Maud And Mildred’s Feud

A Short Story from the book, 'Tales From Somewhere Else'
A collection of short stories to be published in 2024. Written and copyrighted by Dan W. Dooley.

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Maud Wiser and Mildred Richer were neighbors. They lived very close to each other. In fact, they lived in the same house. Well, not exactly as you suppose, for it was really two houses.

The two houses were built right against each other, and in fact, had no space between them. Facing the street with their individual but common fronts, they shared a common wall between them.

But being neighbors did not make them friends. Far from it. Truth is, they despised each other. And they made no secret of their dislike for each other.

No one knew for sure how the feud got started. There were many who suspected, and continue to suspect to this day, that it started over a man. But what man, and under what circumstances a man was involved no one knew for sure.

Whether it was a rivalry over one man. Or a jealously on the part of one of them. Or an old injury of the spirit of one of them, no one knew.

Everyone knew that it began a long time ago, and it began bitter and remained just as bitter to this day.

There was a story some told and some believed – no one could vouch for its truthfulness – that Maud had stolen a man Mildred was betrothed to. But for others, it was Mildred who had stolen Maud’s husband to be.

Either way, it served neither of the two to any benefit, for both remained unmarried for the remainder of their lives. But since no one could prove that the stolen man story was true, everyone remained in the dark about the matter.

Neither woman had brought any children into the world, but Maud had years ago, while still in her young woman years, taken in an orphan and raised him from his fifth year. Thus motherhood was a position she could, and she did claim.

That child had grown into a man, who had succeeded in his own chosen profession, and also married, he had children of his own. And Maud claimed with pride, the role of grandmother.

But Mildred lacked either experience. And some wondered if her envy of the other woman might have been at least in part, the source of her own resentment of her housemate. No one could prove that theory no more than any of the other theories.

So it remained a mystery. The cause was invisible, but the effects were very much visible.


“Why would you think of painting it that colour?” The questioner was none other than Vernon, Maud’s adopted son.

“Well, I have my reasons,” his mother answered.

“And those reasons might be?”

Already, the front of the building which made up the two houses had been painted two different colours. But on viewing from the street, the two colours did not clash together. One was painted pale yellow. That was Mildred’s side. Maud’s side was white.

“I’m tired of white. It’s so bland. I want to spice it up a bit.”

“Why not paint it yellow, Mum? The whole house, yours and…” even he hesitated to say the name, “would look nice. Don’t you think?”

“Absolutely not!” she exclaimed with a shocked expression on her face. Actually, it was more an offended expression. “I wouldn’t think of painting my house the same colour she painted hers.”

“Mum!” And that was all he could think of to say.

“I’m thinking of blue,” she said and it sounded to him that her mind was already settled. “Mildred hates blue,” she added, and the corners of her mouth moved up ever so slightly. “Yes. That’s what I’ll do.”

And she did paint it blue. The shutters and trim around the windows were also painted blue. Just a darker shade than the rest of the front.

She painted the porch. That half which belonged to her house, that is. So though it was really two houses, as they were part of the same building with only the wall between dividing them, they looked as one.

But each half not agreeing with the other half, passerby’s on the street often looked at the house with head shaking wonder.

As the porch and the roof over the porch ran from side to side, shared by both, one half of the porch and roof were blue. The other half remained yellow.


And Mildred, when she saw the painting in process, was livid. And when the painting was completed, she was no less enraged. But what could she do to retaliate?

So she thought. And she thought. Now she knew what she would do. She would call on Evelyn. Evelyn would know exactly what to suggest, for Evelyn’s dislike for the neighbor next door was almost as deep as was hers.

“I’m thinking of bricking over my side of the house,” she said as she and Evelyn sat down in her parlour for tea.

“Why would you think of doing something like that?” her friend asked.

“Well, you know,” Mildred began her answer, not wanting to come directly to the point, “the old wood is in need of repainting. And the truth is, some of the boards in the siding are showing some wear. I think it’s dry rot, actually. So I was just thinking…”

“Wood? Heavens, Mildred,” Evelyn replied with surprise. “You’ve not had wood siding on this house in over twenty years. You put that metal… What’s it called? That siding stuff which isn’t wood.

