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Funny Fiction

“Judy! Judy get in here! You have to see this!” Walter had his 1944 vintage Nash Kelvinator binoculars pressed firmly into his eye sockets, while not so discreetly looking out the window of his study. The leather strap that once was new and sturdy was now coming apart at the studs on the ends and was filled with warped cracks all along its length. Those binoculars had seen so much in their 78 years, and so had Walter.


Judy screamed something inaudible from the kitchen amongst the banging of pots and pans. He put the binoculars down and turned his face in her general direction. “Judy! Honestly, woman. Get your rear in gear and come see this!” Walter heard one loud final bang of a pot in the kitchen and then angered stomps getting louder as they moved toward him.


“Walter Xavier Pine. You better not be in here spying on our neighbors. Again! You know I can’t condone this behavior. You need to cut it out or you’re going to get yourself into trouble one day! No one wants an old kook spying on them.” She entered the doorway and put her hands on her hips and gave him the famous ‘Judy eyebrow.’


“I can’t help myself.” He put the binoculars back into his sunken eye sockets and looked back out the window. He’d been so conditioned to studying his neighbors that his unruly eyebrows had grown in a pattern that matched the tops of the eyepieces. Judy joined his side and squinted to see what he was seeing, her hands still on her hips. “Look! Do you see that? Do you see what that old fart is doing three houses down?” He pointed with one hand while holding the binoculars in his left.


“Give me those.” She snatched the binoculars out of his hand and put them up to her eyes. “Oh for God’s sake, Walter. Who cares!” She forcefully handed them back and stormed out of the room. As she was halfway down the hall she was yelling, “You better put those things DOWN and find yourself…” The words became inaudible again… or Walter stopped listening.


Walter grabbed his pen and notepad and dictated everything he wrote. “Zero seven fifty two hours – three houses down. Old Fart picked up dog poop with shovel and tossed it in brick house neighbor’s bushes.” Then he wrote the date next to it.


He was always keeping an eye on the neighbors, ever since a neighbor’s mailbox had been hit by a car and was dragged for four blocks twenty years prior. “It could’ve been a kid!” He said to Judy the day they heard about it. That was unacceptable to Walter and so he made it his life’s mission to become the Neighborhood Watch from that moment on. He didn’t want to get a bunch of cameras or a security system. No. None of that new age crap, he liked to call it. He just wanted to use his trusty Nash’s and his old longhand.


Judy laughed at him when he came up with this idea. “What are you gonna do, Walter? Just sit in that window twenty-four hours a day? What if you have to go to the bathroom? What about meals? That old wrinkly skin of yours is going to get sunburnt standing in that window all day.” She chuckled and dismissed his idea as she puttered around the house, muttering what a doofus he was.


Walter put the notebook on top of an overflowing pile of notebooks. She didn’t need to understand him. It wasn’t required. He just knew he was going to witness something, and someone was going to need the information he had. No one could convince him otherwise.


***


The next morning, Judy went into Walter’s study to “clean up” in there. If she didn’t do that regularly, the leftover plates, cups, silverware, and half-drunk cups of stale coffee would overtake the room and he would have nowhere to stand. For a moment she thought about leaving it all there to see if that’s what it would take to get him to stop the insanity, but she decided against it and continued cleaning.


While she didn’t understand this obsession for Walter to see what was going on in the neighborhood, she supported him in unseen ways. She couldn’t have him thinking she liked him having a purpose as the leader of his self-proclaimed Mount Airy Neighborhood Watch. But at the same time, this obsession had taken its toll on their marriage, and she was ready for change.


She scoffed at the overflowing pile of notebooks, but curiosity got the best of her. She grabbed one from the top and opened it. The pages were worn, bent on the corners. Some pages had come apart from the spiral at the top and were barely attached at all. She flipped to one of the first pages.


17:42 – Curly Head neighbor in blue house put her trash can out on the curb. This is before the allowed timeframe. She must be stopped. Next thing you know, we’ll have critters running amuck. – 1/12/2021


She turned to another page.


