What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

Attacked by "Pickaninnys"

When I was small, maybe four, an elderly black woman lived next door to me. I spent a lot of time talking to her on the street, or over the fence, and we would always share stories and laugh. I loved talking to her, and enjoyed her company very much.

I remember her wide, gleaming smile, with sporadic holes where teeth should be, her rolled down stockings and long skirts in dingy muted jewel tones and well worn garish patterns and her drooping black sweater that seemed almost as if it was part of her. I specifically recall her always-perfect hair.

One afternoon, we baked cookies, and I asked to bring her some. I nervously set out on my journey to deliver my gift of childhood admiration and friendship in cookie form, and arrived at her doorstep. I climbed the steps and rang the bell. I did not wait long.

She answered the door and what I saw shocked me. Her head was covered in short little tentacles! I screamed and ran down the steps, cookies still in hand. I could hear her hearty laugh behind me. I ran home terrified and told my mother what I had seen - that she looked like she had been attacked by "aliums" - and she chuckled as she explained to me that our neighbor wore a wig. I had no idea up to that point that ethnic hair was any different from my own. I had black hair, and naively thought hers was the same. I then returned and apologized for my earlier less than gracious escape. She told me that she wore her hair in "pickaninnys" and that she always wore a wig. I had been terrified, and then had felt very silly, but she did finally receive her cookies. :)

On a sad note, we only lived there for about a year. I found out later that the state had bought her property for use as a park, and had vacated her from the home she had lived in for decades. She ended up homeless until her death at least 8 years later, and from time to time I would see her pushing a shopping cart filled with her belongings around the city. It was very sad to see, but I always smiled when I remembered the "pickaninny" incident.


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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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