The Man Across the Street

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Write about a mysterious figure in one’s neighborhood.... view prompt


Christmas Mystery

"Why does that man look sad?"

I've been asking that question to my friends and family since the man moved to the neighborhood when I was 12. The answer for the question was always the same: "Some people are just sad, Amy."

However, no matter how many times I was told that, the answer wasn't enough for me, so I kept asking.

I would sit on the book-nook, and peer out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of our neighbor as he walked down the side-walk. The only thing I knew about him was that his name was Mr. Parker. No one else knew much about him.

"Mr. Parker is a man of secrets," my friend, Olivia, told me.

"Why would someone hold so many secrets?" I asked.

"Maybe he's a criminal in hiding." Olivia laughed, but I knew that wasn't something we should laugh or tease about.

Despite that, my curiosity had been ignited, and I wanted to know more than ever, who the man actually was.

By the time I was 14, I found out that he lived alone; from what I could see he had no children or wife, and I think that was one of the things that made him sad.

There had been times where I would be walking down the side-walk and Mr. Parker would be reading a news-paper. Here's the thing, the house he lived in wasn't at all scary; it was a completely normal looking suburb home, but I always found myself remembering what Octavia would joke about to me about Mr. Parker being a hiding criminal, so I never found the gut to go near the house.

My Dad went to go talk to Mr. Parker two years after he moved in, and he came back to tell the rest of my family and me that Mr. Parker was a good man, just quiet and reserved, and that was okay.

Soon after that, I stopped observing from my window, but I kept peeking over at the house on my way to school or the grocery store, still wondering why he was so sad all the time.

One moment in winter would change my perspective on Mr. Parker for the rest of my life.


It was the middle of December, and Mom had asked me to go down to the grocery store to pick up a few things that she needed for dinner.

Eager to get out of the house, I put on layers of clothing before traveling into the blistering-cold winter air.

The journey to the grocery-store was peaceful; sure it was cold, but the snow sparkling on the trees, and the ice polka-dotting the side-walk made me feel like I was in a winter wonderland.

However, it was the walk back home that made such an impact.

Carrying the two brown paper bags in my arms, I was walking home. I was walking rather quickly due to my longing for Hot chocolate.

I could see my house not that far away, when a gust of wind sent my hair blowing in my face and I was blinded for a couple of seconds. During those moments, I didn’t watch my footing and I slipped on a patch of ice, and hit the back of my head on the ice-covered cement. The groceries went down with me, and I was covered in groceries and produce as I laid dazed on the side-walk.

The world was spinning around me, as my head throbbed with intense pain. I wanted to call for help, but I couldn't find my words. Luckily, though, I didn't have to.

Somewhere in the distance I heard a door-shut and heavy footsteps  coming my way. I then spotted a blurry figure as it kneeled down beside me.

"Can you hear me?" the figure asked, as his face came into view; It was Mr. Parker!

I nodded in response, and he helped me sit up. "Can you stand?" I heard him ask.

"I....think....." I mumbled; my head was still throbbing, so I had trouble focusing.

He put his arm around me, and helped me to my feet; though my legs felt like noodles I found the strength to walk forward with Mr. Parker for support.

I looked up as we walked, and saw he was leading me to his house. I looked up at Mr. Parker nervously as we approached the house, and without thinking I said, “My friends say you're dangerous, is that true?” 

“No, it’s not. I’m just an elderly man that lives alone.” he answered, as we strolled up the porch steps, and approached the door. 

Once in the house, I looked around and saw that it was nice; there was nothing remotely scary about it. 

Mr. Parker sat me down on the couch, and sat down on the coffee table in front of me. “Let me see your hands.” he told me. I obeyed and showed him my hands. 

After some inspection of them, Mr. Parker looked up, and said, “Your hands are a bit red, but no scratches, and you have a bump on the back of your head, but you will be fine.” 

