What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

Night of The Black Crysanthemum

Whenever I say I grew up in the Bronx, people want to know about the summer of 1977: The Yankees, The Blackout, Son of Sam. But none of those compared to The Great Voodoo War of 1979.

My family had been the first Latin family to move into our apartment building. So when two other Latin families finally moved in on either side of us, we thought we'd have allies. We were wrong.

It started with cursing. But not, "Fuck you asshole," or even, "Come mierda, marcon." These were invocations for barren wombs, incurable diarrhea, brain tumors and more diarrhea, hurled through open windows day and night. Next, there were objects placed at their doors: A triangle of pennies sprinkled with white powder. Dead black flowers. Chicken feet neatly tied with red string.

Then one day I came home from school and saw a skinned, crucified mouse taped to the Morales's door. I showed it to my mom and she ran to the Garcia's door and yelled, "You have to stop. It's not sanitary. Children play in this hall!" A voice told my mother to mind her business or she'd be next.

The Morales's moved out that night, hurling venom upon the Garcias and everyone else in the building. My mom said, "Somebody's got to do something." She went into the bedroom, opened her Bible and started reading it out the window, non-stop, all night. Between that and the Garcias yelling back at her, no one got much sleep. But the next morning, we found out the Garcias too, had gone.

As I was about to leave bleary-eyed for school, my mom asked me to take out the garbage. In the alleyway were pieces of paper strewn all over the concrete. I looked closer and realized they were pages torn from the Bible. I looked up and saw our bedroom window between what had been the Morales's and Garcia's windows. Not only had my mother spoken the Word of God, she hurled it at them.

And so The Voodoo War of 1979 was stopped by something no curse has power over: the fury of a Latina mom. And even though she felt bad for tearing up the Word of God, I thought it was kind of cool. She had Sinead O'Connor beat by a whole 13 years. My mom was a true punk!


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Have a Next-Door Neighbor Story?

As part of our new webcomic, Next-Door Neighbor, we thought it appropriate to have a little contest. Tell us your best true next-door neighbor story, and the winning tale will be matched with an artist and transformed into a webcomic and included as the final installment of Next-Door Neighbor.

About Next-Door Neighbor

No matter how close or how far, we all live next to someone, and we all have a Next-Door Neighbor story. With that in mind, editor Dean Haspiel asked some of his favorite storytellers and cartoonists to create their favorite NDN stories so we could share them with you.

The Fine Print & Contest Rules

By submitting an entry, you are granting SMITH the right to reprint or republish that entry online or in print, as well as make any necessary edits. See SMITH's terms of service for complete details.

This contest ends September 1, 2008. Prizes are not redeemable for cash and must be accepted as awarded. Winners are decided at the discretion of SMITH judges and all decisions are final. SMITH reserves the right to change the contest rules. Enter as often as you want. SMITH reserves the right to reprint or republish all entries.

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