• Published 11th Feb 2019
  • 4,222 Views, 62 Comments

My Neighbor - Antiquarian

An old man helps the Apples when they need him most.

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Mr. Arrow had never been one to seek out conversation with his neighbors. It was not that he was unsociable; he liked people well enough. Nor was it that he didn’t like his neighbors; he did. The Apples especially were a nice family who raised responsible, respectful kids and took care of their community.

No, the reason Mr. Arrow didn’t seek out conversation was that he didn’t like to talk much. He preferred the quiet of his own thoughts. In his youth he’d had many adventures, worked many jobs, shared bonds of brotherhood with many men, raised a family and, like most men in his generation, fought in a couple wars. He had plenty of stories to tell, it was true. Just…

He didn’t much feel like telling them.

As far as Mr. Arrow was concerned, he’d only ever done what a man ought do, for his community, his country, and his family.

When he was a boy, his father had told him that God judged a man by his deeds, not his words. There was nothing wrong with words, but they meant nothing without deeds. That had sat with him just fine. He’d never been much for words anyway.

It hadn’t taken many words to be a migrant farmer in the Depression, or to rally scattered paratroopers on the ground on D-Day, or to command them in the bush of Korea, or to build and run his sporting goods business when the wars finally ended. It hadn’t even taken many words to tell his family how much he loved them. Bess and the kids had always known what he meant to say without much of him saying it. And thank God for that, because his words had only grown fewer as the years wore on.

Now, days would go by without him speaking. Bess had passed three winters before, and all his boys and girls had long since moved out to raise their own boys and girls. If he didn’t go down to the store to see how business was (his old partner’s son had taken the shop and seemed to be doing a fine job of it), then he had no one to talk to during the week. On Sundays he sang and prayed at church, and when the pastor said, “Hi, John. How are things?” he’d politely answer, “Fine, thanks.” His kids would call him every week or two, because they were good kids, so he never needed to seek them out. The conversations were short now as they ever were. Mostly he listened, never needing to say much.

Sometimes Mr. Arrow wondered if he ought to say more. He’d get to thinking that there were things that needed saying; things he needed to let out. He missed Bess, missed her so much it hurt; he missed his old war buddies, fewer and fewer of whom showed up to the reunions each year; he missed having his children in town. For the first time in his life, he felt the urge to shout what he felt.

But he didn’t know how to express such things in words. What words could possibly suffice?

And, anyway, he had lived a good life. He’d always done well by those around him whether they did well by him or not. He’d been faithful to country, family, and God. His children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren had learned to do the same. He was proud. He was happy.

Sometimes he wanted to shout that too.

If he were to ever shout it to anyone, or at least say it, he decided he might try saying it to the Apples. The venerable grandmother who was the matriarch of the family had raised her boy well, and he, in turn, had married a good woman and raised good children. The world outside was changing, often in ways that Mr. Arrow didn’t like, but he felt that, if he were to tell anyone, the Apples would still understand.

But Mr. Arrow didn’t know how to say such things, not to anyone but Bess and the kids and God, so he didn’t.

Then the day came that he wished he had talked to them when he’d had the chance.

The snow had been falling heavily, it being early December, and the husband and his wife had taken their truck into town. Mr. Arrow had been out shoveling his driveway when they left. They’d waved and called greeting to him as they drove past, and he’d waved and smiled back. Looking across the street, he’d seen the young Apple children out shoveling. They, too, had waved – the quiet older boy, the tiny girl with the bow in her hair, and the middle child who was the spitting image of her mother. They, too, had waved, and he’d politely waved back. Then, when he’d finished clearing his drive, he’d gone inside.

Hours passed, and the snow grew only heavier, forcing Mr. Arrow to go back outside to clear his drive again if he wanted to keep the level manageable. Looking across the way, he saw the Apple siblings doing the same. They waved. He waved back.

Still more hours passed. When Mr. Arrow went out a third time, he realized that the Apple parents still had not returned. Once more he cleared his drive while the Apple siblings cleared their own. He waved, but they did not wave back. They were too distracted watching down the road. He went back in when he was done, but they stayed out watching until their grandmother came out to call them in.

It was dark when an SUV from the Sherriff’s Department pulled up outside the Apple house. An ice colder than any blizzard settled in Mr. Arrow’s stomach, and he threw on his jacket to find out what was going on and see if he could help. Both deputies had already disappeared into the Apples’ house, so he waited in the snow by the vehicle until they came back. He thought he heard the sound of raised voices and crying inside, but he couldn’t be sure. When one deputy came back out, he approached the young woman briskly. Mr. Arrow hated to pry into other people’s business, but this was different.

“What happened?” he asked.

There were tears in her eyes when she told him.

Mr. Arrow lay awake for a long time that night.

