Fiction: 'Neighborhood Watch'

            I live on a nice street, or at least I like to think so.  “It’s one of those left from the ‘50s,” my Dad says, tree-lined and pleasant.  The houses sit back a little ways from the road, leaving room for a sidewalk and grass and shrubs and gazing balls and all the other crap that bored people obsess over.  I don’t worry about any of those things, and neither does my Dad.  We have other things to fill our lives with, Dad and I - important things, and I sort of feel bad for the people I see that identify themselves by the size of their cars or the mow pattern on the lawns.  They haven’t seen the true way.

I live in number 7, right across from number 12 and next to 5 on one side and 9 on the other.  All the mailboxes are on my side of the road, which makes it easier for the mailman, like it is so hard to drive up the street and then down anyway.  Anyway, all the mailboxes are on my side, so it can be confusing finding the house.  But we are number 7, lucky number 7 if you believe in that sort of thing, which I do not.

My house is white, or ivory or something, the only white house on the street.  Number 12, across from us, is a strange blue-gray color.  Kind of like one of those Maine houses or something, one that looks weathered and water-beaten the moment they're built.  I think the family that lives there maybe wishes they lived somewhere outside of the suburbs, somewhere on a beach maybe where no one else was around, and they could just listen to the calls of seagulls all day.

That sounds kinds of nice, but my Dad hates the water.

People come and go all day on this street, coming and going at all hours. I try not to stare, but I think I am just a born people watcher. I have such empathy for them (maybe even too much), and I am always looking to help people. I think I have a very good understanding of the way things work, how things are supposed to be. The family that live in number 12 seem very nice.  They always say hello to me and keep to themselves mostly.  I sometimes saw them talking to the family in number 10, but not very often, which was good.  

I always noticed that, when the man from number 10 took the garbage out, he left the garage door open the whole time.  He would slip on his shoes (sometimes still in his ridiculous pajamas, ones with leopards or lynx on them or something), and he would bring the can all the way down the 100 feet of driveway, put it in the shed, then stroll back up and go inside, usually only stopping to pick up the newspaper.  The door usually stood gaping for a couple of minutes, at least.

            The whole family had the bad habit of leaving the door open.  Wifey left it open when she went for “power walks” in the neighborhood with her cackling friends, and the kids left it open while they prowled around all hours on the weekends.  In fact, the door was open most of the time when the family was home.

            It just seemed so unsafe.  I mean, really, anyone could have just walked in and done God knows what.  At least, that’s what Dad said.  Such opportunities can draw the wrong element to our block. But he didn’t approve of the family across the street anyway.  “They keep secrets,” he would say, “keep away from them.”

            I wasn’t sure, though.  I like to find out things for myself.  Even though my Dad is the greatest man I will ever know, greatest man anyone will ever know, I am a grown-up and can decide things for myself.

            So I watched and wondered.  What was that dark shape in the back of the garage?  A snow blower, a lawnmower, or something else, something they didn’t want anyone to know they had?  And what room did they have just inside that door into the house?  Was it the living room, or maybe a hallway with a decadent bathroom?  I would stay up nights just thinking about it.  I would lay in bed, crazy with curiosity and terror, praying the rosary and looking at the wall of pictures I had taken on the family, trying to make some sense of the secrets I increasingly knew number 10 held.

            I watched the family as well.  There was Jim, the father and husband, with his power suits and BMW; Polly, his wife, with her gardens and perfectly quaffed hair.  There were the twins, too, but I don’t know their names.  All I remember is that it used to upset me so badly when I would see the children traipsing back into the house covered in dirt and grime and not even bothering to clean up.  The parents didn’t seem to care – they obviously didn’t deserve such a beautiful home.

            The dog was a problem as well.  He was one of those hairy white mops, like an overgrown version of one of those whispy seed-things that get caught in your clothes in the spring.   I would see him squatting, pissing or taking a shit or whatever right in the middle of the immaculately manicured lawn, and corrupting the splendor and, once again, Jim and Polly would let it slide.  Well, they may have decided to loosey-goosey with the rules, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to.  We all have a responsibility to God’s Earth (after all, we only have one planet!) and I take my charge very seriously.  So one day, after the whole lot of them took off for the day, I walked over, across the street, and stopped at the curb.  I looked at the freshly painted “10” (Jim had sprayed it on just the day before) and smiled a little – I couldn’t help it.  I would show them the path to righteousness, whether they wanted to see it or not.