10:11 – Trucky McGee neighbor with that big Ford monstrosity ran over Betty Blue Eyes’s blue hydrangea when he backed into his driveway this morning. Also – why isn’t he working? It’s just after 10:00. Seems fishy. – 3/28/2021


She flipped through the notebook and glanced over note after note of observations Walter had made over the last year. She chuckled to herself as she read these insignificant events and made-up names of neighbors. Walter spent years documenting their every move. Diaries of a mad man, perhaps? She preferred to call them his ‘Walterisms.’ Judy flipped to his last entry from the previous day.


15:03 – Slow day today in Mt. Airy. Only thing I saw was that Cujo looking dog in Old Fart’s yard lift his leg and pee over the fence. – 2/2/2022


Then she had an idea. Judy thought if she could just get Walter interested in something else for a change, he would stop this. They wouldn’t need to spend their social security money funding Steno books and Pilot pens. And they might be able to get their marriage back on track. Yes. Judy was a genius.


Walter was getting ready to start his morning ritual. Shower, put on an old white undershirt. Then overtop went his favorite beige v-neck sweater with the suede elbow pads. He’d pull on a pair of tweed pants, and comb over the sparse strands of hair on his head. Then he would head to his favorite spot by the window. This is the same routine he’d had for the last twenty years. Judy had loads of time to go get what she needed once he was all set up in his spot.


When she knew he was at his window, she yelled down the hall, “Hey Walter. I’m running out for a bit. Need to get some groceries and whatnot for dinner.” No answer from the study. “Walter?” Still no answer. She marched down the hall… eyebrow at the ready.


“Zero seven sixteen hours – Cujo is at it again…” Walter mumbled to himself as he took notes in his book.


“Walter. Hello? I’m running out for a bit. Wanted to let you know.” He acknowledged her with a grumble and a wave, never taking his eyes out of those binoculars. She rolled her eyes and left the house.


When she returned later, Walter wasn’t standing in his usual spot. He was sitting in the recliner in the living room doing nothing but staring at the wall.


She dropped her shopping bags on the floor. “Walter? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” She was genuinely concerned. For as long as Judy could remember, she would have to tear him away from that damn window.


“Ju Ju. There is nothing going ON around here. I’ve been tracking stuff and staring at these neighbors for years and I’m tired. There’s no action!” He threw his hands up in the air and flopped them down on the arms of his recliner that had been spectacularly collecting dust from years of neglect. Dust particles flew up and around, surrounding him in a glow reminiscent of Pigpen. It went perfectly with overall look of him.


She shot him a wry smile because what she did that day was find the thing that would stop the madness. She found something that would keep his eyes off the neighbors and his hand out of a notebook. Something that would create wonder and excitement in him again. Not obsession and paranoia. “Well guess what? I got you something.” She began digging in the bags around her feet until she pulled out a long, rectangular box. The side of the box said, ‘SkyWatcher Explorer.’


“Judy? What did you get?” He got up out of the chair and took the box from her. He examined it closely and his face lit up like Christmas morning. “Is this… a telescope?!” Sheer joy was bursting from his tone and for a moment, Judy saw Walter like he must’ve looked as a young boy.


“Yes! I thought you could use a new hobby and since you like to look at things so much, I figured a telescope is a chance you can learn about the universe. No neighborhood action required.” She winked at him.


Walter put the box on the floor and wrapped her up in a bear hug. “Thank you, you beautiful woman, you!” He squished her face so her lips made a fish face and he kissed them. He picked up the box and started dancing down the hall to his study, humming a completely made-up tune. It was still daylight, but he spent the rest of the day making room in his study and setting up his new toy.


***


“Judy! Judy get in here! You have to see this!” Walter’s right eye was pressed into the side of his SkyWatcher Explorer telescope.


Judy came running, tying her pink 1950’s-inspired robe around her waist. It was after midnight, and she had been sleeping. Her hair was all mashed in the back, creating a cowlick at the top of her head. “Walter Xavier Pine. What on earth are you doing up so late? Please tell me you’re not staring up at the sky again! It’s been hours and you need to get some rest.”


