In this neighborhood the sun shined bright. All the lawns were perfectly cut, edged and symmetrical. All the mail boxes stood straight and fine. All the houses were in order. Hedges perfectly shaped, trees perfectly trimmed, and sidewalks clear of debris. Clean gutters, clean streets, everything clean and quiet.
A young girl sat in her front yard, playing with toys, doing voices for the characters. This was a normal. Everything was as it should be. The sterile place was quite a happy indeed. Was, because a car cruised onto her street and soon pulled in front of her home. The driver’s side window rolled down and a man spoke from inside.
“Hello,” he said.
The girl looked up from her toys and smiled at the man.
“Are your parent’s home?” said the man.
The girl shook her head.
The man stepped out of his car and approached, walking across the finely cut grass. The man wore sandals, long shorts, and a coat. His hair was like the cheese of a pizza. Somehow his sunglasses were balanced on his slippery looking forehead. Beyond his dark coat the girl saw a stain on his undershirt.
“Yellow,” she said to herself.
The man stood over the girl with a smile on his face. “What you doing?” he said.
“Playing,” said the girl.
“I see,” said the man. “Nice toys.”
“Thanks,” the girl introduced her toys by name and held up each to show him. “This is Tabitha, this is Cheryl, this is Monica and this is Mr. Sniffles.” The toys were: a blonde doll, a brown haired doll, a dark haired doll, and a stuffed animal (cat).
“I have more inside,” she said.
“Hello everyone,” said the man.
The girl said hello in different voices for each doll and meowed for the stuffed animal.
The man chuckled. “And what’s your name?”
“Can’t tell you,” said the girl.
“Why is that?”
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“Hey, I’m not a stranger. My name’s Jim.”
“Okay, Jim. I don’t know you.”
“Well, you can get to know me if you come with me.”
He gestured towards his car, a sleek powder white four door with dark windows. From what the girl could see the car had no blemishes. Unlike the man, the exterior was clean.
“No thank you,” said the girl. “I’m satisfied here.”
“You can be more satisfied with me,” said the man, putting a hand over his front. He touched himself then stopped once he realized that she would not look at him further.
“How old are you?” said the man.
“Not old enough,” said the girl.
“I think you are,” he lowered his voice. “I want you to get into my car. You can take your toys with you.”
The girl looked up at him. She studied his face. Then she stood.
“Oh,” she said. “You’re one of those.” She was at the height of his belt buckle. “You must not have heard about me.”
“Heard about you? Are you famous?”
“Well then,” the man reached into his coat pocket, revealing a small gun. “Do as I say.”
“Wow, a gun,” said the girl.
“It works too.”
“I don’t want to disturb this nice neighborhood but if I have to, I will.”
“You won’t disturb anyone,” said the girl. “And you won’t shoot me.”
“I won’t?” He pointed the gun directly at her. The girl didn’t budge.
“I’m serious,” said the man.
“Put your gun in my mouth,” said the girl.
“Oh? Is that foreplay?” He laughed. “Naughty, I see. I knew from the moment I saw you.” He grinned, showing his teeth, crooked. His smile wide, skin crinkling at the cheeks.
“Please, put your gun into my mouth,” said the girl. Her expression stoic, her tone enthused.
The man took a step forward. The girl opened her mouth and the man slid the barrel in, slow.
“So, is this some type of fetish for you?” He ran his tongue over his lips and grabbed at his crotch. “It’s working for me.”
Within an instant the girl chomped down and bit off the gun tip.
The man’s eyes bulged and his lips quivered. The slippery word “what?” could almost be heard from him. The vibration from the bite shook his hand up to his arm and shoulder. It was as though electricity had shaken him and rattled his mind. The hairs on his neck stood like his extremity would and the tingle below became uncomfortable.
The girl chewed the metal and swallowed. Then she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue.
“All gone,” she said.
The man looked at his useless gun, then at the girl, then back at the gun.
“Now,” said the girl. “Imagine what else I can do.”
