the neighbors

"Babe? Hey, babe? C'mere, look." Marisol nodded toward the open kitchen window, in front of which she was grinding coffee beans. "What is it?" Andrew navigated an obstacle course of Legos to where she stood. "Look, it's Mike." "Oh, man, you are shitting me." They both leaned over the kitchen sink for a clear view of their neighbor, asleep in their back yard.

Today was a new day, and another chance for Marisol and Andrew to be annoyed. The subject of their ongoing irritation was Mike, their next-door neighbor, and apparently today would be no different. Curled in the fetal position, mouth slack, snoring, Mike was right outside in the grass as they drank their coffee. "I can't believe it, new day, more of the same." Andrew agreed. "Damn. That's pretty harsh, out in the grass, OUR grass."

Their son Toby tugged on Marisol's robe. "Mama? Mama, it's because..." "Hush, sweetheart." Marisol patted his hair. "Mama and Dad are discussing something for adults."

The morning's yard-sleeping episode had given Marisol and Andrew an opening for reviewing their shared history with Mike. It was such a strange story, they often joked that someone should write a story about it. No one would believe it. Mike, an upstanding citizen, a married father of two, was just that strange. He was exceedingly friendly and neighborly in the daytime, but at night, he behaved in an increasingly bizarre manner.

Mike had slept outside before, for example. A couple times, they saw him perched upright on his back kitchen stairs, sound asleep, or in the children's swings. It made them giggle and speculate what on earth could be going on in the house next door. Was he locked out? Did his wife kick him out? Sometimes they heard him singing outside in the middle of the night; it seemed he liked to swing and sing until he just konked out.

Most nights, they heard him out in the driveway talking on the phone. As the night got darker and he drank more beer, his voice typically got louder and louder. And as the driveway was about ten feet from their windows, Marisol and Andrew couldn't avoid hearing him. It was like Mike stepped outside to make private phone calls, of which they, and no doubt other neighbors too, could hear every word. Very often, the calls were very angry and heated, full of vulgar language and name-calling. It was upsetting. Marisol and Andrew worried that Mike might wake their children with his language, as their bedroom windows were on the driveway side, one floor up, but that had never happened. Thank goodness.

They figured Mike to be a strange drunk, likely harmless, and at least no threat to them, even if irritating. Most nights he left for the bar up the street when his wife got home from her waitressing job, and he came home drunk and hostile. Pretty simple. It was annoying, but also entertaining. They didn't have the nerve to confront Mike about it, but they figured if it ever got really extreme or upset their kids, they surely would.

So tonight, after the kids were in bed, they speculated once again about what on earth Mike might have been up to when he decided to sleep on their lawn. "He must have been really drunk when he got home," Marisol said. "Maybe he just fell down out there, or maybe Melanie locked him out because he came home so late." "Heh, maybe the aliens dumped him there when they were done with him," suggested Andrew. "That would explain everything." "It's just so crazy, can you imagine doing that?" "Yeah, it's fucked up."

They sipped wine and snuggled down into the couch, nestling in, brushing off Mike and his antics. Then they heard it, a low moaning, right outside the window, in the neighbors' driveway. "What is THAT?" Marisol bolted upright. "Man, you're kidding me, what is he doing out there?" Andrew peeked through the blinds. "I can't see anything." The moan came again, low and horrible sounding. And then they heard "Fuck you. FUCK YOU," loud and insistent. Marisol objected. "What on earth, that's not okay! Are the fans on upstairs?" "Yes, they're on, I doubt the kids can hear this," replied Andrew. "But still, what on earth?" Low moan.

And then from outside, much louder, much meaner this time: "GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME. FUCK YOU." Before they had time to react, lights flashed across their darkened living room through the front window. An engine sound, high pitched squealing, a scuffle up the driveway. The shrieking squeal again and he was gone. "Jesus, whoever that is who picks him up for the bar oughtta get their belts checked, that's freaking loud," muttered Andrew, but Marisol saw the bright side: "At least he's out of the driveway for a while. Now get over here." She beckoned him by pulling her top over her head.

They awoke to the loud squealing sound. It was still dark outside their bedroom window. "Ugh, I guess he's home," Marisol snuggled closer to Andrew. "What time is it?" "It's nearly 3 am, let's hope he passes out again tonight." They pulled the blanket higher and drifted back to sleep.

Upstairs, two children stood at the front window watching Mike come home. Just like every other night, the light lowered down in the neighbors' yard like a white hot sun, hovering there. Two bright figures glided out, carrying Mike between them, laying him gingerly on the ground. Mike rolled over and cursed loudly. "Why does he always do that? He always seems so angry," Natalie whispered to Toby. "Watch! There she is!"

The smaller figure turned toward the window and raised its head; piercing green eyes met theirs. Its forehead glowed red and it held its palm to the sky. A shining ball lighted from its hand and floated up, growing in size and intensity until it reached their window and they could see it was like a snowflake. The snowflake burst in sparkles, releasing four glowing hummingbirds who danced and buzzed for a few moments before evaporating into the night.

"Aw, this time she made four! That's so cool." Natalie did a little dance herself and Toby laughed. "I can't wait till next time!" "Next time, maybe she'll make the butterflies again!" They both giggled and ran back to their beds.

"Dammit, he woke them up this time. I am so sick of this," muttered Marisol. "Yeah," Andrew agreed. "Maybe we really should talk to him after all."
For the Indie Ink writing challenge this week, the inimitable Supermaren, who is actually holding a tattoo contest this week as part of her writing assignment, told me to write about "the view from my window."