I always referred to my neighbour as, ‘The bore at number four’. For a decade, Harold only communicated via jottings pinned to my front door: music too loud; kids’ football encroaching into garden; car obstructing the driveway; cat spraying my honeysuckle.
“He is a dementor from a Harry Potter film, sucking all the joy out of the air,” said my wife, Pauline.
“He’s a nasty piece of work,” said John, at number six. “I could wallpaper my house, upstairs and down, with all the sniping notes I’ve received from him.”
But then everything changed.
Harold bestowed Christmas gifts—leather footballs and music vouchers—on the local kids. And he pushed invitations through neighbours’ letterboxes, requesting their company at number four to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.
“There must be a catch,” said John.
“He’s intent on murdering us all,” said Pauline.
Only I attended. As I drank his wine and nibbled his tuna sandwiches, he apologised for all the misery he’d caused, and acknowledged his feelings of resentment on witnessing the happiness of others while he shrivelled in a cocoon of misery. After a few seconds silence, he lifted his head and looked directly into my eyes.
“I know it’s asking a lot, but will you forgive me?”
The coroner later concluded that the cause of death had been an overdose of painkillers. He recorded an open verdict. It was unclear as to whether Harold Mackay intended to take his own life; he had not left a note.