What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

Dona Elena

I live in Mexico. My next door neighbor is Dona Elena, a more than ancient ghost-like woman who floats down our street several times a day. She is not aware of anyone or anything except trash. Clad in her long black coat and black stockings under a black dress, with 100 year old black stretched-out shoes, she picks up every piece of trash on the sidewalk and in the street. The senora will stop a whole line of traffic to retrieve a scrap of paper or a banana peel. She carries the trash in her hand and when it is full she returns to her home and disposes of it and then returns to her job.
I always say "buenos dias" to her but she never looks up, even though I believe she can hear me. I don't stop I always greet her and one day she actually looked up and rewarded me with a smile and a half greeting of "Dios"
I see her face and note that her wrinkles have wrinkles and wonder about her age, she must be close to 100 with thousands of stories to tell. Still she is able to walk miles in a day with a striding in perfect tempo to some secret song in her head, not too fast, not too slow.
I began to notice that sometimes as she was walking she would pull a little very worn black change purse from the folds of her blackness and stare into it. As I passed, I would notice that there was never anything in the purse. I knew that the extended family that she lived with was large and poor. One day I decided that every time I passed her I would drop ten pesos into the open purse. The first time I did this, Dona Elena looked up with surprise and shock. But she DID look at me. At first she was a bit confused. She did not ask and she received!!
I continue to do this every day and now she says gracias and adios as she heads for the market down the street.
I wonder if you can guess who derives the greatest joy from this daily dance.


No comments yet, why not leave one of your own?

Leave a Comment or Share Your Story

Please Sign In. Only community members can comment.

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.

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.