“And I don’t see anything wrong with the paint on it. Why that yellow is just as fresh as it was the day you had it painted.”

Then a knowing look came into the eyes of Evelyn. And then nodding her head as though acknowledging a great discovery, she did indeed recognize a great discovery.

“Ah. It’s about the new paint next door, is it not?”

“Well… I can’t say it’s just about that, Evie,” she answered in a voice low and uncertain.

“You’re thinking that Miss Wiser would hate living in a house which is one half of siding and one half of brick,” the other one replied.

“Well. I can’t rightly say that’s it.”

“Yes, you can,” Evelyn answered in a voice which was almost scolding. “She painted her side blue because you hate blue on a house. And she knows that. And now you want to do something in return to get back at her. Tell me. ‘Tis so?”

“I guess so, Evie. I guess so.”

The one called Evie smiled as thoughts, even uncharitable ones, began to creep into her mind. After all, she too disliked anyone who would proclaim themselves an enemy of her dear friend Mildred.

And if replacing the siding on Mildred’s half of the house with brick would send a message of “you don’t dare” to that stubborn and unreasonable person next door, then she was all in agreement with the plan.

What could Maud then do for retribution? Brick her own side of the house? Surely she would not do that, for then she would make the house look the same. Both sides. And Mildred would be the victor in this contest of wills.

“It’s a capital idea, Mildred,” Evelyn exclaimed. “But do you think it wise to spend so much money? It will surely cost a lot of money, don’t you think?”

“Oh I think so,” Mildred replied. “But I have it. Who am I going to leave it to if I don’t spend it on my own needs?”

Evelyn could think of one person in particular. But she remained silent, not answering the question.


And true to her word, Mildred did brick the front of her house. But she did not stop there. She bricked the whole side. The outside, that is, for the other side, well you know. It was between her house and Maud’s house. But if she could have, she would have.

And she bricked the back side. All the way to the boundary between her side and Maud’s side.

Only the eves and gables remained unbricked. She would have done those too, but she listened to the advice of others more knowing about such things and left those in their natural state.

But yellow was no longer suitable as a colour for the remaining parts of the house which were not brick.

Red, it must be. And she decided, and once decided, in a matter of days, the painters were hard at work.

Scaffolding was erected, and on each gable side, and the unbricked parts of the porches. Yes, that one on the front facing the street, as well as the one behind.

And the shutters on the windows. All, worthy of being called red, and the envy of any fire engine company in town.


“Did you ever see anything so awful?” Maud asked as Vernon stepped into the front door for the first time since the painting and bricking.

“Can’t say as I have,” the young one answered as he stepped back to look at the part of the house next door. All that he could see from the vantage point of the front door to his mother’s side of the building.

“Red? The underside of the porch roof is red. And the railing on her side of the porch. It’s interesting, I’ll say that,” he said, almost laughing.

“Nice brick though.”

“What do you mean, nice brick?” his mother asked, disgust in her voice. “Well come on in. Don’t dilly dally about the door. We’ve got enough flies getting inside as it is. I can’t keep up with killing ‘em.”

Thus the obedient son entered completely, and closing the door behind him, he shook his head. The amazing things his mother would do not to be outdone by her unloved neighbor. What would she do next? The thoughts of the prospects both frightened and amused him.

“Mum, did you ever consider selling this place and going somewhere else? You surely can’t be happy living here. What with constantly being at odds with your neighbor. “It’s not good for your health, you know. You know we have plenty of room at our house.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my health,” she retorted. “I’m healthy as an ox.”

“Of course you are, Mum,” he answered. “Not counting the blood pressure problem. The arthritis. Your heart condition. And what else has the doctor told you you’re afflicted with? Eh?”

“Never mind what those doctors say. What do they know? I’ll outlive ‘em all. That I will. Sit down. I’ve got the tea water on the stove.”

“Thanks, Mum. I can’t stay long this time. So what compelled her to do the brick thing?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess she knows just how much I hate a brick house. Look at ‘em. All up and down the street and all lookin’ just the same. No colour on any of ‘em.”

