Neighbor

The news anchors were all still smiling and chatting about the right attire for your neighborhood rib fest and ten ways to incorporate lemonade into every menu, but the back to school sale signs had crept so quietly on to the front windows of office supply stores in town were now practically the only typography in sight. Even the four grocery stores had hopped on the bandwagon and filled their displays with peanut butter and jelly ingredients and snack sized chip bags and individually packaged soy milks.

It was unquestionably the middle of August.

Solstice aside, the neighborhood buzzed with the anticipation of a new season. The teenage sons of the pink, white, and beige houses were all thoughtlessly mowing the browned lawns as the father of the blue house tossed camping goods onto his lawn amidst colorful language that kids from the red house mimicked as they rode their bikes down to the brown house to see if they could play with that young couple’s new puppy who had eaten the yellow house’s rose bushes yesterday and then gone running down the street until it reached the gray house where its owners had quickly caught up to it, grabbed it, and rushed it home.

The gray house was exempt from the approaching-fall frenzy that occupied the street. It was a simple design of two grey blocks. The first block a white door monitored by two second story windows, and the second block merely a container for the garage. In fact, the simplicity of blocky grey facade made it hardly indistinguishable from the squares of the uncracked white drive. The whole front of the house was so shadowless that it seemed like the windows and doors had been carved into it, and gave the impression that, after pouring the foundation, the builders had realized they were out of wood so instead constructed the entire house of cement.

Of course, the lawn was not exempt from the rigid architectural geometry. It was short, sharp, and rectangular. Summer had seemingly not touched it, and it remained a ghastly March green that glowed against the house and made the whole lot appear as if it existed behind a green glass pane.

But perhaps the most troubling detail of the house was that it was always miserably still, like a forgotten page of a coloring book.

It is difficult to say whether it was the buildup of eight years of wonders about the silent gray house, or the anticipation of the end of summer, but as the daughter of the rust house listened to her parents argue about crabs in the grass, she decided it was time she take a look. Pushing the rocks she was examining away, she turned her senses to high alert, searching for the perfect opportunity to investigate. When her dad left to mow the lawn and her mom began vacuuming her car in the garage, her investigations began. She tiptoed slyly down her driveway and began to run down the sidewalk until she reached the grey house.

The shadow of the house stretched pale and far down the white cement drive until it crashed into the sidewalk. Unintimidated, the girl in pink giggled closer, anxious to know the place with such sharp ends. She was about to step foot on the lawn when something on the other corner of the lot caught her eye. She skipped over to it and bent down. It was a tiny sign. Her heart raced as she realized she had probably discovered the secret of the grey house.

“Double you ee ee dee,” she mumbled as she slipped down to the next line, “kay eye el el ee arrr.”  Lips moving around as she tasted the unfamiliar word, she paused to allow her brain to connect her eyes to her mouth. Her eyes opened wide. Tripping as quickly as she could through the maze of cement joints, she rushed down the sidewalk until she could see the curve of her mother’s back over some spilled potting soil.

“Mom! Mom!”

Her mother’s spine straightened with a jolt as she glanced frantically around the garage, trying to see when and how her daughter had left.

“Mom,” she whisper-shouted, with the animation only a freely given secret can supply, “I know what’s wrong with the blue house, Mom.”

The mid-eyebrow wrinkle appeared in her mom’s face, as she pursed her lips, asking why rather than what. Reaching for a dirty garden-gloved hand, her daughter, dizzied by the force of her discovery, swayed uncontrollably closer and blurted with selfish glee, “A killer lives inside!”

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