Joseph Pfister ~ Happy Hour

My neigh­bor, Tom, came to the door. Tom was in his for­ties, his only dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture a patch of blond in his oth­er­wise dark hair. He and his wife had bought the three-bed­room house next to ours four or five years ago, bring­ing with them a pair of grey­hounds nobody want­ed after their days at the race­track were over. That’s the kind of cou­ple they were. Tom had come over to ask me some­thing, but now he couldn’t remem­ber what it was.

Come on in,” I said. “I made cof­fee, if you want some.”

He glanced at the cof­feemak­er. It was the two-cup­per Marjorie and I bought right after we first moved in togeth­er. It was also one of the few things she hadn’t tak­en in the divorce.

No, I think I’m okay, thanks.”

Suit your­self,” I said, splash­ing some into a cup.

Outside, the birds were mak­ing a rack­et in the hydrangea bush­es. It was so loud, it was almost impos­si­ble to con­cen­trate. I should have cut those damn things down years ago.

Tom sighed. “I wish I could remem­ber why I came over here.”

It’s no prob­lem,” I said. “Really.”

I know. But it real­ly bugs the hell out of me.” Tom glanced down at the floor, ran a hand through his dis­tinc­tive blond patch. “Is it too ear­ly for a drink?” he asked.

Tom’s wife, Pat, was a recov­er­ing alco­holic, so they didn’t keep any liquor in the house. Before Marjorie moved out, he would come over and we’d have a drink when nei­ther of our wives were home.

I glanced at the clock on the cof­feemak­er. It was 10:09 AM. “Why not?” I said.

I got out the whiskey and two tum­blers. Tom liked his whiskey neat. I didn’t blame him.

Thanks,” he said, knock­ing his glass again­st mine.

Tom’s wife, I was pret­ty sure, was hav­ing an affair. There had been a strange car parked across the street from their house for three days, and last night, while I was tak­ing out the recy­cling, I saw a man who wasn’t Tom leav­ing Tom’s house. Tom trav­eled for business—Southeast Asia mostly—and could be gone for a week at a time. It made sense, an affair.

Tom stared out the patio door at the lawn and shook his head. He sipped his whiskey. I could tell he had some­thing on his mind, some­thing that was mak­ing him for­get­ful. I could empathize.

How’s Jamie?” I asked, to make con­ver­sa­tion. Jamie was Tom and Pat’s thir­teen-year-old daugh­ter. Marjorie and I had decid­ed again­st kids. I suf­fered from a lack of ambi­tion, she claimed, the kind of dri­ve that makes oth­er peo­ple suc­cess­ful. Maybe she was right.

Tom shrugged. “Good, I guess.”

That’s good.”

We didn’t say any­thing for a few min­utes.

Well, thanks for the drink,” he said once he had drained the last of his whiskey. “I’ll give you a call if I ever remem­ber what it was I came over here for.”

Sure. Let me walk you out,” I said.

When we reached the door, Tom stopped. There was a sound like a buzz saw com­ing from across the street and, look­ing up, my eyes found a drone with five or six pro­pellers hov­er­ing over the Walshes’s lawn. In its claws was a small pack­age.

I hate those god­damn things,” Tom said. “They’re always fly­ing over my god­damn house. It’s got­ten so bad, Pat and I have to sleep with the win­dows closed, even when it’s nice out.”

I made a visor out of my hand and thought about the strange car and the man that wasn’t Tom leav­ing Tom’s house. Then I went into the bed­room and came back with the shot­gun Marjorie and I had kept in the very unlike­ly event that our house was ever bur­glar­ized. Now she has one of those state-of-the-art home defense sys­tems. The police arrive much faster than you’d think.

Here,” I said, hand­ing it to him.

Tom looked left and then right. Then he pro­ceed­ed into the street.

Is any­one com­ing?” he shout­ed.

I looked up and down the block again.

All clear!” I hollered, and then I watched Tom fit the shot­gun to his shoul­der and blast that son of a bitch right out of the sky.

~

Joseph Pfister’s fic­tion has appeared in PANK, Juked, decomP, The Fanzine, and Right Hand Pointing, among oth­ers, and was long-list­ed by The Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions 2013. He is a grad­u­ate of the MFA Writing pro­gram at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their dog, Roary. He is cur­rent­ly at work on his first nov­el. Visit him online at josephspfister.com or @joe_pfister.