What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

The Mad Monk

He was tall and hairy, with a full beard and a thick accent.

"You haf room to rent?"

‘He looks like Rasputin,’ I thought, remembering a TV documentary about the Russian mystic who mesmerized the czar and czarina before the 1917 revolution.

Rasputin was known as the Mad Monk.

"Uh, j-just a minute,” I stammered. “I have to get my stepfather."

It was deep winter in Minneapolis, 1962. My new stepfather, Joe, was caretaker of this skidrow hotel a few blocks from my mother’s small diner. At sixteen, I had just moved into a room on the third floor, where I loved pretending I had my own little apartment.

Until the Mad Monk moved into the room next door.

At first, he was unobtrusive, like the other men who occupied dreary rooms that lined the long hallway. They lived solitary, broken lives with no sign of family or friends. They worked or had pensions. Some drank their checks away.

But they seemed to like having a teenage girl living among them, reminding them of happier days. One solemn alcoholic named John insisted on giving me a dollar every Sunday when we cleaned the rooms.

"My daughter’s name is LaVonne too," he said with a sad smile.

John disappeared one day. Joe looked for him, but we never saw him again. My mother said he must have jumped off the nearby Mississippi bridge.

Late one night, I was jolted awake by an argument in the room next door. I heard male and female voices shouting in another language. There were sounds of scuffling.

I was too frightened to sleep.

I crept downstairs and woke Joe. Mom was already at the diner, feeding the early breakfast crowd. I told Joe about the argument and how scared I was.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said. “You can sleep here.”

I gratefully crawled into their bed. When I awoke, Joe was in the kitchen drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette.

“What happened?” I asked.

“There wasn’t any woman there,” he said, “just him.”

“What?! But I heard—“

“I know. He’s—let’s just say disturbed. I called the hospital and they took him away. He won’t be coming back.”

It was another sad ending in a place full of sad stories.

I decided I didn’t want my own apartment any more. I moved back down to a room closer to my parents.

I could wait to grow up.


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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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