Friday, January 13, 2012

The Townhome #Fridayflash

Here is another piece that I put together for #Fridayflash. Please let me know what you think, and as always, feel free to be extra stabby with your critiques. It's the only way to help both of us grow.

Each step ground that foulness deep into the fibers of my carpet. Each step could have been prevented if not for my anxious desire to drink a glass of water. Each step taunted me when I reached my kitchen and I realized what I had done.
But I must stop blaming myself, for it was not my fault that yet another violation of the townhome association’s bylaws —  Section 6 article 14 regarding each owner’s responsibility to clean up after their pets — lie in wait for my shoe to come along. My neighbor, Amber, had been cited four times throughout the year on this very violation with numerous other complaints brought forth by myself, and I was sure she was once again the culprit.
Taking my jogging shoe off, I proceeded back towards my front door where I could toss it onto my porch, careful not to step in the evenly spaced brown smudges and keep the damaged contained. From my porch I spied it, the source of my miseries on the sidewalk in front of Amber’s door.
Back inside I heard, even from across the extra thick, sound proofed walls I paid so dearly for, a faint barking, probably from that devil of a dog — Smokey as Amber called him. That dog itself was a violation. I would have bet my entire comic book collection that it was above the forty pound limit established by the bylaws. I had brought that up to the board as well at the last meeting, and once more they took no action.
After that final dismissal by those seven tyrants who held sole jurisdiction over the matter, I realized that the next time I would be on my own. I had never considered myself to be the type of man to resort to vigilantism, but then again I had never considered that in this world, the justice system could fail one of its citizens so egregiously. Stored away in the back of my closet, next to my winter hats, I retrieved a small box of dog treats I kept for Dixie, a schnauzer my neighbor Doug watched for his parents from time to time. She was safely under the size limits and whose temporary guardian, I am quite confident, adhered to Section 6 article 14 of the association bylaws.
I put a handful of the treats in a bag and went down to my garage where I kept the rat poison. Using it against those particular rodents that invaded my own home caused me to feel guilt since they kept themselves hidden and did not disturb me; however, the dog next door on loan from Beelzebub himself harbored no such merits.
I crushed the poison into a fine power and put it with the treats next to the door. For the next two hours I scrubbed and cleaned my carpeting with the aid of no fewer than six different cleaners and both of my wet-vacs. The sun was dipped below the horizon and the neighborhood was blanked in the soft yellow glow of the porch lights when I finished. Checking my watch, I saw that it was 7:57pm.
If anything, Smokey was reliable, and at 8:33 plus or minus thirteen minutes at one standard deviation he would want to go out. I put on a dark coat I seldom wore and proceeded outside towards Amber’s door where I noticed there were no lights on inside, meaning she was probably working out in her basement gym as was her custom.
After quickly checking that nobody from the neighborhood was out that may recognize me, I placed a small handful of treats on the corner of Amber’s porch, sprinkling it with enough poison to kill a small horse. As soon as Smokey came through the door and smelled the treats, it would only take one lick for the white powder to enter his body and send him back to hell where he belonged. And Amber, that irresponsible young woman, might be inspired her to re-think her behavior over the last year.
With it being garbage day, I strolled down the block and discretely disposed of any evidence that would point to myself, including the jacket in another resident’s bin. I then made my way to Doug’s unit and knocked on the door.
He let me in and his parent’s schnauzer ran up to me and barked a couple times in excitement; a bark so similar to Smokey’s that the rage it conjured urged me to kick the thing. But I calmed down and we sat down on his couch where we resumed our series of great action movies; tonight The Dark Knight was on the docket. Even though the movie made me feel great pride at exacting my own vengeance, I began to feel the slightest bit of guilt by the time 9pm came around.
Towards the end of the film at approximately 10pm, a knock came at the door. I stood up, reminding myself to act casually with the police, who would inevitably come canvasing the neighborhood for the culprit. I would tell them nothing of the feces or what I had done, and they would in turn never find out it was me.
However it was not the police at the door. It was Amber, and she was crying. My excitement tempered as I saw the human toll of taking the law into my own hands. Doug ushered her in, unaware of what I had perpetrated, sitting her down on the couch next to me.
She took a couple deep breaths between sobs and said, “Smokey and I just got home from our trip up north. I let him out of the car and he went for this pile of treats on my porch. Then the next thing I know, he’s dead.” Amber collapsed into the couch and resumed crying.
On the screen, Batman departed the factory a wanted criminal, but at least he got the right guy.


