Some Trouble Next Door

Fiction by Craig Rodgers

The dogs won’t stop tonight. They’re barking, they’re yipping. The sound of their bodies hitting the fence with some force comes and comes again.

Andrew turns the blinds but he sees only streetlight falling onto the road. He thinks, maybe I’ll go over there. He thinks, shut those dogs up. He twists the blinds closed.

A raised voice comes, its edges softened by walls. It quiets and then it is there again. Not quite a shout and not quite not. Man or woman. A voice determined but vague. The dogs go on barking.

Andrew sits. He thinks, I’ll put on a movie, but he does not. He thinks, it’s fine, it’s fine.

There comes a thump, heavy and dense, somewhere close, not here. Andrew stirs and he waits. The dogs are louder now.

Blue and red swirls flash beyond the window. He stands, he lifts a blind to look out. A patrol car idles at the curb. He waits. Lights go on spinning. He sits down again. The hour weighs. He lets his eyes fall shut. When he opens them the lights are gone.

He starts. He thinks, I’ve fallen asleep. He sits forward. He touches his face. He thinks there was a noise, he tries to remember. And here it comes again. A gentle knock. Tap, tap, tap at the door.

He lifts a blind, and a man is there. A stranger, fresh faced, hair combed, eyes ahead at the door. The stranger’s face is placid, mouth flat, neutral, an arrangement of features in between expressions. Andrew thinks, who is this man? He thinks, what could he want?

Andrew taps at the window.

The neutral face at first flinches, it recoils, and then it is animating, it is reworking itself in the approximation of something familiar and safe. A smile, friendly. The stranger points at the door.

“No,” says Andrew.

The stranger goes on smiling. He points to the door again. Andrew shakes his head. He again says no. The stranger frowns, he looks puzzled. He turns his eyes to the door. Andrew lets the blinds fall shut. He is backing away, he’s looking from window to door and back. He sits down. Minutes go by. Then the sound comes, that tap, tap, tap. He closes his eyes. He holds them closed tight. Heart thumps. He breathes, in, out, in.

The sound has not come again, does not come again. Time has come loose. Five minutes, an hour, he does not know. He thinks, have I been asleep? He thinks, is it over?

When he opens his eyes the lights are there. Red and blue flashing, brighter now. The window is filled up with their insistence. He stands, he comes close. He reaches a hand to the blinds. Those lights go on, they spin and spin and spin. He leans in, he listens. He waits. He swallows with throat dry. He breathes, he waits for some change. The dogs are all silent now.

Craig Rodgers

Craig Rodgers is the name on several books ghostwritten by a gaggle of long dead Victorian spirits.