“So she bricked her side just to get your goat?”

“And why not? Just like her to be unreasonable.”

“Well, please tell me you’re not going to do anything to get back at her. Let it go, Mum. It’s not worth the ulcers. And yes, I know you have those too. So much for being healthy as an ox.”

“Ulcers. Why they ain’t bothered me in a long time. And do you think I can just sit here and let her ruin the looks of the whole place? I’ve got an investment in it too.”

“Just don’t do anything rash, Mum. Please. Just try being a little nicer to her. It might turn out for the good, you know.”

“For the good, you say.” That reply was with contempt in her voice. Not contempt for her son. Rather for the idea of anyone being nice to the unreasonable and impossible witch living next door.

“Please tell me you’re not going to do anything rash, Mum,” he repeated his entreaty.

“I’m saying nothing,” his mother answered. “I don’t know what to do. One way or ‘tother. But she did it just to spite me. Can I let that go? Tell me.”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Vernon answered. “Peace is worth a lot, you know. If you did nothing to aggravate her now, she’d surely run out of reasons to keep tormenting you.”

Maud did not answer, but in her thoughts, Mildred would come to regret going to all the trouble. Brick, indeed.


Later that night, Mildred lay in her bedroom on the second floor of her side of the house.

She lay wide awake as sleep was not to come her way. And as she laid there, thoughts of brick walls and red painted gables and trim occupied her mind.

She did right, she told herself. She had not painted the red nor added the brick to satisfy a grievance. She had merely looked out for her own interest. Never mind that the choices she made were choices her neighbor hated.

Who could account for the taste of some others? It was not her responsibility to look out for the peculiar taste of the woman who was her neighbor.

Maud hated brick. That Mildred knew. So what could Maud do? Simply paint her side another colour? “That would be a waste, old lady,” she spoke aloud.

“There’s nothing you can do but suffer in indignity.” And she laughed a self-satisfying laugh. And with her mind satisfied, she drifted off to sleep.

What seemed like only minutes later, she was awakened by the sound of something horrible. The sound of the crashing of glass and the tinkling of glass pieces as they hit the floor near her bed.

And a thud as something heavy hit the hardwood floor not far from the window. And that something bounced, and hit again. And then all was silent.

With trembling fingers, she reached for, and found the switch to the lamp on the stand by her bed. The light revealed the horrible picture.

The lower pane of the window was broken and only a piece in the upper left corner remained attached.

On the floor, spread out almost to the side of her bed, pieces of glass were spread. And close to the window, on the floor, lay a brick. It was the same type of brick which now covered the walls of her house.

In a moment, she sat up, and turning, now sat on the side of the bed. Her feet did not touch the floor, but something of an instinct caused her to raise them even further from the floor.

She could not stand on the floor, for her feet were bare, and who knew where all of the smaller pieces of glass lay just below her feet.

Larger pieces, some the size of marbles, and others smaller and even more, larger lay about, very close to on the side of the bed. Even on the hooked rug on which the bed sat.

Her house slippers were by the foot of the bed. Did she dare step down on the rug for fear of stepping on a piece of glass? She sat, and she pondered her choices. Not that she had more than one, for she could not sit where she now sat forever.

The other side of the bed was against the wall. Now she wondered why she had not left the bed in the middle of the room like it was before she decided to change things about. And that decision was made not a fortnight ago.

She had two ways of getting herself off of the bed. One, as she sat on the side. But there was the glass to consider. Then off of the foot.

That meant climbing over the foot board, and it was higher than the top of the mattress, and she was not long of leg. And she was not young and agile as she once was. Could she do it without hurting herself?

But she tried, and she managed and she did so without suffering any harm to her body. And then her feet were in the house slippers.

And in her house slippers and her night robe, she stood and surveyed the damage. Who would have done such a thing?

That question did nor remain unanswered long. Hooligans on the street? There were a few, but they had never bothered her before. Why would they begin now?

