Mean Season

Newly married, Creighton Bradshaw glances through her window to see a drug manufacturing operation in the house next door. At the same moment, the new neighbor drives into the driveway and meets her knowing gaze. Frantic, she tells Will, but she's on her own when he refuses to believe her.

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Excerpt of The Mean Season:

It was still dark out when I awakened to noises outside. I frowned, unable to imagine what had made such a racket at--I glanced at the clock--4:15 A.M?

My new husband, Will, had slept through the racket, as usual, looking like an angel at rest. My heart still did somersaults just looking at his wonderful face.

I crept out of bed, toward the window and stared in amazement at the massive I-Van moving truck parked in front of the house next door. I blinked. Who moves into a house in the middle of the night?

Our buff-colored Great Dane, Buster, stirred, lifted his massive head and looked at me as if I had lost my mind. He came to stand beside me, and I stroked his silky fur.

 I whispered, ďHi, baby boy. Itís okay. You can go back to sleep. Go on now, lie down.Ē He obeyed, circling at the bottom of the bed before plopping down again.

I resumed my vigil, tilting my head as I watched, in the light of a streetlamp, as an elderly couple hauled in boxes. This was getting stranger by the minute.

I began to shiver, and knowing I would never go back to sleep now, I pulled my robe from the chair beside the bed and wrapped up in it. I shook my head. Though my life has been strange for a while now, I am still surprised by weirdness.

I padded down the stairs in the semidarkness and turned on the light over the stove. I filled the coffeemaker with water, added the dark, rich coffee grounds and turned it on.

Then I hurried toward the family room window to watch from the darkness, with great expectation, the middle of the night madness next door. Who were these people?

Because the moving vanís back end faced me, I could see inside. Once again the man and woman, who appeared to be in their late sixties or early seventies, each took a small box and made their way, single file, toward the open front door of the house. In January?

The heat kicked on, pushing warm air through the vent beside me just then, as if to emphasize the bizarre scene next door. It had to be below zero outside.

We live in an exclusive suburb of Kansas City, where the new rich reside. I couldnít help wondering what our very proper neighbors thought of the midnight mania going on next door or if they had heard.

From our cul-de-sac, where we have only vacant lots to the east of us, I glanced down the block, on the other side of the street, and saw lights blink on, from house to house.

I had the feeling Mr. Coffee and his cohorts would be getting a workout in our neighborhood this morning.

I stood still, trying to get a look at the new neighbors. It hadnít occurred to me that the house next door had sold. I had never noticed a For Sale sign in the yard. But then many sellers in upper class neighborhoods do not like the idea of signs, believing it draws a curious low class element. My old neighborhood had felt much the same way on the subject.

I had never thought to ask Will about the people next door in the two weeks we had been married. What with combining two households, restarting my occupational therapy practice out of our home, getting my former home ready to sell and researching and writing a book on identical twins, I had never been curious about those living nearby--until now.

It was all I could do not to wake Will and pick his brain on the subject. I sighed, knowing that at our ages, sleep is like a nocturnal animal, sneaking in and out at will. Therefore, it would never do to disturb him in the middle of a sound sleep. Will just had his sixtieth birthday, and I follow behind at age fifty-two.

Still pondering the neighbors and their odd behavior, I gathered linens and soiled laundry and started a load of whites, repeating the word laundry ten times, to remind myself to keep working at it, and hopefully, to have it returned to its rightful place before bedtime tonight.

 

Turning my full attention back to the activity next door, I scooted my chair toward the window and pulled a quilt from its back, settling in for the long haul. Only minutes later, Mr. Coffee punctuated the silence with a hiccough and a hiss, signaling that my coffee was ready.

Still wrapped in my quilt, I poured a cup, added creamer and sugar substitute and hauled it back to my niche, where I sipped it to warm me. For some reason, I am cold much of the time these days.

I stared out the window. The house next door is glorious. A huge three-story Tudor, with a peaked roofline, it has myriad leaded, mullioned windows that, in the daytime, dance and play with the sunbeams.

I was still getting used to our own magnificent home. Willís late wife, Della, had been a fan of classically formal wall coverings and furniture. Will had been the one to suggest I add my things to lighten the mood and add whimsy to the mix. We are both delighted with the results. My antiques and collectibles have added a playful touch to the previously sumptuous but austere space.

The moon peered out from behind a cloud at that moment, illuminating the outdoor scene more clearly. The woman reminded me of a wizened, elderly pixie, with a pointed chin and wild white hair that stuck straight out from her head. She seemed intent on her work. Obviously she had more energy at her age than I have at mine.

We had recently been in the throes of moving and found it an arduous undertaking at our ages. But the two newcomers appeared to be in their element.

For one thing, they were both rail thin and wiry looking. Maybe furniture delivery was their day job.

The man appeared to be muscular at about six feet. I watched in awe as he easily lifted what seemed too large a box for his thin frame to handle.

After the boxes were inside, the actual furniture appeared at the opening in the van. Regal looking teak Chinese room dividers and dramatic oriental rugs made their way up the sidewalk and into the house. The overstuffed living room furniture appeared to be a lotus flower pattern on a pale blue and black background. Oriental had never been my favorite style, but this seemed classy and tasteful.

As I watched, myriad expensive-looking beds, bureaus, trunks and benches all passed by on their way inside. Then bicycles appeared, shortly ridden down the bumpy ramp by their enthusiastic owners. They did not target the house, however, but instead began tooling around the neighborhood, whizzing around our circle. 

Who were these wizened night people who moved like the wind at their ages?

It was certainly a puzzle I couldnít let go.

 


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