The man’s mouth hung open. He took a step back. The fear inside reflected and was shown back to him via the mirror of her eyes. He mouthed something and blinked. He couldn’t think. He re-aimed what was left of his gun and fired a shot.
The girl stood there.
When the man realized that the gun had blowback, he screamed and cursed and dropped the remains of the weapon. He ran back to his car holding his bloody used-to-be hand, at the same time painting the driver’s door of his white car red.
The girl watched him drive one handed and clumsily crash into a tree down the street.
“Wow,” said the girl, watching the bloody man escape from the car, drag his body along the ground and yell for help.
“He might survive,” she said to no one.
The car exploded and set the man ablaze.
“He still might be okay.” She noticed the half chewed gun on the grass. “Wonderful, he left a snack.” She picked up her snack and bit into it. She took her time chewing, watching as the burning body crawled, rolled and then finally curled into a ball.
“Good snack, bad man,” said the girl and she went back to her toys. First noticing the blood on Mr. Sniffles and then licking him clean like a mother cat would.
Someone somewhere distant must have called the police. Because soon a police car arrived blaring its siren. She hated this sound.
The siren stopped and a man left his car. He ran to his trunk and fetched a fire extinguisher. He cooled off the body and then tended to the burning car and finally the burning tree the car ran into. He cursed a few times and surveyed the neighborhood. He saw her sitting there on her lawn and she saw him too. She waved. The officer ran in her direction so she stood to greet him.
“Hey,” he called upon reaching her lawn. “Did you see what happened?”
“Oh yes,” said the girl. She told him about the crash with scant details.
“Must have been a drunk driver,” the officer said to himself, not noticing the red beneath him.
“No,” said the girl. “He wasn’t drunk.”
“He wasn’t? Wait, he spoke to you?”
“Yes, and he pointed a gun at me.”
“A gun? Where is it?” He looked around, seeing the wet red lawn.
“I ate it.”
“I ate his gun and it was good.”
“You ate evidence? His fingerprints could have…you’re not supposed to…” The officer shook his head.
“Is something wrong?” said the girl.
“Don’t do that again!” said the officer, raising his voice.
“Don’t speak to me that way,” she said, her tone the same.
“Um, please don’t do that again.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“Good, that’s real good,” the officer swallowed. His throat suddenly dry, the back of his neck warm and wet.
“Don’t be scared Mr. Police Officer. You’re good,” said the girl.
He stuttered, “That’s right, police officers are good. We’re the good guys.”
“I know that. Yes, I do.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re good.”
“If you’re good then stay good, yes?”
“Yes, I will.”
“Be a good man.”
“I will, I will,” he over smiled, showing his teeth, his eyes revealing the truth inside.
“And if you do, you’ll have nothing to worry about.”
“Yes, yes of course. This-a, the neighborhood looks nice. Everything in order I see.”
“Yeah, that’s good. I’m sorry I have to-to attend to-”
“The bad man.”
“Yes, I have to do my job,” said the man, the fear squeezing him, a python grip.
“Okay, goodbye,” said the girl, a smile on her face.
With hurry, the policeman left her standing there and attended to the corpse. Then he called in the scene, asking for ambulance and fire rescue assistance. He tried his best to remain calm. The girl read his lips the whole time.
“I wish he didn’t crash that car,” she said. “It was much nicer than him.”
Birds chirped in nearby trees. A squirrel skittered across a rooftop and the wind blew nice and cool. Eventually, the smoke dissipated.
The drippings of a man soaked into the freshly cut lawn. Soon, the neighborhood returned to normal. Even the smell of the air returned, no longer made foul by the stench of a stranger. And what was that smell? Pine, summer freshness, grass clippings, newness, this smell rose into the air and settled upon the neighborhood, refreshing it, as if poured from a jar.
The girl resumed play with more voices for the toys. Try as she might she could not get them to sound as they once had before. Though, her cat’s meow had improved considerably.