Those fucking boys were at it again. Doorbell ringing in the middle of the night, them shining their flashlights into the foyer, daring me to come outside, trying to kill me with their laughter. Their contempt. If I were a weaker man, I’d probably fall right over dead, their derision and disgust as sharp as knives, but I’m made of headier stuff. A revengeful kind of fortitude, so I’ve had a camera installed. The security consultant said I was supposed to inform those fuckers that I was filming. Said they had a right to privacy as if waking me up twice a week was their privilege. “I understand your feelings, Mr. Martin. Probably like to shoot them by now, but you can’t. It’s in my contract to point this out. Sign here to show you’ve heard my advice.”
I signed the papers the same as I would anything medical, without reading, without care for the consequences.
The minute the consultant left I ripped off the sticker placed across the storm door glass and took down the yard sign, stuffing it in the garage under the fertilizer and bug killer. I spent so much time thinking about ways to get back at those boys that most of the household chores were forgotten. I’d see my wife out push mowing the yard in flowing maxi-dresses, wiping the sweat from her forehead, shoulders hunched from the exertion, and I’d just wave, pantomime a hurt back, and burrow further into the house. She and my daughters think I’m crazy, they swear they never hear the doorbell, that maybe I’m dreaming. That’s when I knew I needed the camera.
Oh, but for those boys, I thought of poison, lacing milkshakes with antifreeze, exploding packages, a camouflaged hole or broken porch plank infested with snakes or bees. I felt like Wile E. Coyote in my maniacal desire to inflict pain, the urge to maim bordering on sadistic, but every night I put those thoughts away, mostly due to the possible collateral damage that was possible to my own twin girls, who luckily weren’t old enough to date. Yet.
The instant someone steps onto the porch the camera starts recording. I assume the girls will be excited, a chance to act, to pretend, but they want nothing to do with it. It’s creepy, they say in unison. I practice walking across the porch. Breezily, stealthily, brazenly. The playback isn’t pretty. My shoulders hunched and rounded, back stooped, my hair in tufts around my ears. I’ve really let myself go. Another thing I blame on these sleep intruders. Another goddamn thing to fix.
The first night it’s operational nothing happens. I lay in bed, muscles tensed, ready to leap out of bed, wasp spray sitting close by on the nightstand, losing sleep by the minute, but the doorbell never rings.
For a week, the house is silent, luring me into a cautious sleep, an ethereal slumber that’s filled with marching elephants ridden by monkeys, throwing rocks at my windows. I tell the girls about my dream, a rare lapse toward vulnerability and the girls laugh, their voices drenched with bad-breathed sleepiness that I once found enduring, but the tone of their voices sounds different, but familiar. They show me a pair of flashlights they received from a field trip to an Escape Room. The things that qualify for education these days is baffling.
On the eight day, the doorbell rings incessantly; it takes me a few minutes to realize that it’s not my alarm. I run headlong down the stairs and into the foyer, the lights beaming in through the glass. I raise an arm across my eyes and fumble with the lock. The door bangs inward striking the wall. The lights snap off and the laughter starts up guiding me off the porch and into the dew drenched yard tripping over one of the girl’s longboards. I fall to my knees and the lights surround me, strobing, the laughter rising from little chests, hands fluttering around my back and ears. “Here come the monkeys, here come the monkeys, here come the monkeys,” my girls chant.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His flash has been included in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, and Best Small Fictions 2019. He is the winner of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.