While walking through my neighborhood yesterday, I wondered what actually went on behind those manicured lawns and drawn curtains. I wondered how much I really knew my neighbors.
This is what my brain spat out:
Ian missed living in a city that didn’t keep any secrets from him, where everything was out in the open: junkies, hookers, pan handlers, rich snobs and bad cops. You knew where you stood with everyone in the city, and everyone in the city knew where they stood with you.
In the suburbs, though, everyone had a secret. Two houses up, the Doyles were overdue on three months’ of bills, but they kept paying the gardener to come and keep up appearances. Across the street, Mrs. Canton practically begged every delivery boy who came to the door to fuck her, except on Sunday when she went door to door, passing out bible tracts. Next door, Doctor and Mrs. Thompson argued quietly and intensely almost every night about their son, who they’d put into a group home for troubled youth.
Day after day, Ian smiled and waved to his neighbors, while recording all of their secrets in journals and photo albums.
When the police finally found the bodies buried in the loose dirt of his basement, his neighbors were shocked: “He was quiet,” Doctor Thompson said. “He kept to himself,” Mrs. Thompson added.
“He never left his garbage cans out. He kept a lovely lawn,” The Doyles told investigators.
When the handsome young reporter from Channel 6 came to her door, Mrs. Canton smiled carefully and said, “Would you like to come inside and talk about it over a cup of coffee?”
I worked on it a little bit yesterday, and again this morning, mostly focusing it on the beats I wanted to put together. I'll be honest: I'm nervous to release fiction, even short fiction like this (just 239 words) to the world without even showing it to an editor, first … but the point of this isn't to be perfect, it's to be creative. So, writers who are afraid to show their work to readers: if I can do this, so can you.
NB: My neighbors are actually quite lovely … as far as I know.