, floundering girl,” she murmured to herself. “She has no self-discipline to plant a garden.” Then she stuffed the catalog in her red, wool pea coat and shuffled back to her house.

She set the catalog on a glass-topped entryway table with elaborate, antique carved legs. Here was one of many Italian imports she had prized when her home was a place of entertaining. Her late husband’s politician friends and dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins once frequented the house in her younger days. She would be eighty-three next week, but she would spend her birthday alone.

The poodle, Mario, jumped to get the magazine off the table, yipping and begging for it. “Shoo,” she snapped at him, and she scooped the catalog back up. Then she walked down the hallway to the dining room, while babbling to her dog, and her voice echoed between the house’s vaulted ceilings and marble floors.

She sat at the table and Mario plopped down by her feet. Piles of bills and other papers lay on the table. Mrs. Savellini was a landlord and a business owner, so the dining room doubled as an office. Though her hands were tired from age and a bit of arthritis, she kept busy most days with the paperwork.

Mario dozed at her feet now. Mrs. Savellini reached behind a stack of envelopes and an ancient calculator and grabbed a pair of scissors and a roll of tape.

The grandfather clock ticked.

Two hours later Mario chewed magazine scraps off the floor and Mrs. Savellini stood at the dining room window. It overlooked the small, shared yard. Flower cut-outs, collaged and taped onto the glass, brightened the drab, February view. Here she'd showcased all the prettiest blooms from Flora's catalog. Mrs. Savellini pressed a finger to one of the flowers on the glass. The tape held it in place, and she laughed at the brilliance of her handiwork.

If dogs see in color, it’s what made Mario spring up from where he reclined on the expensive Persian rug. Or, perhaps he was startled to see Evette Savellini with a smile. He looked at her and whined.

“Now, Dear,” she said to her poodle, “I know it’s silly. But we needed a change of scenery.”

She went to put away the tape and scissors. Then the doorbell rang, and Mrs. Savellini, bent from age, walked down the long hallway. She reached the front window as the doorbell sounded a second time, but hesitated when she saw her neighbor Flora standing there.

Writing Prompt: This to-be-continued story sprouted as an idea when a Breck’s catalog showed up in my own mailbox. Sometimes the thought for a story takes root, and unfolds as it’s written. Try this: From an old magazine, clip out photos of people for characters, and landscapes for a setting. Begin to write a story from these starting points.

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