The snow finally stopped, but both his drive and the Apples’ needed to be cleared one more time. He shoveled his drive in silence that morning. Nobody emerged to shovel the Apples’.

He wanted to say something to them, to offer them some comfort in their grief, but he didn’t have the words. What could he possibly say?

What could anybody say?

Days passed, and still no one emerged to clear the drive. The tire tracks of their van from when they’d gone to the morgue and later the funeral had simply gone over the snow. The funeral had been the last time he’d seen the Apples in person. The grandmother, bravely holding herself together for her family. The youngest, who couldn’t stop crying. The boy, whose shocked silence Mr. Arrow knew all too well. The girl who resembled her mother, just… staring through everyone.

He’d seen them then, at the funeral, and not since. It was eating at him. He couldn’t stand to see them hurting like that and not do anything about it. Mr. Arrow had always been the sort to handle things. When something broke, he fixed it. That was what he did. He was too wise to think that he could fix what had happened here, but surely he could do… something.

Mr. Arrow found himself staring at the tire tracks in the snow-covered driveway. Then he made his decision.

He’d been shoveling for twenty minutes when the front door opened. In the pre-dawn light he saw the older girl walk out, the one who looked like her mother. She was wearing her pajamas, her boots, her jacket, and her father’s battered stetson, rubbing sleep from her eyes as she stepped down the walk to stare at him.

Mr. Arrow nodded to her and kept shoveling.

She stood blinking for several moments before she said, “Good morning, Mr. Arrow.”

“Good morning,” he replied.

The girl blinked again. “Mr. Arrow, d’ya mind me asking what yer doing?”

At that, Mr. Arrow stopped to look at her. He wanted to tell her. He wanted to tell her about the Golden Rule, about the lesson his father had taught him about how a man ought to live, about his pastor’s words on loving thy neighbor and about the way he’d always lived. He wanted to tell her about his wife and the children they’d raised, and about the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, and how they’d all lived the same way, and how he thought the Apples were cut from the same cloth. He wanted to tell her how sorry he was that he’d never gotten the chance to say that to her parents, and that he knew how her family felt, and that death was a part of life, but that life was still beautiful even in grief. He wanted to tell her all.

But he didn’t know how.

So he said, “Helping.” And he went back to shoveling.

“Oh,” she said, staring. “Well… thank you.”

He smiled. “You’re welcome.” The girl shivered in the cold. “You should go back to bed,” he said. “It’s cold.”

“I can get my shovel—” she protested.

Mr. Arrow shook his head. “Please.”

Plainly, she was uncomfortably accepting help without doing anything to help in return, but she was polite enough not to argue with her elder. “Thank you, Mr. Arrow,” she said again.

“You’re welcome,” he replied as he shoveled.

It was little things after that.

When the boy became a teenager, he began tinkering with an old pickup to get it working again. Mr. Arrow went over with some tools and spare parts and showed him how to fix up the engine.

When the littlest sold apple juice in the summer, he always bought a glass.

When the older girl, who now looked like her mother and her father, crashed her bike on his lawn, he’d gone out with antiseptics for her bloodied shins.

When the grandmother needed a knee brace, he gave her Bess’s.

Mr. Arrow never said much in these interactions, but they always smiled when they saw him, and he was happy to see a good family happy.

It was several winters after the accident that he slipped on ice and twisted his ankle walking up his driveway. Fortunately, the Apple siblings had been out shoveling at the time, and they’d driven him to the emergency room. Mr. Arrow had always been a hardy man, and the damage mercifully hadn’t been too severe, but he would need to use a cane while he went through physical therapy. It just so happened to have been his left ankle, which meant that he could still drive himself around, and the winter had taken a turn for the dry after the last storm, so he didn’t need to worry about shoveling the drive.

Until, one day, a fresh snowstorm blew in. Mr. Arrow sat in his front room, watching the snow fall and mulling over whether or not he’d be able to move enough the next day to shovel out at least one path for his car. While he watched, he saw several cars pull into the Apples’ drive. Six girls in their teens and a small dog emerged. The happy young women waited, shivering, on the front porch until the stetson-wearing girl opened the door to admit them.

Mr. Arrow smiled. He’d seen these young women around many times and, while he questioned some of their more colorful hair styles (kids these days), they’d struck him as being well-brought up and kind, if a little high-spirited. It pleased him to see that the Apple children had found friends with integrity. It would help them mature and thrive. The thought made him happy as he went to bed, letting worries about shoveling the drive be a matter for tomorrow.

He woke to the sound of scraping shovels and muted voices early the next morning. Somewhat befuddled, he dressed and limped downstairs. Opening the door, he was shocked to find the Apple siblings and their friends clearing his front walk. They chattered quietly to each other as they worked, obviously trying (and sometimes failing) to keep their voices down in case he was still asleep. There was evidence that an impromptu snowball fight had broken out at least once, but for all their merrymaking his drive was more than half cleared.

