Next Door by Kurt Vonnegut

A purple emotion flooded Paul’s being. Childhood dropped away, and he hung, dizzy, on the brink of life, rich, violent, rewarding.

Next Door is a short story in Kurt Vonnegut’s anthology, Welcome to the Monkey House. And it reminds me why I love reading Vonnegut so much.

My favorite thing about Vonnegut is how free of pretension his writing is. His stories are just so accessible, not only in content but in language as well. You’d be hard pressed to find a confusing Vonnegut story.

And that’s not to say that his stories are simple. His plots are interesting, and there’s usually a lot to unpack. Unlike a lot of authors, though, he doesn’t wall that content off with big words and convoluted sentences.

Next Door is another example of this. It’s a story about a duplex. On one side live the Leonards and on the other, the Hargers. Between them is a wall. A very thin one. The reader enters the story as Mr. and Mrs. Leonard argue in hushed voices over whether or not their son Paul is old enough to be left home alone while they go to the cinema. In classic dad fashion, Mr. Leonard insists that she’s smothering him while Mrs. Leonard, in classic mom fashion, insists that her smothering is perfectly justified.

Mr. Leonard wins out, leaving Paul to his own devices for the night. From then on, it’s just Paul, the wall, the Hargers, and an unexpected plus one. I’ll leave you to figure out the details yourself.

This is a quick read that’ll have you beaming from beginning to end. I would absolutely recommend it. And I’m going to do something I haven’t done before. I’m going to start scoring the stories I read, just to give you all a better sense of how much I like what I read.

I’ll be giving Next Door 7.5/10. Now go read it!

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