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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2263296
At the holidays, there's always that one house on the block...
Old Lady Starek
WC 503

I remember Old Lady Starek. She lived in the middle of our block when my kids were little.

Every single person on the block began decorating after Halloween or at least planning a strategy. There was a fifty-dollar prize for the best-decorated house. So, we all spent hundreds of dollars to win the fifty.

Way before Christmas, our block glittered...except for Old Lady Starek’s house. It sat in total morguelike darkness. People would drive through our neighborhood ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’, admiring our creativity. That is until they drove past her house. Disappointment hung in the air every single year.

So, one year a group of us went over to her house. I was chosen to be our spokesperson. I knocked on the door.

"Yes?" She said, “May I help you?”

She looked old and frail; I started feeling like a bully.

"We wanted to talk to you about the Christmas decorations.”

“Oh, I think they are wonderful. I look forward to this every year. Ever since my husband died, I don't have the energy, and I can live vicariously through all my neighbors.”

Everyone was squirming.

“When our family was young, George and I decorated every square inch of the house we were living in then,” she wiped a tear and continued. “Then our Tommy got killed in the war and our daughter Elsie ran off and got married. It knocked the stuffing out of us.”

I couldn’t believe how horrible I felt.

“And now I am here alone, “she said. “I love what you all have done. Keep up the good work.”

We bid her goodbye, our tails between our legs. Later that day, we had a neighborhood meeting about what we could do.

We all contributed some decorations and decked out her house later that week. And we did that every year until Mrs. Starek passed away.

And now, years later, I have the only undecorated house in my new neighborhood. Like Old Lady—Mrs. Starek, I lost my husband, and I can’t seem to get the Christmas spirit back. I have a limited income, so I must be careful. Oh, I know I could go to Salvation Army and find some hand-me-down decorations, but I don’t have the energy or the attitude.

And, anyway, times have changed. I don't know my neighbors, and I’m the only old person on the block, like Mrs. Starek, so I feel out of place.

Oh my, there’s someone at my door. I’m not going to answer it. You never know, nowadays. They are leaving something on my front stoop. It’s wrapped in Christmas paper. Could be a bomb.

Fortunate for me, the package does not contain a bomb (or I could not continue my story) but rather an assortment of homemade Christmas cookies, a gift from the thoughtful neighbors on my block.

Maybe I’ll drive over to Walmart and get a few strings of lights, an inflatable snowman, and those big plastic candy canes to line my sidewalk. Or, maybe I’ll just get a wreath.

Or maybe I will just sit here and eat Christmas cookies.

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