I used to stare out at the neighbours across the street in quiet moments.
My house faced directly out towards theirs. Every morning, whether my husband went to work, or the kids went to school, or I went out shopping, or to pick up dry-cleaning, or to walk the dog… The Jones house stood defiantly.
With it’s pristine garden. The immaculate lawn. The white picket fence. The marigolds all in a row. And, in a picture of perfect whitewash – the Jones house stood defiantly.
Whenever I was reminded of my own inadequacy – a final reminder for an unpaid bill, or another argument over dinner. Another glass of red wine spilt on a cream sofa. Another meeting with the headmaster because the eldest was caught smoking behind the bike-sheds again… Whenever I was reminded of these things; The Jones house stood defiantly.
I began to resent them.
I didn’t know them. Barely even acknowledged them. Nodded politely. Sometimes managed a civil half-wave. No idea what their names were though. They had a daughter, who was barely around and walking. And the woman was pregnant with the second and beginning to show.|
I didn’t know them. But I hated them.
They had a gorgeous house. A beautiful family. An amazing car. I imagined they had high-profile jobs and exquisite meals. Elegant bedrooms and Egyptian cotton sheets. I bet they had a grandfather clock. And a chandelier. And a bidet.
The Jones house stood defiantly. And I hated everything it stood for. It was a tease. A taunt. A mockery of everything I ever wanted but couldn’t have.
One morning, I rose with the sound of sirens.
And when I went to door and stood in the porch, the smell of smoke was
Across the street, the Jones house did not stand defiantly.
Across the street, the Jones house was nothing more than a smouldering ruin, charred wood, soggy from the fireman’s hose. There was an ambulance. A body bag on a gurney. A pregnant woman clutching at it and screaming. The husband sat on the kerb, his head in his perfectly manicured hands, crying openly.
I surveyed the scene for a while, before moving to kitchen to open a bottle of wine. And I sat there, on my front step, a vague smile playing across my lips, and drank nearly the whole thing. I revelled in it. Their misery.
My, how the mighty have fallen.
How the proud will eventually kneel.
How the meek shall inherit.
In the lounge, I danced to an unheard tune. And whilst I sipped my glass delicately, I looked at the merlot left in the bottle, and poured the remainder all over the cream sofa; confident in the knowledge that no matter how bad things got, I’d always be one up on the Joneses.
Christopher is a writer, who recently published a collection of short stories for the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, and won the award for ‘Best Spoken Word’. The piece ‘Wish’ is a monologue, with the theme ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.