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Tales From The Oddside(8)

By:Al Bruno III


Bet you thought I wasgonna kill her and eat her or something right?Well are you out ofyour mind? She’s crazy about me, and she told me she wanted tointroduce me to this girlfriend of hers named Umbra. And it was theway she said girlfriend that has me thinking. I may be dead but I’mnot stupid.Of course all thatexertion has me tired out and that’s where you come in you bigbroad shouldered jock you. I knew you couldn’t resist the chance tofollow me here to ‘teach me a lesson’ after what I did to thatmongoloid brother of yours. The dogs and the cats went neck first butsince you pulled down my shorts in gym class I’m going to startwith your guts.Scream all you want. Noone is gonna hear you.Man, I always wanted tosay that.</ol>


TALES FROM THEODDSIDENeighborhood TrashbyAl Bruno IIIWeek OneHe woke to the sound ofengines and the flashing of lights. Was it the police again? Itseemed they got called to this godforsaken neighborhood every night.Rolling out of bed Gabe walked to the front window and shifted thecurtain aside just enough for him to peer outside.</ol>


The first thing he sawwas the moving van, pulled right up onto the sidewalk, its motorcoughed and belched, its hazard lights blinked mindlessly.<I>Newneighbors</I>,he realized. Of course, he didn't remember the previous residentsmoving out but that was a pretty common occurrence in thisneighborhood too; along with drunken arguments, drug deals andmissing children. The trash that had lived above Gabe had skipped outon their lease the day before Christmas. The speed and skill they'demployed to empty their belongings into the back of a pickup truckwas almost dizzying.Thedigital readout on the VCR told him it was a little after five in themorning. <I>Whomoves in at this hour on a Sunday?</I>Gabe wondered as he tried to see what the new arrivals looked like.The vans back doors were almost flush with the house across thestreet so all he saw were shadows stepping from the back of the truckonto the darkened front porch.Week Two</ol>


Tomorrow was garbageday so Gabe dutifully dragged his two well-worn aluminum cans out tothe curb. He hated those two dented husks of rusted metal but he knewbetter then to purchase new ones. They tended to disappear on him. Itwas just that kind of neighborhood. Gabe looked up and down theblock, at the dirty children screaming and running from yard to yard,at the washed- out looking adults that sat out on their front stepssmoking and drinking with their music turned up too loud. At thelawns that were either un-mowed or had half -junked cars parked onthem.It hadn't always beenthis way, he'd had a house in the suburbs, a wife and kids but theywere long gone now and he was trapped here. Trapped here by childsupport and payments on a house he was no longer allowed to live in.All he could afford for himself now was this, the bottom floor of arun down two-story tenement.Gabe shook his headtrying to clear away the unpleasant thoughts, he knew where thiswould lead, where it always led- to him half-drunk at his kitchentable glaring at the sheaf of divorce papers and restraining orders.He looked up at the house across the street, his new neighbors werebringing out their trash as well; trash that included a ratty lookingold couch, a bureau and a few armfuls of clothes.</ol>


They were agood-looking couple, with white-blond hair and striking features.They looked like movie stars, Gabe wondered what had landed them hereon this dead end street. Had the Husbands drinking gotten him fired?Was the Wife spending her husband's cash as fast as he made it?<I>Maybe,</I>he thought as he watched them maneuver a stained mattress out ontothe curb. <I>Maybethey just want to renovate the place. Maybe they think they can turnthis neighborhood around. Good luck.</I>The Husband spied himwatching them and offered a genial wave, "Afternoon.""Afternoon."Gabe called from across the street.The Wife came outcarrying a pair of dripping garbage bags, her smile was dazzling."We're remodeling." she said.</ol>


"Good for you."Gabe said with a wave. He headed back into the house, they seemedlike nice people but a little too chipper for his tastes.Week ThreeIt was raining andmiserable and Gabe had left his umbrella back at the office.Shivering and cold he walked the four blocks from the bus stop to hisapartment. The sidewalks here were as run down as everything else,the cracked pavement fostered wide puddles. With every step his shoesand socks were more and more soaked, with every clammy he tried tocalculate how long it would be before he could afford another car.<I>Two years for ajunker, longer if I want something nice.</I>The bags and cans atthe end of every walkway reminded him that it was garbage day. Hegroaned at the thought of dragging the two cans out from the back.</ol>