When they heard him open the door, they froze, turning to see him standing there, his mouth agape. The stetson-wearing girl smiled, nodding to him politely as she took the role of spokeswoman. “Good morning, Mr. Arrow,” she greeted him.

“Good morning,” he replied when he found his voice. He blinked repeatedly, then gestured to the group of shovellers. “What are you all doing here?” he asked.

The girl smiled, a thousand thoughts and emotions dancing in her eyes. “Helping,” she said simply.

Mr. Arrow blinked as he considered what she said. Then he smiled warmly. “Thank you.”

“No, Mr. Arrow. Thank you.”

Author's Note:

There's more good in the world than we realize. Ordinary saints walk among us, quietly making the world a better place. We see them everywhere, though we don't always recognize them. They are the mother who realizes that her son's best friend comes from a broken home, and so always goes out of her way to be welcoming and nurturing whenever he's visiting. They are the kindly store clerk, who sees a woman break down in the baby food aisle because her child is sick and she's scared, and so the clerk goes over to sit with her. They are the teacher who tells the under-performing student that she believes in him, even when no one else does. They are the the man leaving a Subway, sandwich in hand, who sees a homeless man sleeping nearby and leaves the sandwich by his sleeping bag before walking home. They are the friend who drives across town to give you a shoulder to cry on. They are the neighborhood cop who unlocks the basketball courts when he's off shift so the kids can play an extra couple hours. They are the considerate teenager who sees an old lady's shopping bag rip open and stops to help her pick up her cans.

It's little things. A few minutes here, a phone call there, a thoughtful message to someone online or a few bucks for some energy bars to keep in the car for beggars. Tiny acts of kindness and goodwill that mean the world.

Last week, it was a stout elderly neighbor of mine who, realizing that I can't snowblow the drive with my knee, came by not once, not twice, but three times to plow it, in between plowing his own drive and that of the neighbor whose husband passed away, all without being asked. Yesterday, it was that same neighbor, who, upon finding out that the furnace had conked out in the night when my sister and her husband and two little boys were staying with me, offered to put us up for the night. At no point was he asked. He simply did it because it's the neighborly thing to do.

These people are the silent heroes of the world. In their little acts of good we see the beauty of humanity fully realized, for these little acts are grander than even the greatest evils. If you want to change the world, don't focus so much on the great and grandiose. Change it one tiny heroic act at a time.

In other words, love thy neighbor. It's what we're made for.

Edit: Now with a thank you and a little advice.

Comments ( 62 )

Indeed it is, indeed it does.

A truly wonderful story. Excellent work. Have a fave and a follow.

...while he questioned some of their more colorful hair styles...

:rainbowhuh: "Hey, this is natural!"
:ajsmug: "Easy there, Rainbow. Mr. Arrow's good people. He's just from another time."

In any case, a beautiful story of basic human goodness. Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Ergo, do something. Thank you for a most touching read.

A beautiful story beautifully written. I have no higher praise.

My great grandfather served in WW2 and Korea for the US Navy he was a kind soul to my memory but he died when I was eight

This was beautiful sir, thank you so much for writing this story and for your message. It cannot be repeated enough.

Very nice. Just what I needed today.

After going in thinking the shovel would dig a grave, this was a much happier sad fic than I expected

One of the very few stories where the author's note might be even more beautiful than the piece itself. Thanks for writing this.

I wasn't ready to cry today!!! I came in here expecting some mr. Rodgers. I got something even nicer. Thank you. And thanks to your neighbor, for being the kind soul that he is and inspiring this masterpiece that truly made me cry tears of joy.

I'm afraid it hasn't restored my faith in humanity, but, its a big step in the right direction.

All part of my nefarious plan to convince people to shovel their neighbors' walks in the hopes that one of you lives next to me.

Such a restoration is seldom a single event. It wasn't for me. Simply a thousand little steps towards realizing that the world was brighter than I thought. My neighbor was one such step for me on a number of occasions. I try to pay it forward by being one for others.

He sounds like he was a good man. I'm sorry you didn't have him for longer.

Absolutely beautiful. I wish I was able to be neighborly and have fun times with mine, but all my neighbors are jackasses and never leave their houses >:(


  • Really well written
  • Brings in the feels hard
  • Bittersweet as all hell
  • Really well written
  • Beautiful Author's note
  • perfectly ended
  • I re-read it twice on principle of not wanting to miss anything its so good.


