I have this neighbor who

seems to all the world so sweet and kind.

but she never waters her tulips

out front

and I watch them slowly suffocate.


when I first moved in

she left me chocolate chip cookies

on the doorstep

but she didn’t knock or try

to meet me face to face

which I found odd.


I hear cats meowing from

right inside her house

and can practically feel

their claws at the door

Scratching, whining

does she feed them?


Of course, it's easy for a mind to wander

Late at night

What if she's a serial killer

Or just mentally unstable?

Her cats keep meowing and I

bury my head under the covers until

I'm suffocating just like her tulips.


The other day I saw her walking

with a cat on a leash and

a huge sun hat so I couldn't see her face

just wisps of grey hair and

stumpy legs under a pleated,

floral skirt


I know I'm a creep,

but I couldn't help but

Follow her down the street

Casually, of course

Earbuds in, jamming to

Billy Joel


She walked for miles and I

was panting but she

walked steadily on, not even

breaking her stride

while I wheezed and tried

to stay under cover so she

wouldn’t see


she stopped once and I dove

behind a tree. she

picked up her cat and kept walking

I groaned and followed


eventually, we came to a stop sign at the

edge of the subdivision

where the road turned to dirt and

trailed off into cornfields

I had never noticed the small wooden cross by that

stop sign.


she knelt down and plucked

a few flowers

from her pocket and laid them down


gently on the ground

she said a short prayer and I watched from a bush

while she shed a few tears, and turned to go back


then I saw her face

Old, but kind

Not at all how I had imagined

late into the night


she didn't see me, but

her cat’s yellow eyes bore right

through the bush into mine


my neighbor walked back, and I

wondered who the cross was

one of her cats, maybe?


I crept closer as she walked

farther away

and I saw a man’s name scratched

Crudely into the wood

and I knew deep inside the

reason for a dried-up lawn and

suffocating flowers

my neighbor was grieving, and I

had assumed the worst


Yet she'd still

brought me cookies

though she couldn't bear to

feed her cats or

water her tulips

I was humbled.


I baked her a batch and

resolved to knock on her door

and hand them to her myself,

but as I raised my hand, I

saw through the window


stroking a cat

with a record on

and she was singing along with

tears that soaked the cat’s fur

I couldn't bear to interrupt,

so I set down the cookies and

walked away.