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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Eek! (02/25/10)

TITLE: Mavis Doesn't Live Here Anymore
By Marita Vandertogt



When the neighbours talked about Mavis Bellimore, it was never with very kind words.

That house is an eyesore, they’d say. Can’t imagine what it must look like on the inside.

And sure enough, they couldn’t. Though some tried. Peeking through a separated curtain in the window late at night, crawling across foot high grass to get there. All that was ever reported, at least factually, by a neighbour was, “I couldn’t see a dang thing in there, just boxes I guess. Big black things and chairs and stuff stacked on top.” And that’s only if the moon was shining so they could actually see anything at all.

Mavis would come out on her porch every morning, and sit on a wicker rocker drinking a cup of something or other. Nobody knew for certain what it was. But given that it was morning, they allowed her the benefit of coffee. She was there, regular as clock work, for the last twenty or so years. Until one morning, she wasn’t. And after six or seven mornings of no one seeing the black haired, skinny rail of a woman with her cup in hand, they decided she must be away. Or maybe sick. And if sick she would need some help, in that big rambling house, all alone.

So the woman’s “Helping Hands” club came to her door with a home cooked meal, and when no one answered, decided definitely something was wrong.

“She’s either dead, or really sick and can’t come to the door.” The spokeswoman for the group reported to Social Services, and they got a warrant to check her home. Maybe not an actual warrant, but an okay from the local authority. After all, it was his grandmother, and he hadn’t visited her himself in about five years. “I’m sure she’s okay,” he told the women’s group spokesperson, “but here, take my key for her place. She gave me an extra years ago. Good time to use it now I guess.”

So off they went, the little troop of women, and knocked again before opening the big wood door that creaked with anger when they pushed it. “Hello Mavis,” the spokeswoman called out, a bare whisper to her voice. As they stepped inside the hall, coats and hats and scarves and boots and shoes and sandals and all manner of clutter stopped them. The odour of cat urine and old food, sat stale, swirling inside their nostrils as they moved forward. Mavis was a hoarder. No wonder she never went anywhere, never had anyone visit. Mavis gathered things and never let them go.
By now they were at the kitchen door. “Mavis” the spokeswoman called out again, a little louder now. “Are you here dear. We brought you some dinner.” She cleared a spot on an arborite table and put the food down.

“Should we leave it here?” The woman behind her said. “Do you think she’ll be able to find it?”

The house was silent, too silent. “Of course she’ll find it,” the spokeswoman said, a little hesitant herself. “But let’s see if we can’t find her. Surely there must be a bedroom around here somewhere. Let’s divide and search.”

Each woman took a room, cluttered with all kinds of undefinable things, and took careful steps, afraid of knocking something over, or worse yet, of being knocked over by something.

The spokeswoman made it to the bottom of the staircase. “I’m going up,” she warned the group, and rolled up her pant legs to the knee.

“Mavis,” she continued to call the name, tiptoeing through the rubble, and stopped at a closed door. It opened under her finely manicured hand with little resistance, and there, sitting in a wooden rocker by the window, was Mavis, asleep, her head tilted slightly to one side.

“Mavis?” the spokeswoman shook her on the shoulder, but Mavis didn’t stir.


The house was eventually put up for sale, though most thought it should have been demolished. It took a professional cleaning crew to put it back into shape. It took them days and days. The neighbours don’t talk about Mavis anymore, except as that strange lady that collected things till she passed away, and that it was lucky they ever even found her at all.

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Member Comments
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Laury Hubrich 03/05/10
Poor Mavis. This is a true account of many older Americans. So sad. Might be a little weak on topic, though.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/05/10
This is such a sad tale, sad because it holds true for so many who need things to cling onto because they don't have people in their lives. You did such a good job of pointing that out without overkill.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/08/10
Your story was especially sad with the knowledge that the MC was a grandmother who should have been receiving care. It seems the only thing she inspired was curiosity.
Kate Oliver Webb 03/10/10
I was struck more with the failure of the grandson to maintain contact -- 5 years was it, he hadn't seen her? We don't know the history behind this, but the fact that those who knew (or knew about) her had only talked for at least 5 years that we know of--no action taking place. That's a word to all of us, I think.
Beth LaBuff 03/10/10
I wanted a peek into her house and life too. You skillfully created the suspense. Poor Mavis... but I still had to smile at your ending. :)
Connie Dixon03/10/10
This story urges the reader to do more for the Mavis's in our lives. They might not be hoarders, but they're alone...and lonely. Sad. Great title, BTW.
Carol Slider 03/10/10
Wow, what a tragic story. It's sad the neighbors didn't seem to care about her, but even more so that her own grandson didn't bother to visit her. Very well written!
Ann Grover03/11/10
Powerful and especially sad, having known people who live like this, surrounded by their "treasures," which for whatever reason, have become their security... their haven and their prison. (A tiny wee bit of polishing here and there, grammar-wise, would add a touch more impact.)