Mr. Quigley's Weeds

Written in response to: Write about two neighbors who cannot stand each other.... view prompt

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Fiction Fantasy Kids

Mr. Quigley was old. Quite old, really. So old that little white hairs sprouted from his ears.

His neighbor, Fiona, was decidedly not old. This did not bode well for Fiona in Mr. Quigley’s book. But worse still than Fiona being young, active and chipper was the fact that she had an even younger human living with her: her son, Rockwell. Fiona called him Rocky and this was among Mr. Quigley’s least favorite things about his neighbors.

Fiona tried her best to be kind to everyone, especially the people she lived near. But Mr. Quigley did not make it easy. She didn’t even know his first name! He introduced himself as Mr. Quigley and offered no further details about himself, instead commanding a very formal way of speaking to him at all times. (Fiona secretly awaited the day their mail got mixed up so she could learn his first name.) Worse yet, Mr. Quigley had no patience for Rocky whatsoever, and Fiona simply could not tolerate this.

While their annoyance, and, let’s face it, at times hatred, for one another was apparent to everyone on the block, Fiona worked hard to keep their interactions civil. For Rocky’s sake, really. She kept her voice calm when talking to Mr. Quigley, practiced taking deep breaths in moments of conflict and would simply walk away when she felt she had nothing left to say.

Mr. Quigley, on the other hand, would shout and wave his arms and even once called the police on Rockwell, saying the five-year-old was disturbing the peace. The police arrived to find Rocky on the tree swing in his yard, happily saying “Whee!” every now and then.

For his part, Rocky followed his mom’s lead. He did his best to be quiet outside so as not to disturb Mr. Quigley, and always greeted his neighbor politely, even though the only response he ever heard was an annoyed grunt.

But everything started to change between Mr. Quigley, Fiona and Rocky the day Mr. Quigley found a weed in his front yard.

Mr. Quigley took great pride in the way his home looked. The house and yard were always tidy and well kept. (Unlike Fiona who often let the grass grow a bit shaggy and often left Rocky’s toys out on the lawn.) So you can imagine his surprise and disgust when he found a rather large, rather angry looking weed in his yard one Monday morning.

He immediately pulled the weed, making sure to get all the roots, then sprayed the area with weed killer, just to be safe. Then he marched over to Fiona’s house, weed in hand, and alternated pounding on the door and ringing the doorbell until Fiona opened the door.

“Hi Mr. Quig…” Fiona started, but Mr. Quigley interrupted her.

“This is your fault,” he said, shaking the weed in her face, leaving little clumps of dirt on her porch.

“Good morning, Mr. Quigley,” Fiona finished her earlier thought. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean. You feel that weed is my fault?” Fiona was practicing every technique she could think of to stay calm: keeping her voice neutral, repeating back what she heard to be sure they were on the same page.

Mr. Quigley narrowed his eyes at Rockwell who had appeared at his mom’s side, hugging her leg with one arm, holding a toy dinosaur in his hand. “Hmmm… more likely his fault,” Mr. Quigley spat the words out and pointed at Rockwell with the weed.

Rocky looked up at his mom with a look of confusion and worry on his face. Fiona gave him a soft smile to reassure him.

“Mr. Quigley, you don’t think Rocky planted a weed in your yard, do you?” Fiona tried not to make Mr. Quigley feel silly for jumping to this conclusion, but really, it was a crazy thing to think. 

Mr. Quigley looked from Fiona to Rockwell, then looked past them trying to get a glimpse into their house which he assumed would be just as messy as their yard. Fiona moved to block his view and raised her eyebrows, awaiting his response. “Something is going on here,” Mr. Quigley said. “And I’ve got my eye on the two of you. You remember that.” 

Mr. Quigley stomped back to his house, leaving Fiona to calm and reassure Rocky, while also gently reminding him to stay off of Mr. Quigley’s lawn.

The next morning, before showering, brushing his teeth of having his morning coffee, Mr. Quigley threw on his slippers and robe and ran outside to check his yard. He didn’t even need to leave his front porch to see that two weeds, each twice the size of the original, had grown in the exact same spot in his yard.

Mr. Quigley immediately looked at Fiona’s house and saw her sitting in the rocking chair on her porch, scrolling on her phone.

“You!” Mr. Quigley shouted over at Fiona. “This is your fault!”

Fiona had no patience for this sort of disrespect first thing in the morning and retreated into her house.

You can only imagine what happened from there: Mr. Quigley dug out the weed and sprayed the weed killer. But each morning, more new weeds would grow back in the same place, and always larger than the day before.

By Saturday, the weed patch was too large for Mr. Quigley to handle. He had gotten his shovel and industrial strength weed killer out from his garage, but instead of getting to work, he just stood staring at the monstrosity in his yard. He knew he could no longer blame Fiona or Rockwell. Something else was at play here. But her couldn’t understand what.

Just as he was pondering his weed problem, he heard footsteps rustling through the overgrown grass of his neighbor’s house. His annoyance rose to a new level knowing his neighbors were outside and going to make his day even worse somehow.

The footsteps got closer and closer until he heard a small voice, “Hi Mr. Quigley.” It was Rockwell. Mr. Quigley grunted in return. The weeds were so large, he couldn’t see Rockwell or his mother. “May we come over to your yard?” Rockwell asked in his most polite voice.

“What for?” Mr. Quigley snarled.

“We’re here to help,” Fiona said, sounding upbeat but not overly so. Mr. Quigley appreciated her tempering herself.

Mr. Quigley stepped to the side of the weed patch to see Fiona and Rockwell in full gardening apparel, overalls, boots, gardening gloves, sun hats, and with shovels in their hands. He almost smiled at the sight. He nodded in agreement.

The three spent nearly all day digging up the weeds. Most of the time, they were quiet, just working alongside one another. Or Rocky would ask a question of his mom and she’d give a quick answer then direct him back to work. At lunchtime, Fiona offered to make sandwiches for everyone and Mr. Quigley agreed, though they ate on their separate porches.

Just before dinner, their work was done. The weeds were gone, the hole had been filled with dirt and the area sprayed with the industrial strength weed killer.

Mr. Quigley didn’t say thank you, or offer any gesture of gratitude. But Fiona smiled and nodded her head at him, and he nodded back.

The next morning, the weeds were back, but fewer and not as large. And Fiona and Rocky were back with their shovels, too. Rocky had a harder time and didn’t find digging all day as exciting for the second day in a row, so Fiona would let him run off to grab toys so he could sit near them and play. This time, they ate their sandwiches together on Fiona’s porch, and Mr. Quigley would answer Rockwell’s questions about yard work and gardening. Tersely, but he did answer.

They continued on this way for a week, Fiona and Rocky helping Mr. Quigley dig up the weed patch each day when they got home from work and school. And as hard as it was for Mr. Quigley to see the weeds in his yard, he would wait for them.

They shared dinner together and chatted more. Small talk mostly, about Fiona’s job, Rocky’s schoolwork and what Mr. Quigley read or watched on TV that day.

Then, one morning, they all woke up and ran to their separate porches to see that not only were there  no weeds, but the dirt patch had been covered with grass. As mysteriously as the weeds had come, they were gone. And without a trace. Rocky could barely believe his eyes and ran to Mr. Quigley’s yard to inspect the area more closely. Fiona and Mr. Quigley were right behind him.

“Well,” Mr. Quigley said, “I suppose I owe you both a thank you.”

Rocky smiled the biggest smile. “You’re welcome, Mr. Quigley,” Fiona said.

“Call me Ned,” Mr. Quigley said.

June 03, 2022 18:29

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