Craig Smith January 13, 2012 at 9:37 AM  

A Neighbour's animal can cause people to do crazy things. My neighbour had roosters. Thought about sourcing an AK47 to get rid of them. Luckily they're gone now!

Larry Kollar January 13, 2012 at 10:14 AM  

The narrator sounds like he'd be on the HOA himself! Sheesh. I'm no fan of noisy incontinent dogs either, but he's got some serious issues too. You did a good job making me feel both sympathetic for & repulsed by this guy… because you know he's going to do it again when he finds the right culprit. OTOH, I'm not so sure that he won't get tagged as the prime suspect; he's brought numerous complaints after all.

Now for the #stabbylove bits… not too many. The story itself held together pretty well, no structural issues I noticed. I had to re-read it to understand the ending, but I think that was me as it was obvious when I looked again. First the typos:

"keep the damage[[d]] contained"

"The sun was dipped below the horizon and the neighborhood was blanked"

I think this phrase needs to be restructured: "After quickly checking that nobody from the neighborhood was out that may recognize me" — maybe move "was out" to the end.

John Wiswell January 13, 2012 at 10:21 AM  

I'm in a lot of pain today, never good to mix that into a cocktail of requests for #stabbylove. The opening sentence is worded awkwardly, because "ground" is both a noun and a verb, and you "step" on "ground" so frequently that the word-combination triggers something you don't intend. The "Each step" repetition also doesn't really evoke much because we don't have context for who is walking, where, or even why it matters until end of the paragraph. You could cut word-count by starting closer to "Taking my jogging shoe off" and closer to the delivery of plot-action, harvesting whatever lines you love from the first two paragraphs and seeding them later. The story is so passive that you have to be acutely aware of how much implication you deliver per paragraph, to carry intrigue and get us to the points where he's doing something of interest. I have little problem doing horrible things to cats and dogs in fiction; I don't like them in real life, so you can rest easy that you didn't offend this reader with that gruesome fate.

Anonymous January 13, 2012 at 2:16 PM  

I had to read it twice to understand the ending. The paragragh telling us Amber and Smokey had just come home may need a little more oomf to get that idea across on the first read.
Little word edits> into a fine powder, lay? in wait.
This story is about an obsessive/compulsive guy who may be escalating in his behaviour.
As I love dogs and cats, I cast a critical eye on those who would harm them. So I didn't feel any sympathy to the protagonist. If your goal is to win over people who don't agree with poisoning animals, you would need to make the dog's and Amber's behaviour much worse.
ie. Amber is a drug dealer who uses her dog to intimidate little children and eat their kittens. Or something like that. Then a quick death wouldn't be so heinous. If on the other hand, you are telling the story from a serial killer wannabe POV, you could push the creep factor in your protagonist.
There are many ways a story can go. My suggestions are not criticisms, just observations. You've told a good story well.
I could use a little stabby love over at my blog

Sonia Lal January 13, 2012 at 9:32 PM  

This guy has issues. I was sympathetic at the beginning, but by the end? Not so much.

And to think he views himself as some sort of batman.

Helen A. Howell January 13, 2012 at 9:35 PM  

The narrator is crazy, and he came across as one of those characters you just love to hate— in that respect you did a good job with this character and the story held well together.

For me somehow the opening jarred me a bit, I understand the tension you were creating here, but the short sentences each starting with each step, gave it a choppy feel to me. - That may just be me. No one else has mentioned it.

Helen A. Howell January 13, 2012 at 9:36 PM  

Okay I see John Wiswell has made the same sort of comment as myself. ^__^

Icy Sedgwick January 15, 2012 at 2:51 PM  

I like this, the voice in it is really authentic and really sounds like the type of person who would get so hung up on bylaws and whatnot. Possibly a bit of a stereotype to have him be a comic book geek. But I know you like people to be honest so check your tenses - based on the surrounding prose, "lie in wait" in paragraph two should be "lay in wait". Para 3 - "damage", not "damaged"? Para 7 - "blanketed", not "blanked". Para 11 - "Parents'" not "parent's".

Tom Gillespie January 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM  

Love the craziness of this piece Michael. The style is quite different from some of your other stories..I like the mood of menace you create.. Great last line too!

Chuck Allen January 23, 2012 at 11:04 PM  

Ha ha! This guy is crazy, but he's kind of fun to listen to. An interesting MC you have here, Michael.

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