A well-placed dog treat stuffed with a poopload of rat poison took care of Snowball.  I watched the dog eat and retch and cough and have some sort of seizure. It reminded me of the women in rapture at church, twisting and groaning and screaming to the Lord in all his glory.  Their bodies just couldn’t handle all the grace of God roaring through them.  Sometimes, the excitement of it gives me an erection, and when I get home I touch myself in shame.  I ask for forgiveness, but the Lord burdens me always with this abuse.  I try to make it stop but I just can’t help it.

I got an erection when the dog died, too, I hate to say.  A little blood even came out of its mouth.  It was all very dramatic. 

            Wait, where was I?

            Oh right. 

The dog’s death caused all sorts of commotion across the way.  Jim was the one that found it, and he covered his mouth and shook his head slowly.  I really hated putting him through that, but I know best, and what’s done is done.  He called to Polly, and she came to the screen door in her jogging outfit, and she covered her mouth, too.  Thinking back on it, I am still struck by the way Jim’s voice cracked like a little boy’s.  In our most vulnerable times, we revert to being like children, which is weird.  Sometimes I think we shouldn’t even try to understand God’s plan, but then I of course realize that it is my duty to carry out His will, so I force myself to stop thinking such blasphemous thoughts.

            It was that same day, yesterday in fact, that God talked to me directly for the first time.  I will never forget it, and I knew then that what I had done was right.  While God loves all of His creatures, sometimes they need to be sacrificed in deference to His holiness.  Even while we bathe in the Lord’s pure love, the world can be an unfair place.  We are not to question but obey, and that is exactly what I did when God spoke to me while I was making my breakfast yesterday morning.  I was scrambling my eggs, keeping an eye on Jim and Polly’s house, when I heard Him.  I could not move but to nod, and when He finished speaking, I dumped out the eggs and immediately went to do the Lord’s work.

            Today rolled around (finally!) and, as the family had moved past the dog’s passing, they all climbed into Dad’s car to go on their merry way – Jim to work, Polly to a potting party or something, and the children to school.  I left my apartment and walked across the street.  Not one car went by, and not one person was outside to see me.  I was in a perfect envelope of God’s grace.  It was easy to get inside, both with His help and the key I knew they kept under the tacky fake rock near the cherry tree.  Before I knew it, I was in the living room, drinking in the mauves and whites and oak furniture.  A great fireplace stood in the corner, its carved mantle an affront to God’s altar.  Baubles were place upon it, and a wooden crucifix above.   I was nearly sick on the floor from their sacrilege.

            There were no logs for the fire, which I, of course, already was aware of.  I saw the gas truck making its deliveries, after all.  I am not one to shirk my obligations.  I followed the kitchen around to the front hall, but not before noticing the calendar on the refrigerator and all the scrawling it contained.  Birthday parties, hair appointments, dog groomings (not yet crossed out), but not one Sabbath kept holy.  I shook my head and went on my way.  In the hall, the doorway to the basement beckoned, a lighthouse on a foggy night.  I opened it, and the stairwell fell away from me, leaning into the dark below.  Careful not to flip the light switch, I was able to spot the line from the propane tank across the room.  I strode to it and, with a few slices, opened a hole.  It smelled a bit like rotten eggs, which, I believe I saw on television, is a smell that is actually added to the mixture as a warning.

            Ten minutes later, I was back in my home, sitting in my favorite chair and waiting.  The hours felt like years as they crept by.  The mailman came and went, the high school kids of the neighborhood came by on their way home, their language offensive and oversexed.  Soon enough, though, the car came rolling in, headlights blazing.  I could not control myself, knowing that God’s will was about to be done.  The family piled out of the car, and Polly shepherded the flock through the garage and inside.  I heard their chattering all the way across the road – in their arrogance, they obviously cared nothing about what others thought of them.

            That was when it happened.  It was not a bang, but more of a whoosh when the house went up.  Windows blew out, walls crumpled, and the roof actually rose off its moorings, toward Heaven.  It was beautiful, and I wept a tear in thanks to the Almighty.  In their love of the material things, they had forgotten.  The Bible says “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land."  I am but the Lord’s hand.

            I stand here now warming in the cleansing fire.  I may pay for my actions here on Earth (saints are often misunderstood and persecuted in life) but in Heaven I will get my rewards.  Of that, I have no doubt.




Matthew Herring

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Susan B. (Thursday, 28 December 2017 13:28)

    Wow...a lot of dark stuff goes on in that wonderfully twisted mind of yours. I could visualize very clearly what was transpiring, could almost see it as an episode of some crime drama on television.