  • Its too short

Wasn't sure what to expect of this.
The story was good and comforting to read (and long enough as it needed to be).
It was the author's note that was really touching, from start to finish. There are so many good people in the world, and this was a wonderful example, and I'm so glad you have good people in your life. I hope your neighbor is doing well, he deserves it.

It's 9:45 at night where I live. And I feel... happiness. Thank you for writing this.



Thank you all for your words. I hate how impersonal mass replies are, but I like to reply to comments when I can because, as a writer, constructive feedback and genuine praise are gold. The former is practical, and the latter is enriching (especially on a bad day). The concept of "your neighbor" need not literally mean the people next door. It can be a writer whom you only know through a pen name, who you took the time to thank for writing something that was meaningful to you. In other words, by thanking me you have all taken one of those little steps to help your neighbor. So nice work! Spread the goodness one stranger at a time through kindness and courtesy! :twilightsmile:

It's great to know, pal. Have a good day!

This is a truly wonderfull story. Thank you for writting it, it made mt day

It is my firm belief that good people vastly outnumber the bad in this world, otherwise civilization would never have progressed past two cro-magnons hitting each other with rocks. The problem is, if we meet 20 people in a given week, and one of them is a rude jackass, it's only the rude jackass we remember. It takes an epic level of goodness to really remember them.

Well, the story conveys the concept of the Good Samaritan perfectly.

True enough. We do have this unfortunate tendency to focus on the negative to a disproportionate degree. I realized that same imbalance in my study of war and was disturbed by the fact. So disturbed that I ultimately decided to try to emphasize the good where I could and encourage others to do the same. It takes a little training to convince the mind to think along those lines, but it's well worth it. My life is so much brighter now that I notice the colors, and I like to pay it forward with stories like this.

I am not going to deny it. This story made me cry, just as it does when I read a story about someone doing something good for someone else. It’s not sadness, per se. It’s happiness to see such a thing, and, yes, some sorrow that people so often tend to linger on the bad, and brush over the good. Thank you, Antiquarian, for helping to remind us all that, no matter how many like to point out the bad, that there is always some good, if you know where to look. :pinkiesad2:

This was a much needed read and heartwarming short story to enjoy.

It was little things after that.

More times the than the big things, far more often than the big things.

This was an amazing one shot! I'm glad I decided to look at it and thus read it this was a heartwarming heart feeling story that was a great read thank you my good sir for this read.

This story and your AN are sublime. I feel for the Apples, of course, but the story also conveys so much about Mr. Arrow and how he sees this world with a few well-chosen words, which I feel is just the way he’d like it.

I am so glad you wrote this and for giving us all the privilege of reading both the story and your author’s note.

Approved for Twilight's Library, The Goodfic Bin, and Tag-A-Long's Book Club.

My pleasure. And thank you. :twilightsmile:

I needed that today. Thanks.

You are such a good writer and person, God bless you.

I live in a cul-du-sac, last house going counter-clockwise, and when the plows come my drive and the house to my left basically get all the snow dumped in front of us. My neighbor two doors to my left always snowblows the mound the plow leaves.
He’s out of work, his snowblower is old, but this morning at 5am he was clearing me out (I was trying to shovel a path to get to work). When I thanked him for doing in five minutes what would’ve taken me half an hour, he told me “I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and I don’t have the money to replace my snowblower, but I’m going to keep doing it until this thing can’t run anymore.”

He doesn’t even need to be up that early, and I wish there was more I could do to thank him than merely saying “thank you”, but he got me to work on time, and it’s a small kindness that meant a lot to me.

This is just a damn good wholesome story, and I loved every second of it.

My good sir. Thank you. Thank you for reminding us readers that sometimes it's the small things that make us realize that there is still good in this world. That doing something as small as a simple good deed can brighten someone's day. Thank you.

One of the most heartwarming stories I've ever read on this site. Thank you.:pinkiesmile:

The title reminds me of Mr.Rodgers Neighbourhood. Man I loved that show and this story. Brings back so many memories.


Ouch. Right in the soul.

That’s gonna put me in a better mood for the rest of the day.

A simple but powerful story that plucks your heart strings in all the right ways. Mr arrow doesn't need words to help those in need. He does it through his actions

And thus another story that hits the feels bullseye has been added to the site. Good job sir, good job.

This is a top-notch story

My word, how can this story have downvotes!? :applejackconfused:
This was a wonderful story.
This reminds me of when I was at the library, and there was an elderly lady who was adding coins to someone else's parking meter. No one asked her to do it, nor did she think anyone else was around, she merely did it out of the kindness of her heart.

Mr. Arrow smiled. He’d seen these young women around many times and, while he questioned some of their more colorful hair styles (kids these days),

Looking at you Rainbow Dash.

I had something to say but, this guy said it better," I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."

I didn't know I did, but I needed this. :pinkiesad2:

I have reviewed this here.

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