things sure have changed around here

i ring both doorbells. nobody responds so i ring them again and again. i look apologetically at the people behind me.

these girls–they ought to let me in; they remember me; some of the neighbors are the same people who lived right next to me most of last year. we shared a yard and split internet and a bike pump.

i look around. the girl who stands behind me is traumatized, so while we wait i don’t want her to see what’s playing on the screen in the garage. someone in the movie is picking up a chainsaw. “don’t do this,” the other woman begs, sobbing. they’re in an enclosed space. i jump up to rummage through the pile of junk by the doorstep for the remote. someone else jumps in to cover the girl’s eyes. i look away too. chainsaw sound and screams. from the corner of my eye i see the shot i definitely didn’t want to see. the victim’s vulnerable abdomen squirts stuff out.

this is right when both doors open. dogs come barreling out of the doors. from both doors the neighbor girls just stare, don’t even say hi. they give me dirty looks as though i’m trying to make their dogs run away.

i greet them warmly, apologetically, and just directly ask for the books. i remind them how hard it was to get the mailbox key and that i saved them the trouble. the books were expensive. i know they arrived at one of these two houses months ago. i’ve stopped by several times to no avail. i’ll definitely stop bugging them if i can just get those books.

i babble normally, but they’re both ice cold as though i’m the fedex man. i ask if i might just come in and look.

the girl on the right mumbles an excuse and just shuts the door. the girl on the left lets her eyes slide toward the ceiling, where a security camera is mounted.

i follow her inside the lefthand doorway. i’m still worried about the girl behind me and her exposure to the slasher movie.

the house interior has been painted electric blue in every square inch, even the tile floor. bright orange flowers decorate the dishwasher, the countertop, the windows. the girls seem derisive of me as i enter recalling how plain white and tan i kept the kitchen when i lived in it. as though this plainness in itself made me untrustworthy.

the doorbell rings again and everyone excitedly runs to the other door, to the pizza that’s being delivered there, all relieved to be ignoring me. i stare at their messy pile of mail next to the door. damn slobs. i know they have the books and for some reason they won’t give them back. i know they don’t even want them, won’t even read them. those books were expensive. weapons of the weak by james c scott. i paid like 35 paypal bucks for just that one. i really just wanted to finish it. i’d gladly keep my mouth shut about it. i just wanted to enjoy myself. these dumb millenial idiots are just withholding my shit for no reason.

i don’t know why they resent me. i was a good neighbor. i didn’t paint the floor blue and i didn’t have a dog but wasn’t i hospitable otherwise? should i have done more to be relateable, approachable? should i have pretended my mail was soapmaking supplies or a fancy vibrator or kitchen stuff? i’m not trying to make them feel stupid by mentioning “books”. i barely read anyway. it’s just about my own pleasure. do they think i want this? do they think i want to be bothering them, asking them for anything?

all i see is junk mail and clutter and i’m getting worried about the people i left outside. i give up and go back out the door.

a clean black sedan pulls up in the driveway. a middle aged white man in a suit with slicked back hair and raybans hops cartoonishly out of the car with, remarkably, a large brown leather gun case. my companions have already run away before i understand what to do. alone, i run around the other side of the house and hop up on the chain link fence.

if i wasn’t worried about luring him closer to them i’d want to stick together with my friends.

not that they’re my friends. they left me behind readily. actually, i’m completely sure they just hope he goes for me instead. the wind picks up abruptly. i hear a dog barking around the front of the house and i hear the dog get shot with an awkward yelp and fall on the grass with a light thump. i look at the neighboring yards. my balance is better than it used to be, thanks to those kung fu classes, but i can see i won’t get very far and that there’s nowhere to hide.

next thing i know i’m lying on the cold tiles, looking at the ceiling stalactites.