The Singing Duel

By Dorthy LaVern McCarthy

"Who is doing that horrible howling?" Minerva asked, holding her hands over her
ears. Her son, Marvin, replied,
"That's our neighbor, Matilda. She sings in an opera."
"It sounds more like a cat in heat," Minerva told him. "We've just moved into this
apartment and are going to have to endure this?" Marvin shrugged.
"I told you we needed to stay in our house that was paid for, but you wouldn't
listen." Minerva sniffed.
"Maybe I should have listened."
"Yes, and now we have to pay rent," Marvin stated. Minerva looked at him,
"But I wanted a nicer place." Marvin flopped down on the sofa.
"For the rent we are paying, we could afford to fix the old place up, but you didn't
want to."
"If that woman doesn't shut up, we may go back to our old home," she said. "But I
would rather stay here if we could." Marvin would rather stay there too. He was tired of
the old house they had lived in--tired of the faded wall paper and the cantankerous
plumbing system. He wanted his mother to be happy.
The screeching, yodeling sounds neither ceased that day nor evening.

Finally, around 10:30 p. m. Minerva could stand no more She heaved her ample body
from her recliner and strode to the front door.
"If I'm not back in fifteen minutes, call the police. I am going to teach that so-
called singer to have respect." Marvin rolled his eyes.
"You are going to make things worse, Mom. Remember your heart attack."
"That was six years ago, Marvin. I'm fine." Marvin looked uncertain as his mother
stomped away.
It took several minutes of Minerva's pounding on Matilda's door to get her
attention. The singing ceased abruptly, and Matilda opened her door. She looked at
Minerva quizically.
"Help you?" she slurred. Matilda swayed drunkenly as Minerva took stock of her
three-hundred-and-fifty-pound body, her unkempt, frizzy hair and her dirty house dress.
" I certainly hope so," Minerva growled. "I want you to stop that caterwauling.
Some people around here need their sleep."
"Oh, izzat so?"
"Yes, you need to tone it down.You are driving the whole apartment complex
"I'll have you know I am an opera singer for New Boston Opera House. I must
memorize my part." Minerva put her hands on the sides of her huge hips.
"I just retired as a diva myself, and I can out-sing you any day." Matilda sneered.
"Go ahead and try, sister." "Put your singing where your mouth is."
"Why don't you just shut up and everyone can get some rest tonight."

"I don't feel like shutting up. I am going to sing all night." Minerva gave her a
mean look.
"I will too. We will have an aria duel. The first one who stops from exhaustion
will be the loser. If I no longer hear you, I will know I won."
"Agreed. Now let me get back to my work." She slammed the door in Minerva's
Minerva turned and walked away, already singing as loudly as she could. Her
voice made the walls tremble. When she reached her apartment she startled Marvin. He
was used to her singing, but her voice now sounded raw and raspy. Perhaps she should
have kept singing after she retired. Nevertheless, between the two screeching women, no
one was able to sleep.
Someone called the police, but as soon as they left, the duel resumed. Marvin left
to spend the night with a friend. He had had enough. Minerva and Matilda kept their
contest going for three nights and three days.
When Marvin returned home, he found his mother dead. He was looking at her
prone body on the living room floor when someone knocked on the door. It was a
neighbor from across the way, not Matilda. The neighbor told Marvin that his mother had
died in his presence.
"I wonder if she sang herself to death," Marvin mused.
"No, answered the neighbor. "I'm sure she died of a stroke after I told her she was
competing against a long running recording."


Published on November 1st, 2022




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