No. She knew who had done it. But how? Her window was on the second story and flinging a brick that high? Surely not, for she knew Maud to be frailer than even she.

She knew that she could not toss a brick that high and expect it to actually break a glass window and enter a room.

But who else? Maud had never resorted to that sort of mischief before. Could she be so angry because of the bricking that she would do something like this?

Why hadn’t the bricklayers picked up the remaining bricks from the ground when the work was done? She’d speak to their supervisor about that. That, she would do.

Perhaps it was time for a face to face with her enemy. No. She would not stoop to that. The two women had not spoken to each other, either by way of greeting or by way of harsh words in many years. And Mildred was not going to break that pattern. But the act must not go unanswered.

And the dawn came the next morning with Maud awakening to discover that every window on her side of the house, on the first floor was broken.

“Did you really?” Evelyn asked, the look of horror filling her eyes. “Whatever possessed you?”

“Serves her right,” Mildred answered. Then thinking about it, she cringed. “Guess that was awfully uncharitable of me,” she added, a little humility in her voice.

“What are you going to do to make it right?” her friend asked. After all, she had always supported Mildred in her grievance against her neighbor. But this was too much. Mildred had gone too far this time.

“Make it right?” Mildred asked. “I’ve been more than patient with that woman. What do I owe her? What, Evie? tell me?”

Evelyn simply shook her head. She could think of no answer to her friend’s question. Perhaps Mildred was going mad. Perhaps she was that already.

She took one last sip of the tea in her cup. “Well think it over, Dear,” she advised. “Oh, I must go now. It’ll soon be time for Fred to get home from work and he’ll be expecting supper on the table, you know.” And hurriedly she left Mildred’s presence.


Vernon sighed when the surveyed the damage to his mother’s lower windows. The glass contractor had already been summoned and was expected to begin the repairs the next morning.

“How are you going to pay for the new glass, Mum?” he asked, wondering if in the end, he would be the one to pick up the invoice.

“It’ll be okay,” his mother answered. “I’m not spending my money on anything else, you know.”

“Please tell you you’re not going to do anything outrageous, Mum,” he pleaded. “The two of you are acting just like juveniles. You did start it, you know.

“What possessed you to throw a brick through her window? And how did you get it to fly so high? You aren’t that strong.”

“Oh you won’t believe it,” she replied and then broke into a laugh. Of course I couldn’t throw a brick that high. But I didn’t have to.”

“So you…” he began knowing that she would reveal the whole sordid story.

“Old man Roberts lives in the house next to her side of the house. You don’t know him, I think. He keeps to himself mostly. And he’s deaf as a doorknob.

“No way would he hear me climbing the steps to his back porch. On the second floor. I carried two bricks with me. I did. Good thing too, for when I threw the first one, it missed the window. Just bounced off the side of the house.

“She didn’t hear it. Neither did Roberts. He don’t hear nothing, I tell you. But the next one? My aim was better. And then I scurried down those steps like a teenager.”

“Mum, you really are enjoying this, aren’t you? You ought to be ashamed. Breaking someone’s window is just childish. You know that. Right?”

“Well, I do, and I ought to be ashamed for doin’ it. I was until she broke my windows. Now I’m not ashamed of doin’ it.

“Now you both have broken windows. What of it? Are you the more happy? Or more avenged? Are you more the better for it?”

“No. I suppose not. Now that you say it that way.” She stood with a thoughtful look on her face for a space of time.

“But I’m not going to say I’m sorry about it,” she said and the determination in her voice was clear.


All was quiet on both sides of the joined house for a full three days. Peace and calm prevailed. No windows were broken and no changes were made.

But good things are not meant to last. One morning Maud was awakened by the sounds of activity outside. Usually, Maud was an early riser, but this morning, seeing no particular reason to arise early, she remained in bed. And she slept.

But then the sound of hammering and something of a thudding sound broke her sleep.

Her bedroom was at the rear of the house on the second floor and the sounds came from the front, where the house faced the street.

Donning house slippers and a robe, she went to the front room of the upper level.

Looking out the window, she saw three workmen busy at building a wooden fence. A picket fence, actually, along the front of the house. Half of the house, that is. The fence divided the small grass area from the sidewalk.

