Neighbors become worried when a hideous stench starts to come from the house next door, and are horrified when they discover the truth.
There was an old house on the corner of Garson and Madison streets, a big yellow house with a steep roof and lots of chimneys. It must once have been a lovely, welcoming place, but now its paint was flaking off, and some of the roof tiles were missing.
The steps up to the porch were warped, and you could see that it had been a long, long time since anyone had bothered to mow the lawn or trim the hedges, and even the white picket fence was missing slats, like a mouth without teeth.
Once, the grownups said, that house had been the pride of the neighborhood, and the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Curzon had won prizes with their roses, and the delicious scent of fresh-baked cookies was always in the air.
Now things were very different. Mr. Curzon had passed away, and the couple’s two grownup sons had moved in, supposedly to take care of their mother, but when they were around, they seemed to spend all their time drinking beer on the porch in their undershirts.
As for Mrs. Curzon, she very rarely came outside anymore, and when she did, she looked very pale and weak and leaned on the arm of one of her unfriendly sons so that people were afraid to greet her or strike up a conversation.
This all went on for a long, long time until something changed. One day, Tommy Garcia and his friend Fred Halloran were bicycling past the house when they smelled something weird.
Tommy stopped and looked back at the yellow house over his shoulder. “That’s really weird,” he said to Fred. “Smells bad, like a dead rat.”
“Dead rat?” scoffed Fred. “More like a dead buffalo!”
“That’s disgusting… How can anyone live in there?” asked Tommy.
“Well, I don’t think anyone IS living in there,” said Fred. “I saw the Curzon boys drive away in that fancy truck of theirs a week ago.”
“Oh!” Tommy frowned. “But what about old lady Curzon?”
Fred’s eyes grew big and round and he leaned to whisper, “Maybe they killed her and buried her in the basement, and that’s what we’re smelling!”
“No way!” cried Tommy, his eyes shining with excitement. “A murder right in our street?”
“And if we’re the ones to find the dead body…That would be totally SICK!” exclaimed Fred. The two boys leaned their bikes against the Curzons’ rickety fence and crept up to the front door. Tommy rang the bell, but no one answered.
They peered into the front windows, into a living room so full of dust and empty bottles of beer they could hardly see the furniture. “Let’s go round back,” Tommy said. “Maybe the door will be open.”
The closer they were to the house the stronger the stench and Fred was holding his nose. “Maybe we should just go home,” he said to Tommy. But Tommy was already standing on tip-toe, peeking into the kitchen window.
“Fred!” he cried. “Quick, call your dad, call 911!”
“What?” asked Fred excitedly. “Is there a dead body?”
“No,” said Tommy, climbing up onto the window ledge and pushing it open. “Mrs. Curzon is on the floor and I think she’s hurt real bad!” Tommy jumped into the kitchen and ran to Mrs. Curzon’s side.
The frail lady was pale and her eyes were closed. Something about the way her leg was turned was very strange and made Tommy feel kind of sick. “Mrs. Curzon?” he asked. “Can you hear me?”
Tommy placed his hand on Mrs. Curzon’s forehead and it felt like it was burning. He went to the tap and filled up a beaker and brought her back the water. Gently, he lifted up Mrs. Curzon’s head and wet her lips with the water.
Mrs. Curzon opened her eyes. She tried to speak, but Tommy hushed her. “Help is on the way,” he said, and it was. Before long the police and the paramedics were there and what they found appalled them.
From what they could see, Mrs. Curzon’s sons had locked her inside her own house and left her all alone. The old lady had apparently slipped and fell, breaking her hip.
The police later found her cell phone upstairs, out of reach. She could never have managed to crawl up the steep steps!
Mrs. Curzon was taken to the hospital, and just in time.The doctors said she was in the last stages of dehydration, and wouldn’t have survived much longer. The smell that Tommy and Fred had noticed came from a smashed sewer pipe, and in fact, the whole house was in disrepair.
When the police gently questioned Mrs. Curzon, she explained: “My sons wanted to go on a vacation but I said I wasn’t staying there by myself, so they locked me in…”
“They locked you in?” asked the police officer. “Against your will?”
Mrs. Curzon blushed. “They did leave me food, you know…But then the sewer pipe broke and I tried to fix it and I fell… I managed to drag myself to the kitchen, but I couldn’t get outside because of the locks.”
The police immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of the Curzon boys and when the neighbors saw what they had done to their mother’s home, they were horrified.
The whole neighborhood banded together and they cleaned, fixed, and painted that house from top to bottom, and some of the ladies even planted some roses in the old garden.
By the time Mrs. Curzon came home from the hospital, her house was just as pretty as it used to be, there were flowers blooming in the garden, and Tommy, Fred, and the other children had tied hundreds of balloons to the old trees.
Mrs. Curzon couldn’t stop crying and thanking everyone, and Tommy was proud to have been able to help her. As for the Curzon boys, they ended up spending five years in prison for what they had done to their mother.
What can we learn from this story?
We never know what goes on behind closed doors. The neighbors never imagined that Mrs. Curzon was being mistreated by her children.
When we all band together we can move mountains. The whole neighborhood fixed up Mrs. Curzon’s house and changed her life.