This is a story I wrote for my writing class, which had to be told in increments of time. I hate the fact that I blew the ending, please crush me with critique.
Saturday, May 21st, 2011.
The small, serene cul-de-sac of Hollybrook Lane was quiet on this early Saturday morning. The sun had just been up for a few hours and as it rose into the sky peeking into the windows of the sleeping inhabitants, the day was officially about to begin.
Turning onto the street from the main road was a large truck. It was one of the larger trucks with the full set of double wheels on each axle, painted a dark green with yellow dings and scratches covering the hood and cab. On the trailer, the words “Sunflower Moving” were scrawled in a large rounded font, yellow and black, with the picture of (obviously) a large sunflower. Following it was a small black Volkswagen sedan with a driver and a passenger in it and boxes piled up in the back making it hard to see anything else.
The truck pulled up to the third house on the left, a brown cookie cutter ranch which was only distinguishable from the other ranches by color. All of the houses were the same models, large bay windows to the side of the front door, staring out into the world from the comfort of the living room. For a family looking for their first home, this was the perfect starter. Each house had a simple brown fence cornering off the very small front yard opened by a small swinging gate. Many of the houses had tables and chairs set up outside on the small lawn, some with small white tents covering them, others with red and white checkered tablecloths.
The truck doors swung open and two burly men jumped out. The driver was older and definitely more grizzled with his extra-long arms jutting out from his black work shirt with the sleeves torn off. He rubbed one hand over the beard he’d stopped trimming months ago and stretched his back and his legs to energize himself. The younger of the movers was noticeably thinner and stronger, but no cleaner shaven. He too had the black and yellow “Sunflower” work shirt on, but he had kept his sleeves intact. The veteran mover walked around back and looked towards the VW where two people had gotten out.
“This the place?” he grunted, nodding towards the brown house with the black number 39 on the front near the door.
“Yep, this is it. Let me unlock the door.” said the man who’d exited the driver’s side.
Jason Salvo looked at the car keys still in his hand and fumbled around for the right key to open his new home. His wife Claudia was strolling up the street looking around at their new neighborhood. As she turned and headed back she spotted one of the neighbors, in the house right next to theirs, peeking out from behind a curtain of the bay window. He was an older man, with white hair and glasses and a white mustache. She gave a bit of a harder stare and raised her hand to wave. As she did, the man at the window let the curtain down and hurriedly moved from the window. Claudia shrugged and walked back to the moving truck, where two people had been talking to her husband Jason. She politely smiled and was invited into their conversation.
“Ah, there she is”, he took his wife by the arm and showed her off to his new neighbors,
“Claudia, these are the Mortensen’s, Dan and Ella. They live a few houses down.”
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you”, Claudia offered.
“We’re so glad you’re moving in today. It’s the annual Hollybrook block party! It’s like having your housewarming with the whole neighborhood there”, Ella Mortensen told them.
Her husband Dan jumped in, “and you’ll get to meet everyone.”
Claudia smiled, “that explains the tents and tables…it makes sense. Who’s the guy in the house next to ours?”
Dan shot a glance to the house and back to the Salvos, “That’s Arthur Hill. He’s just an old curmudgeon who doesn’t really interact with anyone and just watches the entire neighborhood. He won’t offer much in the way of pleasantries and you’ll likely never talk to him.”
“He’s really just a lonely old man”, Ella added.
“Well perhaps we’ll see each other in passing some time”, Claudia said.
Jason nodded along and as the conversation petered out, the Mortensen’s made their way back to their house to prepare for the block party. Jason and Claudia went to their car and began to carry boxes in the house.
The moving men had brought in the last few items off the truck and began to wrap up all their blankets in the trailer. Jason went out to sign the final bill and give them the tip that they’d earned for all their hard work. When it was all done, Jason turned back to the house and took a look next door. Sure enough, the old man was staring out from behind the curtain watching every move they made. Jason waved and smiled at him. The old man threw the curtain down and left without any acknowledgment.
Jason and Claudia were finishing up the sandwiches they’d purchased at the deli a few blocks over and took a look around their incredibly cluttered house. Jason attempted to make heads or tails of the incredible number of boxes.
“This is going to take some time”
“Yep, with just us it’s not going to get done quickly. Why don’t you take a nap hon while I try to find the important stuff first? We don’t need to do it all in one day, plus we have the big block party tonight…whoo hoo!”
“Oh, don’t be cynical, it’s a nice neighborhood and we’ll make a few friends.”
“I know, I know…but of course, we get the creepy guy next door.”
“Yeah, he was watching me pay the moving guys earlier.”
Jason was lying on the couch that he’d cleared off and was drifting in and out of consciousness when there was a knock on the door. He got up off the couch and took a glance at Claudia who had sectioned off a number of cardboard boxes, undoubtedly their most crucial items. He rubbed his eyes and motioned to her that he’d get the door. He stepped over a few pieces of random furniture and almost stumbled over the base of a lamp when he got to the front door and pulled it open. It was the Mortensen’s, Dan and Ella. Dan was wearing white slacks with brown boat shoes and a yellow and blue floral button down shirt that wasn’t tucked in. He looked like he was going to a luau. Ella had on a flowered sun dress, her curly red hair was pulled back behind a yellow headband.
“You guys almost ready?” Dan was super excited.