“Thank you. Mr. Parker, I have a question.” I responded. He looked at me, waiting for me to continue. 

“Why do you live all alone?” Mr. Parker looked down at his feet, and let out a deep sigh. 

“Well, kid, do you really want to know?” he asked. I nodded, and leaned closer curiously., though my head was still throbbing with pain. 

“My wife died two years ago, that’s why I moved here, and my daughter and I have never been close, so we haven’t talked since my wife’s funeral.” My heart broke at the confession; no wonder he was so sad all the time. Mr. Parker had lost his wife and daughter. 

“Have you tried calling her? Christmas is coming soon; maybe you can work things out with her then.” I suggested. 

Mr. Parker gave me a small smile, but it was only for a moment. “I guess I was too scared to. I’ll think about it. Now I have the groceries you dropped outside re-packed. Would you like me to help carry them back to your house?” 

My eyes lit up as I shyly said, “Yes please.” 


It was finally Christmas, but this year I didn’t head downstairs to see if there were a pile of presents under the tree. Instead I climbed onto my book-nook and gazed out the window. 

A car drove up just as I pulled away the curtains, and watched as it parked in front of Mr. Parker’s house. A young woman exited the driver’s side, while a young man exited the passenger side. 

They strolled up Mr. Parker’s sidewalk, but the front door of the house opened before the couple was even halfway up the walk-way. Mr. Parker came out, and the woman rushed over to him and embraced him; Mr. Parker had contacted his daughter. 

I smiled to myself at the scene below me, before going downstairs to join my family at the tree. 

Later on in the day when the gifts had been opened, and I helped my parents with Christmas dinner, there was a knock on the door. 

I answered it, and was shocked to see it was Mr. Parker’s daughter. She smiled brightly, and said, “You must be Amy.” 

I nodded, and then I saw there were tears filling her eyes. To my surprise, the woman bent down a little and hugged me. “Thank you for bringing my father and me back together. You must be a miracle from heaven.” she whispered to me. 

She let me go, and said, “Tell your parents I wish them a Merry Christmas.” The woman then handed me a small gift that was wrapped in brightly colored wrapping-paper. 

When the woman disappeared, and I had shut the door, I gazed down at the small box in my hands. 

Gingerly, I tore the wrapping paper off, and opened the box. Inside there was a golden Butterfly clip with a paper next to it that said, “Thank you for making my family whole again.” 

Though there was no name on the note, I knew that Mr. Parker was the one that wrote. I traced the frame of barrette with my finger tip, and whispered, “Thank you Mr. Parker, for changing my perspective.” 

“Amy, are you coming?” I heard my mom call. 

“Yeah, I’m coming!” I called back. I then went strolled back to the kitchen; this Christmas was the most impactful. 

July 12, 2021 20:41

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Amanda Lieser
21:12 Jul 21, 2021

Phoebe, I highly enjoyed this story because it was such a classically happy story. I like how you chose to make the main character a child like in To Kill a Mockingbird. I felt it preserved the innocence surrounding this story. Thank you for writing this story.


Phoebe DeNeve
00:59 Jul 24, 2021

Thank you! I read the book "To Kill a Mockingbird," not too long ago and I really enjoyed it. Most of the inspiration came from that story.


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Zelda C. Thorne
14:53 Jul 13, 2021

Awwww such a lovely story. The prose flowed really well. Nice one.


Phoebe DeNeve
03:48 Jul 14, 2021

Thanks! Was there any feedback you'd like to give?


Zelda C. Thorne
06:55 Jul 14, 2021

Sure. I think you could add more detail with the descriptions. What does the narrator look like? What does the man look like? What does a "normal-looking suburban home" look like? What was in his house other than a coffee table and couch? You say it wasn't scary, but was it cozy, clean, messy? Pictures of his family? A fishing rod? I don't know.


Phoebe DeNeve
22:56 Jul 14, 2021

Alright, thank you for the feedback!!


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