That Little Horror Next Door!
by Fiona Turner
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“THERE'S that child crying again!"
   Ellen Cameron's brows drew together in a frown as she vigorously poked the fire. "I've a good mind to go and tell those people just what I think of then. We've never had an evening's peace since they moved in."
   "Aye, the child certainly has a good pair of lungs for a two-year-old," John, her husband, replied placidly opening his paper.
   "But you can't expect children to be wee angels all the time, love."
   Ellen snorted. There were times when she found her husband's calm unruffled nature a comfort. But not tonight.
   "It's well seeing you haven't got her tantrums to put up with all day!" she snapped, as the screams redoubled.
   "Mind you, it's not the child's fault." she added, opening her work-box and taking out the soft toy she was making for the church bazaar.
   "It's the mother I blame. I knew what she was the moment I set eyes on her — feckless.
   "And as for that husband of hers, he's no better — out till all hours at night!"
   "Oh, come, Ellen, that's a bit hasty," John observed mildly. "They look all right to me. A hit shabby, perhaps — "
   "Shabby! You weren't there when they moved in," Ellen retorted.
   "Not a decent stick of furniture to their name. Too lazy to work, if you ask me."
   "Maybe they're just down on their luck," suggested her husband. "Plenty of people are these days — "
   "Then how is it," Ellen leaned forward to make her point, "how is it they've got a colour TV?
   "Oh yes." she went on, seeing John's expression of mild disbelief.
   "And don't tell me I'm a nosey parker. They've no curtains at the window, so you can't help seeing that big brand new colour set.
   "Which is more than other folks can afford." she concluded with a disparaging glance at their own old black and white set in the corner.
   "Well, doesn't that tell you something about the kind of family they are?"
   "Sounds as if you're right, Ellen," John was forced to concede. "But it's a pity about the child she's a bonnie wee lass."


ELLEN'S eyes softened at the wistful note in his voice. John had always been daft about children. And if they'd been lucky enough to have a family, he might well have had a grandchild of his own on his knee by this time.
   But certainly not one that little horror next door!
   "Well. this isn't getting my panda finished," she remarked. changing the subject.
   "And that reminds me. John — tea at six sharp tomorrow. I want to be down at the church hall in plenty of time for the Charity Bazaar."
   Fortunately, blessed peace reigned next door the following afternoon as Ellen began packing up the items for her stall.
   She was busy writing price-tickets when the doorbell rang.
   "So sorry to trouble you." The brisk, efficient-looking young woman with the briefcase smiled pleasantly.
   "I wonder if you could tell me when Mrs Anderson will be back?"
   "Mrs Anderson?" Ellen looked puzzled, and the brisk young woman's eyebrows rose slightly.
   "Your next-door neighbour," she explained quietly.
   Ellen bridled. sensing an implied reproach.
   No one had ever accused Ellen Cameron of lacking neighbourly interest — quite the opposite, in fact, as John might have remarked if he had been there.
   But she replied politely.
   "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I've no idea. She's probably just gone down to the shops."
   She eyed the caller, trying to place her.
   Not a friend of those people, surely? She looked too respectable for that.
   More likely someone come to collect an overdue instalment on that colour TV set.
   "I see." The young woman glanced at her watch. "I haven't really time to come back."
   She hesitated a moment.
   "Perhaps you'd he kind enough to let Mrs Anderson know be round tomorrow afternoon with some blankets and things for her.
   "Tell her it's Miss Adams, from the Welfare Centre."
   Welfare! Wouldn't you just know it, Ellen thought as she watched the young woman drive away.
   Scroungers, that's what they were. Out for anything they could get for nothing. Well, her estimate of them hadn't been very far off the mark.
   But a glance at the clock told Ellen there was no time to waste on pondering over the shortcomings of the family next door.
   She brought out a large carton and carefully tied a price-ticket to each of her toys before popping them in.
   They were sure to sell like hot cakes.
   And with the big cuddly panda as its centre-piece, her stall would, as usual, be the best one in the whole bazaar.
   It was while she was laying the table for tea that pandemonium broke out next door.
   Ellen's lips tightened. Didn't that woman ever try to keep the child quiet?
   And her indignation mounted still more as the clock ticked round. Twenty-past six, and no John! Surely he hadn't forgotten!
   Suddenly it was all too much for Ellen. This time she really would give these people a piece of her mind!


HER furious knock brought a pale, weary-looking woman to the door.
   Ellen opened her mouth, and at the same moment the screams died down into sobs, followed by a sudden silence.
   "Come in, Mrs Cameron." The pale face broke into a welcoming smile.
   "I think a miracle's just happened!"
   Mystified. Ellen followed her. And then her eves nearly popped out of her head.
   Seated in a corner of the shabby settee was John Cameron. And cradled in his arms, her golden head pillowed against his shoulder, was the wee horror, fast asleep.
   "She's dropped off now, Mrs Anderson," John said, avoiding his wife's eye. "I'd better carry her upstairs for you."
   As he tip-toed out of the room. carefully carrying the sleeping child, the younger woman turned to Ellen.
   "Mr Cameron certainly has a way with children,"she said.
   "My husband's working late again, and I was nearly out of my mind with Karen when he came to the door.
   "But please sit, down, Mrs Cameron. I — I wanted to thank you for not complaining — about the noise, I mean.
   "It was the fright, you see. The doctor says she'll get over it with time and patience."
   Then seeing Ellen's questioning look, she went on.
   "But of course, you didn't know. There was a fire, we lost our home, everything. Even Karen's favourite teddy-hear."
   She laughed shakily, then added in a steadier voice, " But I wouldn't have believed there could be so much kindness.
   "Furniture and things from the Welfare people — and the TV, our families clubbed together to get us that.
   " Yes, we've got a lot to be thankful for."
   Ellen was very quiet as she and John returned to their own house.
   "I did remember about being early," John ventured. "But I was passing their door, and somehow —
   "I'll do the dishes so you can get away to the Charity Bazaar," he added anxiously as Ellen didn't reply.
   "Never mind that now."
   Ellen crossed to the well-filled carton in the corner.
   "There's something I've just remembered too."
   And she lifted the cuddly panda from the box and carefully snipped the price ticket from its neck . . .

Sunday Post, February 22 1976


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