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Fiction

   I don't know what I was thinking, after breakfast with my friend. Although, to hear her tell of it, she was not so much.

     I met my neighbor Judy on the porch, and sat down in my chair. "How was your breakfast?" Judy asked. I told her my friend wanted to go to a place in New Hampshire for breakfast, and I was to drive.

     "Not good," I told her. "We were sitting down and had just ordered, and she looked me square in the face and told me we were not friends. I mean, who does that?"

     "What do you mean?" Judy asked.

     "Just said it out loud. I was sitting next to Shelly, you know, the girl in Medford?  "I've told you about her. Didn't I? Well, Marian said to me, 'Shelly and I are friends. You and I, are not.' Then we ate breakfast. It made no sense to me."

     "Huh," my neighbor replied. "That is weird. No preamble? Nothing leading up to it?"

     "No.," I replied. "It just came out of the blue."

     "Didn't I warn you about her? You never listen. Tell me what happened."

     "Marian called me last night, and told me about some breakfast place up in New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts border. She said she and Shelly wanted to check it out."

     "Okay, I guess. Then what happened?" asked my neighbor.

     "Well, she gave me directions. She wanted me to drive. She wasn't in the mood, she said. I had no idea where we were going. I'd never been in that part of New Hampshire before."

     "But she asked you to drive?"

     "Yes. Thank goodness! I don't know what would have happened if she were driving, or Shelly."

     "What do you mean?"

     "Well, with her sudden change in attitude, I could have been left behind. I could have been stranded in New Hampshire."

     "You could have stranded her there! That would have been funny. Last laugh, and all of that."

     I shook my head. "That's not my nature."

     "Did this Shelly say anything to you?"

     "No. Nothing. She just sat there, taking it all in."

     "Then what happened?"

     "I shrugged. "We ate breakfast, didn't say a word. It was so weird."

     "So you came home?"

     "No," I said. "Marian said something about she had a place I should check out, and gave me further directions. It was all rather puzzling."

     "Where'd you go?" asked Judy.

     "She led me to a Barnes and Noble. She said, 'You like bookstores. We figured you'd like to go to the one here.' The whole thing left me so confused. And, let me tell you, I was in no mood to be going to a bookstore. But, she wanted to look at something. If that Barnes and Noble had seating somewhere, I would have sat down. It was really weird."

     "What did this Shelly do?"

     "Oh, she wanted to look for something, too."

     "Huh," said my neighbor. "That is weird."

     "Well, then she was finished, and then Shelly finished, and then they said, 'Let's go home.' It was bizarre!" I stopped talking, seeing the smile on Judy's face. "What's so funny?"

     "You got narced," Judy answered.

     "Narced? Like, narcotics?"

     "No, narcissism. Your friend is a narcissist. I warned you about her."

     "Yeah, but I've known her for years. We've done a lot of things together, went to the beach, the lakes, out for ice cream, and a play, down in Boston. We did all the friend-ship kind of stuff. So, when she told me we were no longer friends, it came out of nowhere. I guess that's why I'm so flummoxed."

     "You got narced," my neighbor said with a shrug.

     "I don't know what that means."

     "Your former friend is a know-it-all. She the one who decided what you're doing, and who you're doing with. She probably tells you you are wrong, about anything. That's called 'gaslighting', by the way. Trust me on this, I did a paper on this stuff in college, years ago. Pretty eye opening."

     "So, it's like a power thing?" I asked.

     "Exactly, only it's her vs. the whole rest of the world. I told you, remember? She can never do anything wrong, no matter what. She knows everything, and you, by the way, know nothing. In fact, you are less than she is. It's their nature."

     "But, I don't care about that stuff. I just wanted to be friends."

     "But she does," my neighbor said. "It's all about being over someone, having power that someone else doesn't have. Or, it's about taking power away. She decided that you were no longer friends, right? "

     "Yeah. I felt...I felt betrayed," I said, thoughtfully. It was starting to make sense. "She acted like she wasn't ever a genuine friend. We've know each other for years!"

     "Open your eyes, honey. This is all about power, and sticking it to someone else."

     My eyes narrowed. I was genuinely puzzled. I would have to read up on this narcissism thing. "Well, what...oh my god! There's a fox!"

     "There's no fox," declared my neighbor.

     "Yes, it's a fox! Turn around and look!"

     "It's a cat."

     "I know what a fox looks like. Pointy face? Red fur? Bushy tail? That's a fox! Oh, how beautiful!"

     "It's a cat!" said Judy, still not turning around. "We don't have foxes around here."

     "That what you said about that wild turkey, the one that strutted down the driveway, a couple years ago. I told you about it, and you didn't believe me. Then it started gobbling, and you decided we had a turkey in the driveway. We've had them ever since."

     "It's not a fox," she insisted.

     "Turn around and look! It's a fox!"

     "It's a cat."

     "Oh my God! Will you at least...oh, never mind, there it goes."

     "All upset about a cat!"

     "I am not upset."

     "Sure you are." She glanced at her watch. "My shows are starting soon. I'm going in."

     "Okay," I said, taking up my book.

     "Aren't you going in?"

     "No," I replied. "It's nice out. I'm going to read for a while."

     My neighbor had nothing more to say to me. She shook her head. As she went inside, I heard her mutter, "a fox," and went inside.

     I tried to read my book, but my mind was reeling. I thought about what she had said, thought about my weird breakfast, and the trip, in silence, back to Massachusetts. And then I thought about the fox. How delightful! I hoped I would see it again.

     And as I picked up my book, I made a mental note to look up narcissism at the library. I fear my neighbor just narced me--again.

March 15, 2024 16:33

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4 comments

George Beasley
21:41 Mar 20, 2024

I love the story. It’s so truthful and we all have been narced at some point in our lives. It is a very odd place to be. You drew me right into the story sitting at the table. I have some family who are narcissist. Sad to say but you have to deal with them so differently. Great story.

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Susan Lamphier
15:01 Mar 25, 2024

Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it!

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Susan Lamphier
20:43 Mar 18, 2024

Thank you, David. And thank you for your comment. Good luck on your journey!

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David Sweet
17:14 Mar 16, 2024

Narced: I like that term! They never do seem to catch on because it is all about them. Congrats on your retirement and continuing to write. I have done the same. I hope all goes well with your writing.

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