This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.
When Asher and Noah Brown decided to move out of their parents’ house and get one of their own, the reactions were mixed. Their friends said brothers don’t buy houses together. Their father practically leaped for joy. Their mother did little to hide her tears and hugged her sons tight. The brothers assured her that they were only moving ten minutes away to a nearby neighborhood.
Their new home was a two-bedroom, two-bath split-level with a detached garage. “That would be a pain in the winter,” Asher had said when they first looked at the house.
“I’ll shovel it,” Noah had offered, already sold on the house’s interior potential. He wanted to flip the house and sell it in a few years.
“If you shovel all the snow, I’m in,” Asher had said. And so they signed the papers and moved in two weeks later to the day. Since the aforementioned winter had not yet arrived, the brothers propped the front door open to ease the process of carrying in their boxes. Once they began the actual unpacking of belongings, they promptly forgot about the door until they heard an unknown voice say,
Both Asher and Noah looked up from their respective boxes to find themselves faced with a heavy-set, bald man holding a six-pack of Bud Light.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” the man said, holding out the beer. “I’m Doug. I live two doors down to the right. Well, right if you’re facing the house from the street. I think it’s south, but don’t quote me on that.”
Realizing he had no idea what direction was south, Noah took the beer from Doug and muttered a thank you.
Having a bit more tact, Asher said, “Nice to meet you, Doug. I’m Asher, and this is my brother Noah. How long have you been in this neighborhood?”
Doug grinned. “Long enough to give you all the dirt, if that’s what you’re asking, Asher. The family between our houses have like seven kids, all too young to drive. If you aren’t careful, you will be asked to babysit. On your other side is an old couple who spend half the year down south. Surprisingly, the summer, not the winter. Across the street is Diane. She’s a bit nutty, but she’ll loan you anything you need. And me, well, I’m the quiet neighbor with the big freezer in this thriller we call Suburban Life.”
Asher and Noah exchanged worried looks, unsure what to say. Finally, Noah said, “I . . . I like kids.”
Doug laughed in a way that did nothing to relieve the building tension. “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Chong will love that. They pay babysitters pretty well, but trust me, you’ll want alcohol to make it through that gig. If you run out, I’m usually pretty well stocked. Just swing by my garage.”
“O-okay. I’ll do that sometime,” Noah stammered.
Doug gave a disquieting grin, a two-fingered salute, and then spun around and walked out without so much as another word.
“You didn’t seriously just agree to go to his house?” Asher asked.
“I think I might have.”
“You won’t really . . . ?”
Noah shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Wouldn’t that mean . . . ?”
Asher rolled his eyes. “Your tombstone will read, ‘Killed by his own idiocy.’”
Noah shrugged again. “We’ll see. Depending on how much snow we get this year, I might be driven to go visit Doug in hopes of getting out of being the only person shoveling it.”
“Could’ve just agreed to look at a house with an attached garage,” Asher muttered.
“Where’s the fun in that? At least now we get to be a part of the thriller called Suburban Life.”
Asher shook his head. “I think I’d rather be cast in the sit-com.”