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.”
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.