“I can’t help myself.” He smiled at her and pointed out the window. “You will never guess what I just saw. Look! I’m not kidding! Get yourself a gander at this!”


“Walter. I’m tired. I’ve been cleaning all day today, washing your clothes, and making your meals. I just want to go back to bed.” She left the study and stomped down the hallway back to bed, not even giving him a chance to share what he saw.


He opened a new Steno with fresh pages and crisp edges. “Zero thirty hours – saw shadowy, triangular-shaped object on surface of the moon.” He looked back into the telescope in the direction of the moon. The triangular shaped object quickly moved left, then right, then disappeared altogether. He backed away from the telescope, eyes wide like saucers.


“Oh my gosh. Judy!” He yelled and ran toward the bedroom to tell her what he saw.


“Here we go again.” Judy whispered under her breath. 

February 21, 2022 17:49

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14 comments

Thom Brodkin
18:01 Mar 03, 2022

Maggie, this was so fantastic. It was funny and charming and well written. It shows a knowledge of the human condition at a gut level. You have a talent for description that paints a picture without overwhelming the senses. Your stories are easy to read and understand. Trust me, that's a gift. I am quickly becoming a big Maggie Gibbs fan. Another triumph. I'm hoping to have a story up this evening or tomorrow. Swing by and let me know what you think.

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Maggie Gibbs
18:20 Mar 03, 2022

Lee, thank you so much for this amazing feedback! I'm so glad you enjoyed this story. I love Walter... he was a hoot to write. I appreciate you taking the time to read. I'm SUPER looking forward to reading your next story because I'm a fan of yours as well. :)

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Chris Campbell
01:06 Mar 03, 2022

Obsessions and "Walterisms." I think we all have a bit of those in our lockers. My telescope is still in a box and I joke with my partner that she should just wrap the box up every Christmas and put it under the tree. However, you have inspired me to finally unwrap it... so I can spy on the neighbours. :) Enjoyed your story. Well done.

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Maggie Gibbs
02:01 Mar 03, 2022

Haha thank you for reading! That made me chuckle so much! Get your spy on and let me know how it goes! Walter would be proud 🥲

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Kat. L Haywood
00:09 Mar 03, 2022

To all the Walters out there on dog poop patrol, we salute you! Great job

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Maggie Gibbs
00:09 Mar 03, 2022

Haha thank you!

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23:56 Feb 26, 2022

This is wonderful. I love Walter so much! His delight at recording the “goings on” is precious, and I wanna sit there with him and spy, erm I mean, WATCH the neighbors 😉

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Maggie Gibbs
23:58 Feb 26, 2022

Haha I got a kick out of writing him. A grumpy old man keeping tabs on the neighbors. I bet those notebooks would be filled with hilarity. Thanks for reading! 🤗

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Deidra Lovegren
23:56 Feb 21, 2022

The fact that we know Walter's middle name and that his wife has a killer eyebrow is all the evidence we need of this glorious marriage. Kudos to Judy for trying to get the old bugger invested in something useful. Of course he's a UFO conspiracy theorist, what fun would stargazing be otherwise? Whimsical and fun, we love these two badgering each other. The course of true love never did run smooth, especially in your 80's. :)

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Maggie Gibbs
00:00 Feb 22, 2022

Deidra - thank you for the amazing feedback. I was hoping the story would be amusing… I actually based this story on my father in law. :). He’s not a conspiracy theorist or anything but he’s a nosy neighbor for sure. I added some color to make him funnier than he is in real life. I so appreciate you taking the time to read!

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Deidra Lovegren
00:17 Feb 22, 2022

Dog Poop Patrol. I have a husband just like Walter. Definitely resonates...

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Maggie Gibbs
00:21 Feb 22, 2022

Haha! Oh my. Yes - dog poop patrol is a thing apparently. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Is there anything about the story you would change? How do you think it fared structurally and technically and all that?

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Deidra Lovegren
13:13 Feb 22, 2022

It followed well :) The momentum was established and it moved along nicely.

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Maggie Gibbs
13:24 Feb 22, 2022

Thank you!

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