But the fence did not end at the invisible line separating the two houses. Rather, it came in until it ended at the steps leading up the common porch. And it did not end at the steps. It continued up the steps until it touched that line on the wall which separated the two houses.

Of course she could not see that part, for the roof of the porch below her window obscured her view.

So Mildred had decided to fence in her half of the front yard of the house. And the fence bordered the yard on that side completely with the far end turned in to meet the corner wall of the house.

A gate was set in the fence by the side of the walkway from the sidewalk to the porch. Mildred had taken it upon herself to divide the walkway straight down the middle.


“Well, the likes of her,” Maud mumbled. “‘Tis not like I intrude on her side of the yard anyhow. Why, not even on her side of the porch. And now half of the walkway is fenced off.”

“You must admit, Mum,” Vernon was saying, “the fence, white as it is, is an attractive one.”

“So?” she replied. “What if it is? It does me no good. And it sure makes the whole building look strange from the street. Imagine what those passing by must think when they see it.”

“No worse than all of the other things the two of you have done to the building.


Maud awoke with a feeling of something stifling her breathing. Something smelled hot and it smelt like… Like smoke.

Now wide awake, she sat up. And she coughed. And something burned her throat when she breathed. And her eyes stung.

But her room was all in darkness. She sat on the side of the bed, and feeling around with her feet, she located her house slippers. Then standing and clutching her house robe, she followed her memory of the lay of her room to the door.

In the hallway, looking right, toward the front of the house, she could see only a haze and rolling billows of grey smoke visible through the faint light of the street entering through the window of the front bedroom.

In the other direction, to her left, the door to the back porch stood, and in that direction, she stumbled.Now breathing heavily and

hoarsely, she felt the approach of dizziness and now fear turned into panic.

Reaching the top of the steps leading down to the ground, she remembered no more after that.


Maud awoke in a confused state. Neither knowing where she was or how she got there. Nor why she was there.

It soon became apparent to her, the where, as it looked like a hospital room. But why she was there, and how she got there, she did not know. But her throat burned with a feeling of rawness. And her mouth had a funny taste.

Across the room, with her back turned to Maud, a woman dressed in white.

“Hey,” she called and her voice cracked. But the woman in white heard her and turned toward her.

“Oh you’re awake, my Dear,” she said and her voice was sympathetic. “How do you feel, Miss Wiser?”

“Feel?” Maud tried to answer and the words hurt in her throat. Then she noticed the lingering odor of smoke. It seemed to come from her skin and her hair.

But not her house robe, for she was not wearing that garment. Instead, it was one of those embarrassing things they called a hospital gown.

“Here, let me get you some water,” the woman who obviously was a nurse, offered. “You had a lot of smoke in you.”

“Smoke?” Maud asked, now more confused. “Smoke? Was there a fire?”

“Indeed there was,” the nurse answered. “Sorry about your house.”

“My house?”

“Oh, sorry. You don’t know? Burned to the ground. But thank God, you made it out safely.”

Maud thought, and willed her thoughts to come together in proper order.

“What about…?” she asked.

“What about what?” the nursed asked.

“The other owner. She…” she could not continue.

“Oh, you must be meaning Miss Richer. The occupant in the other half of the house. The owner, I think.”

“Did she…?”

“Oh, she’ll survive. Some cuts and some burns, but nothing of a serious matter.”

“Oh,” Maud replied. Now she was not sure how she felt. Her old enemy. Now not seeming so much like an enemy, and feeling relieved that Mildred had survived the fire.

Noticing a curtain hanging to the right of her bed, she presumed that the room was divided and another patient was on the other side of the curtain.

The nurse caught her eyeing the curtain.

“It’s her,” she said. “Miss Richer. She’s still sedated but I expect she’ll come around soon. She’ll be glad to hear that you’re okay.”

Glad indeed, Maud thought to herself. She’ll be outraged that I survived. I know it. Why did we have to be put in the same room together?

She sighed and laid back down, closing her eyes.


