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Neighborly Complications (Excerpt)

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Chapter 1

She should have picked the beach house in Galveston.  

Claire surveyed the mess in front of her. She had initially been excited about it, when  Uncle Eddie had left her this house in his will.   He had given her the choice between this place and a beach house in Galveston, but she was afraid that the homeowner’s insurance on the Gulf Coast would eat her lunch.  Now, she wasn’t so sure.  The house itself was beautiful, built in the late-eighteenth century, it would make a great bed and breakfast.  Getting it up to code, though, was proving to be a daunting task.  

The kitchen? Well, the kitchen had last been remodeled in the 1950s. Claire imagined a woman in a polka dot dress with a lace apron and pearls, lovingly running her hand along the giant enamel stove. It was the same stove every woman had been fantasizing about since Rachel Ray’s television debut, except this one had seen better days. It was rusted, filthy, and totally unusable without a full restoration. And such a restoration was not in her budget.

Claire sighed heavily, and got a trash bag to start filling up.

The kitchen's only blessing was an enormous picture window with the original frame. Unfortunately it lacked the glass, so she tossed her full garbage bag out of it.  It was certainly easier than carrying the trash out the back door, down the back porch steps, and all the way around the house.  This way, Claire could fill a bag, toss it out the window, and have it halfway to the destination of the curb.  Pleased with her innovativeness, she filled another one.  And another.  About an hour later, She had five garbage bags full of trash outside the house on the ground beneath the kitchen window.  She had swept and mopped the floors, wiped out the cabinets and countertops, and almost managed to get rid of the odor of rat pee.  She mentally patted herself on her back.  Not bad for a morning’s work.

Claire went outside the back door to start carrying the trash around to the curb, wondering what day the garbage was picked up.  Walking over to the kitchen window, she grabbed a garbage bag and threw it over her shoulder.  She grabbed another one and started dragging it behind her as she walked around the side of the house to the front curb.

Forcing oxygen into her bloodstream, Claire breathed heavily as she carried the trash bags around the house, thinking to herself that maybe she shouldn’t have tried to shove so much into each bag.  They were really heavy.  When her foot landed on something squishy, she paused and wondered briefly if she had stepped in dog pooh.

As her shin scraped through the pulp of the soggy plywood, and she fell forward, she realized she was falling into a hole that had been covered.  Her forward momentum with the added weight of the trash bags, had made the top half of her body land on solid ground when she fell.  Unfortunately, the bag she was dragging added to the weight on the bottom half of her body, which was dangling over the hole.

She dropped the garbage bags and grabbed what she could grab.  Weeds.  Crap. So she yelled.  Loudly.

“Help me!!!  Please!  Somebody, help!”

Usually, when one pulls weeds, they need a shovel and a pick axe to get them out of the dirt.  These weeds--which Claire really needed to be sturdy little buggers--were coming out almost as fast as she could grab them.

“Help me!” Claire screamed as if her life depended on it.  She realized now, that this was probably an old water well, and she had no idea how deep it could be.

Scrabbling for anything to hold onto, feet dangling in the darkness below her, she tried to swing her legs forward to find something for them to cling to.  Her hands grabbed for anything, rocks, grass, roots.  Nothing was working. She couldn’t help imagining inside the darkness of the well the Indiana Jones pile of snakes slithering over each other, anxiously awaiting her drop into their midst. Her Converse tennis shoes slipped down the slimy sides of the well that Claire imagined was covered with spiders and their webs and egg sacs. She couldn’t find anything for her hands to grab onto, and she screamed again as she slipped further into the well.  

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