What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

Mr. Entertainer Captured Our Hearts

As I opened our door to answer the bell, I saw a man of small physical stature standing there. "Hi," said the older-looking black man "I'm Fred, your new next door neighbor. I just wanted to introduce myself and say nice to meet ya both." He became not only our next door neighbor, but one of our dearest, most cherished friends. We must have looked like a reverse Oreo Cookie trio, but we three never noticed. Fred LOVED jazz---Basie, Sinatra, May, Hampton, Miller, all the old "classic" jazz artists. He loved to hoof it, sing, and tell off-color jokes. We talked baseball---especially the Negro Leagues; about Jazz joints like the Savoy and the Cotton Club in NYC. He had a smile that would melt away any troubles you had on your mind. He LOVED life and lived it fully. He grew up in a time when white America was less accepting and respectful to black men. But he "paid it no mind," as he often said. He just went about his business, securing the friendships and hearts of so very many people. It seemed that Fred was deeply rich in friendships, and love, respect and admiration. We often shared meals together. He loved my chili, homemade soups, and special market bought hotdogs. Fred organized a bunch of his friends to meet each other because he wanted us to feel as blessed as he felt. We met for monthly breakfasts and called ourselves Fred's Angels. We all wore angel pins when we gathered at those breakfasts. He considered mom and me "family" and wanted us in on the discussion when he became ill and what that all would mean. Fred and my mom spoke EVERYDAY. I shoveled his driveway of snow in winter and swept the leaves from his patio in autumn. When the time came to move to hospice care, Fred confused the staff by introducing us as his wife and daughter. We saw him every chance we could, spending time joking, bringing him his favorite bubble bath or ice cream flavor, a photo album of images from the birthday party we threw... Anything to share what we could to bring a smile to his tired, but loving heart. When Fred passed away, a light went out within our souls... I hope he's smiling in Heaven and happily dancin' freely to Frank Sinatra's Street of Dreams.


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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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