On the other side of the curtain, but a little later in the day, Mildred awakened. Her left arm felt restricted and in pain. And she felt the presence of bandages in various places around her body.

But she already knew why. She had been conscious when she was brought to the hospital and her burns and cuts were treated. Thus she knew where she was. And she knew why.

The fire department had arrived quickly, but the old building, notwithstanding the new brick on her side of the building, was of very old wood. And it burned quickly. There was nothing to be saved.

It was too soon for the reality of the loss to take its place in her thoughts. That would come, and then she would grieve the loss of almost a lifetime of personal possessions and memories.

But right now, her left arm hurt the most. The bandaging was heaviest on that arm and it covered much, from the wrist to well over her elbow.

The physicians had assured her that she would recover completely. She was fortunate, they told her. And another bit of news which she took with conflicting opinions, her neighbor too had made it out alive.

What had caused the fire, she had asked. Though it was not entirely known, the fireman said he believed it to be old and faulty wiring. On which side of the building, he could not say.

Nor could he say more than that it appeared to have begun in the basement. On one side or the other, but until it was fully investigated, no one would know for sure.


No one was on the other side of the curtain when Mildred awakened, for Maud had, now feeling somewhat better, taken a walk up and down the corridor outside the room.

But the nurse in white was once again present in the room. “Who’s my roommate?” Mildred asked as the nurse finished changing the bandage on her arm.

“Someone you know,” came the answer.

“I know?”

“Yes. Her house burned down too. Her side of the building. Miss Wiser. Maud Wiser.”

“I don’t know her,” Mildred replied in a huff, tossing her head away from the nurse.

“Oh surely,” the nurse replied with a shocked look on her face. “She lived next door to you.”

“The old fool,” Mildred replied. “Probably started the fire herself.”

“Oh surely not!” came the reply with more shock this time. “It was an electrical fire, they say. She didn’t have a thing to do with it.”

“Oh I know that,” Mildred replied, turning her face full toward the nurse. “I suppose if she had to live, then I should be glad to hear that she’s okay.”

“She is. Some smoke inhalation mostly. She went for a walk down the hallway.”


The hallway walker returned at that moment, and walking toward her bed, she heard the last comment of the nurse. “Is she awake?” she asked, meaning the woman on the other side of the curtain.

“Of course I’m awake, you old bag lady,” came the tart response. “You couldn’t have the common decency to pass away, could you?”

The nurse’s face reddened and she hastened from the room.

“What of you?” Maud answered.

Silence held its court for a matter of ten minutes before either lady spoke again.

“Well, fact is,” Mildred began. “I’m glad that you were not hurt too badly. Glad you’re going to be okay.”

“Well, the same here,” Maud replied, a touch of surprise and a generous helping of pleasing in her words. “I’m glad too.”

“It was an ugly old house anyhow,” Mildred said.

“That it was,” Maud answered with a laugh.

“What’ll you do now?” Mildred asked. “Now that you’re out of house and home.” And the question came without malice.

“Oh, I’m not sure yet. Ain’t thought about it yet, happening so soon, you know. But Vernon has been after me for some time to sell out and come live with him, and Sally and the grandkids.

“Hadn’t thought of it much before. But now? I just might take him up on the offer. What about you?”

“My friend Evelyn has a big house. And it’s all to herself and her husband. She’s offered me to come live there. Just may think more about it. When I get out of this place, that is.”

“Soon, I hope,” Maud said with sincerity. “They tell me, tomorrow for me. Still, this throat is sore as the devil. All that smoke I breathed in.

“The doctor said I’ll feel it for at least a few more days. Or more. He said something like that. I can’t remember what all he said. How’s your arm coming along?”

“They could cut it off and I would feel much better about it,” Mildred replied. “But it’ll heal. Probably leave some scars, but I wear only long sleeves anyhow, so who’ll notice?”

The two grew silent. On this side of the curtain, Maud caught herself smiling and thinking, old Mildred wasn’t such a bad creature after all. Now she wondered why she had held her in such contempt all those years.

And I think that a similar thought passed through the mind of the woman on the other side of the curtain.

The End