The Man from Across the Road

The loud snap of a breaking window screen broke the silence as a man tumbled through my window, landing at my feet in my front room. I recognized him as the new neighbor who had moved in across the road only two months ago.

“What the hell is this,” I shouted, jumping backward, knocking the pictures of my wife and daughter off the side table flanking my La-Z-boy. I reached for the phone and began fumbling with the keypad.

“Wait, calm down. Put the phone down. It’s me,” he urged as he returned each broken picture frame to its original spot. I eyed him with suspicion as he continued to talk. “I saw a man snooping around in your bushes, and as I ran in to figure out who it was, I tripped over something. Must’ve been a root. Before I knew it, I was crashing through your window screen.”

I pulled my phone out of my pocket, hands trembling, and quavered, “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t call the police right now.”

“Let me just explain what I saw. I promise you won't want to call the police after I’ve told you everything.” He stood silently, watching as I hesitated for a moment.

Reluctantly replacing my phone in my pocket and leading him into the kitchen, I closed the window opening up to the backyard and sat down at the table. As he explained seeing the man around my house multiple times in the past week, he began to make himself a coffee. Miraculously, he knew where everything was, from my Spider-Man mug to the half-and-half we kept in the cupboard for family parties. He proceeded to work on another one, presumably mine.

Setting it down, he smirked and said, “Just how you like it, two teaspoons of sugar and just a bit of milk.”

“And you know this how?” The uncertainty I felt began growing with each second.

“Just a lucky guess I suppose,” he responded with a shrug, taking a sip of his coffee. “Anyways, if he comes back I’ll let you know.” He strolled over to the window and opened it once more then started towards the front door.

“Don’t you move a muscle. I listened to you, now you're going to listen to me. Don’t you dare leave.” Something about him, I couldn’t let him go. Once more, I reached toward my pocket.

His relaxed demeanor disappeared, replaced with a tension that left the air so thick it was hard to breathe. “I’ll do whatever I want. Your daughter hates the police. The sirens keep her up all night. I watch her lay silent for hours as her breaths grow shallower with each passing hour. She doesn't need another reason to be afraid. And besides, you have more important issues to worry about. Your wife’s drive to work features a very precarious drive on the overpass from the five to the ninety-one. Any little problem with her car could send it careening off the edge. Two lives would be gone in an instant. Let just say, I think it’s best we keep this between us.”

“Why? What do you want?” Tears rolled from my eyes as I went back in my memory in search of any signs hinting at this horrific reality.

Placing his nearly full coffee cup in the sink, he sneered, “It was getting boring is all. The same routine every single day. This should mix it up a bit. I’ll see you around.”

He turned and headed towards the door as I sat paralyzed. As the door slammed shut, silence enveloped the room, and with it, a sense that this quiet would never again be peaceful.

© Marc Barcelos