Neighbourhood Watch by Rachel Smith

Dad’s front lawn is overgrown and the curtains are drawn, upstairs as well as down, despite it being midday. Mum would turn in her grave if she saw it: What must the neighbour’s think?

Once Dad lets me in, I see sunlight flooding in from the back windows, making the hallway feel like an underground tunnel leading towards the surface. I follow Dad to the garden where he has obviously made a nest for himself: bottled beer in a cooler by his slippered feet and an open laptop showing a Bond film.

“Dad, why are all the curtains closed?”

“I feel like I’m being watched.”

“By who?”

He shrugs. “Kids probably, nosy neighbours.” He leans forwards and plays the film. “I just wanna be left alone.”

I pull up a chair next to him and grab a beer. We enjoy the film, the sun and our quiet company. I don’t ask any more questions; I don’t feel the need. He’s OK. Bit paranoid, but OK.

Later, as I’m opening my car door, I notice an elderly woman on the other side of the road, white hair fluttering in the breeze.

She is watching me.

My shoulder blades itch and I turn, catching a boy and two girls fleeing from the field that borders my father’s back garden.

“We saw them, Granny! They were talking and—”

The boy sees me, freezes and the two girls crash into him.

I stare at the old woman, my voice cracking in outrage. “Have you been spying on my dad?”

“Just looking out for the neighbourhood,” she says. “You don’t close your curtains all day unless you’re up to something fishy. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Groaning, I lean against my car and bury my face in my hands.

Oh, Mum… what is he like?

Published in Issue #26

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