Jason half grinned and looked back at Claudia who was still on her knees trying to sort out what was what with their life in boxes.
“Uh…no, no…we’ve been unpacking…and…” Jason was still half way to sleep and really wanted to get them out of here.
“Well, pack it up and come on over. We have the best tent on the block. We’re four houses down across the street, number 46. We’ll be waiting for you two.”
“Ok, we just need to get ready”
The Mortensens turned and headed back to their house and Jason closed the door. He made his way through the box maze over to Claudia and told her that they should get ready. She was very into her boxes and gave a dejected sigh when he offered his arm to help her up off the floor.
“Guess we should shower and get on with it”, he said, comforting her.
Jason and Claudia closed their front door and made their way up the block. There were neighbors all over the street, on lawns and in doorways all up the block. Everyone on this street knew everyone and the Salvo’s felt completely out of place. Jason was wearing beige cargo shorts with brown flip-flops and a green polo shirt, Claudia wore a light yellow tank top and a very light white skirt. Claudia took Jason’s hand as they walked slowly up the block. Claudia, almost instinctively, glanced at Arthur Hill’s house and once again he was there behind the curtain. This time she wasn’t waving, she just stared at him with a smile until he backed off.
As they happened upon the Mortensen’s house with the large white tent adorning the lawn, the smell of burgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill caught their senses. Dan Mortensen was manning the grill standing near another man and shouted to them when they popped into his view.
“Jay, Claudia! Come on in and join the fun. Grab a beer from the cooler.”
“Yay, you guys made it! I’m so glad”, Ella was saying as she came around the white table, wine glasses in each hand. She offered one to Claudia, who gladly accepted.
Ella took Claudia by the hand and began to introduce her to their friends who had gathered at the table under the tent. Jason made his way over to the grill and chatted away with Dan and his buddy, a bunch of middle aged suburban guys enjoying the Saturday away from the daily grind.
“Jay, this is Todd Rossetti, he’s in the house next to ours.”
“Good to meet you Jay, welcome to Hollybrook, what’s your business?”
“It’s nice to meet you too”, he told the man as he shook his hand, “I’m going to be heading up the
research lab at McKinley University.”
“Oh, what kind of research?”
“Medical basically, I’m going to be working on different techniques to comfort people with late stage cancer”
“God’s work” Todd raised his beer.
“Well, if watching people live with severe pain is the work of the Lord…”
“Well, comforting them is.”
Jason gave him a semi-nod and cut off the conversation as it made him uncomfortable to talk about his research.
Dan put the cover back on the grill and the three men went over to the table under the tent to join the rest of the guests.
The party on the block was in full force now, there was music blaring through the evening air and people were moving from house to house, most with an adult beverage in hand. The neighborhood kids were playing games in the middle of the street which had been closed off.
Jason and Claudia had acclimated themselves to the party and were enjoying food, drinks and fun conversation at the Mortensen’s house.
The party was still going strong, the neighborhood women were dancing in the street to the music and the kids were running from lawn to lawn in some massive, never ending game of tag.
Jason and Claudia had said good night to the Mortensens and started to head back to their place when the door to Arthur Hill’s house flung open. The elderly man waddled his way onto his front lawn and shouted to the entire block.
“Shut it down…this is too much! I gotta sleep and I can’t do it with this music going on all night. Stop this.”
The majority of the people stood and watched the spectacle and most of the kids just laughed at the old man standing there, fist in the air, shouting at everyone.
“I don’t need to be kept up all night by you people and your terrible party. I want it shut down immediately”
The old man vigorously shook his hands at the people in front of his house. Jason and Claudia tried to sneak past him innocently to their house when he turned his attention to them.
“And you two…coming onto this block, don’t think you’re going to keep me up all night”
Jason, shielding Claudia, tried to calm the man down.
“Absolutely not sir, we don’t plan anything like that”
“Sure you don’t. We’ll just see about that”
By now a small crowd had gathered outside Arthur Hill’s house, including the Mortensen’s who’d heard everything.
“Really, we’re not going to cause any trouble”, Jason was scrambling to try and keep the situation from getting worse. Claudia didn’t have the same candor.
“Just leave us alone, if you don’t like us, you don’t like us. Get back in your house and stay there.”, she said with the sole purpose of stunning the old man. It worked.
Arthur Hill motioned to her and then stopped suddenly. He grabbed his chest and wheezed as he dropped to his knees. People in the gathered crowd gasped as Arthur Hill hit the ground. Claudia watched in horror as tears welled up in her eyes. Ella Mortensen ran over to comfort her while Jason raced over to the fallen man and tried to begin mouth to mouth. Vigorously, Jason alternated pumping Arthur’s chest and giving him short puffs of air, but it wasn’t working. Dan Mortensen was kneeling beside Jason telling him to give up, but Jason just kept going as the sound of ambulance sirens filled the night.
Arthur Hill was dead.
The ambulance drivers shut the doors and drove off of Hollybrook Lane with the deceased man’s body. The neighborhood stood stunned as it watched the red flashing lights disappear around the corner of the street.
Jason and Claudia said their goodbyes as the crowd began to break up and people made their way back to their cookie cutter houses to complete their night. A couple of handshakes for Jason from the people who watched him try to save the old man’s life and a hug from Dan Mortensen.
“Welcome to the neighborhood”, Todd Rossetti said to the Salvo’s as they made their way into the house.