<I>As if I'm not soakedenough.</I>The pounding noise toldhim that the morons that were into rap music had cranked up theirstereo. Of course that meant that the half-wit that lived next doorto those morons would soon be blasting the screeching speed metalthey loved so dearly.His pace slowed as heapproached his house, the couple across the street had their garbageout already. It looked like they were cleaning out their basement, anold washing machine, a love seat, a waist high pile of books, a fewbroken chairs, a chest of drawers and a birdcage were out on thecurb.For a moment he stoodthere contemplating the washer, wondering if it still worked. If itdid it would sure as hell save him his weekly trip to the laundromat.<I>Whywould they throw it away if it wasn't broken?</I>He chided himself and headed inside, the trash could wait tillmorning.</ol>


Week Four<I>Another couch. Gabestood there marveling at it, Another goddamn couch.</I>But it wasn't just acouch; there was also a cabinet, a lone snow tire and a box ofmelted-looking action figures. He glanced over to their mailbox, itwas still blank save for the dull metal numbers. He wondered whattheir family name was, it must have been Rockefeller considering theamount of furniture they went through.Itwasn't that he cared what they did, but still it was a little odd. Somuch stuff. <I>Wellat least they picked a good neighborhood for it.</I>He thought. Back in the suburbs there had only been one or two days ayear set aside for heavy trash pickup but here the garbage men seemedwilling to take away anything at all. <I>Maybe,</I>Gabe thought. <I>Maybethey do it because they know that if they don't this crummy littletown will start looking like the full-fledged junkyard it really is.</I></ol>


The front door swungopen, Gabe quickly pretended to be adjusting his cans. It was theWife, she was wearing a clingy top and a pair of white shorts. Shebounded down the front steps, got into her minivan and drove away.<I>Damnbut her husband's a lucky guy.</I>Gabe thought."Whatchoolookinat?" his boozy next door neighbor called at him."N-nothing."Gabe said. Blushing furiously he retreated back inside. When the doorwas safely barred and bolted behind him he allowed himself towhisper, "Nothing you scumbag."Week Five</ol>


From the first momentthe blind date had been an unmitigated disaster. From his first lookat the woman he'd known it was going to go badly. What had Homer beenthinking?Gabe sat in the back ofthe taxicab fuming. He was almost mad enough to call Homer right now.When he'd described her as having a wonderful personality that shouldhave been warning enough but hed decided to try his luck anyway. He'dbeen away from the dating scene for too long.The cab slowed beforehis house, Gabe paid the fare and strolled up the walk. He wanted tokick something. He couldn't believe the bitch turned him down. Howcould she afford to be discriminating? Of course she waited untilafter he'd picked up the tab from dinner before she dropped thatlittle bombshell.<I>Speakingof bombshells.</I>He thought as he paused on his front porch. His eyes strayed acrossthe street, sometimes they stayed up late. He wasn't sure what theydid, wither every light on in the house till all hours of the night,but whenever he peeked out the curtains he saw silhouettes flittingacross the venetian blinds. It was almost like they were dancing.Sometimes watching them he imagined he was up there with the Wife andthe Husband was living down here in this crappy tenement.</ol>


Embarrassed at thethoughts filling his head he turned to enter his front. His keysfumbling in the lock he took one last longing glance at the housenext door and did a double take.Was that another couchhe saw sitting on the curb?Gabe couldn't helphimself, he crossed the street and gazed at the cigarette burneddavenport sitting there, one of its cushions were missing, in itsplace sat an record player that looked to Gabe like an antique. Abureau with wobbly legs rounded out this weeks pile.Hepaused a moment, thinking to himself <I>Thisis nuts what if someone else sees?</I>But the impulse was too crazy and too strong for him to deny it. Hewalked up to the bureau and pulled out one of the drawers.It still had clothes init, all neatly folded. Panties and socks, where they hers? How couldthat be? How could he not know she was tossing out all herundergarments? This was too weird. Gabe glanced up at their house,wondering if they had seen him out here. Wondering if they'd care theman from across the street was going through their garbage.</ol>


It was just theirgarbage after all, if they had really cared they wouldn't have put itout on the curb would they?He pulled the seconddrawer out, more clothes, sweaters and ties, expensive looking by thefeel of them. The kind he used to be able to afford.Not certain what he waslooking for he pulled the third drawer out. A gagging scream caughtin his throat. He shoved the drawer closed again and he stumbled backacross the street, tripping on the curb. Sobbing with fear hescrambled to his feet and ran into his house where he slumped to thefloor and tried not to be sick."It was just adoll, just a doll…" He whispered to himself, "Dolls can'tmove…"There was a knock atthe door, a neighborly voice was calling Gabe's name.</ol>