The Old Lady Next Door by Keith Kitchen

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SUMMARY: Daniel walks his dogs every morning, only to be accosted by his next door neighbor, an old lady named Annabelle, who may be more than she seems.

Daniel was walking two of his dogs, as he did every morning. It was part of his routine: Get up, grab glasses, throw something on the feet and start taking the dogs out. It's how he did it every single day. He had three Chihuahuas and he had to take out the oldest first, then the two younger ones. The older one was a female named Princess and the two younger ones were neutered males named Killer and Macbeth. The dogs were white with Princess having brown spots and the boys having black. Daniel just barely noticed how beautiful it was that morning through his fog. The sky was a near-perfect blue with not a cloud in sight. The dew was sparkling like diamonds from the tips of the grass and birds flew back and forth across the sky. A rabbit froze about six feet from Daniel and his dogs, hoping she wouldn't be noticed and a squirrel ran through the branches of the tree above him, ignoring the human and his pets.

Daniel was not quite awake, but that was normal. He was dressed in shorts and a muscle shirt, as usual for this time of day. Once he was done walking the dogs, it would be time to make coffee and get on the computer for a while. It was the only time of the day he could get time on his home computer without setting of a major incident. His wife would be getting ready for work and his kids would later be fighting over possession of the computer, so now was his time to surf the ‘net, work on his stories or whatever came to mind. He was very possessive of this time because, while he worked with computers all day long, he couldn't exactly go where he wanted on the computer when he was at work.

He had just rounded the hedgerow at the end of his property when he heard an all-too-familiar voice from behind him and he groaned inwardly.

"Are you walking your dogs?" The old, cracked voice asked.

"Quiet, boys!" Daniel ordered the dogs. The boys had instantly gone nuts, straining on their leashes and barking at his neighbor. Daniel turned around to see Annabelle, the old lady from next door, limping up behind him. While she hadn't made him jump this time, she was always sneaking up on him while he walked the dog, did chores around the house, on his way to work, it didn't matter. She always seemed to show up when he was outside during the day. Never at night. Only during the day. She was stooped over, with a faded blue shirt and white slacks that looked as if they hadn't been washed in weeks. Her hair wasn't gray, it was white as snow and she wore glasses over twinkling blue eyes. She was wrinkled as a prune and Daniel wouldn't have been able to guess her age if his life depended on it. If pressed, he would have said she was in her late seventies or early eighties, but would insist he was only guessing.

"Oh, hi, Annabelle. Yeah, I'm walking the dogs." He did his best not to show any irritation. He had been raised to always respect his elders, even when they were senile old coots. Maybe, he mused, especially if they're senile old coots.

"How many dogs do you have?" She asked suspiciously.

It was all Daniel could do to not roll his eyes in exasperation.

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