Flash Fiction Friday: Eschatology Estates
by Allen Griffin
John Johnson and Harry Smith attempt to look out the window but the blinds shake like a wet dog. Together they pry open the front door. A caravan of tornadoes moves up and down the streets of the subdivision. Various holiday ornaments are sucked into the vortex and flung like castaway debris into the wrong front yards. A paper sign stapled to the light pole on the corner reads “Eschatology Street Sale”. The edges of the sign crumple in the wind and the ink runs like tears of mascara. A man in a black body stocking folds himself up and climbs into a mailbox, pulling the little metal door shut behind him.
The storm passes and John and Harry run to the middle of the street and are joined by all the rest of the Bills and Steves, Scotts, Mikes and Davids that make up the men of the neighborhood. They survey the damage; try to calculate insurance deductibles in their heads.
Despite the lack of significant destruction, their faces don grimaces like masks of despair, fighting back tears as they contemplate the fragility of it all, their homes, their stuff…their lives. They stare at their shoes and kick little pebbles in the road.
The tornadoes remain near. The chaos sounds like echoes of passing locomotives bouncing off the vinyl siding of every home. John imagines them leveling the community pool while Harry wonders if they might get stuck in a cul-de-sac.
Jennifer Johnson and Hannah Smith and the rest of the wives emerge from their homes, faces perfectly made-up, spines straight as stiletto heels, shoulders back and chins up. They go to their husbands and place delicate hands on their shoulders or stand with fists pressed against their hips, whatever the situation calls for. Every man is different and the wives know what they are doing.
“Time to man up.”
“Are you just gonna stand there while those tornadoes are still nearby?”
“The man I married wouldn’t take this lying down.”
High on inspiration, each man runs from the street into his respective garage. First, they turn on their sprinkler systems to heal the damage to the lawns and then each grabs the nearest blunt instrument at hand. They reconvene in the middle of the road holding golf clubs and hammers, baseball bats and rakes over their heads. They head down the street ready to do battle while the wives walk back inside and continue on with their business, straightening up the house, getting those details that the housekeepers missed, or just relaxing with a diet soda or a glass of wine, whatever the situation calls for.
Once the street is empty, the man in the mailbox pushes open the little metal door and steps out. He spends a moment gathering pebbles from the street and stuffing them in a hidden pocket. When he finishes, he brushes himself off, tries to keep his head-to-toe nylon suit the perfect shade of midnight.
A black hole floating above the concrete, the man-in-black looks up and down the street confirming once again he is alone. He reaches into another hidden pocket, impossibly deep, and pulls out several pieces of paper which are rolled up like scrolls and a staple gun. He then goes up to each front door and staples the scrolls right below the knocker.
Night descends and the men return looking more disheveled than usual. Chasing tornadoes bears no resemblance to a tough day at the office. They part with few words and walk to their respective homes. Each pulls his scroll from the door, reads it before going inside. They stick their golf clubs and baseball bats in the umbrella holder, and say nothing about the eviction notices. Their beds call to them like an irresistible siren song.
Each man shares a dream. Bonfires burn on the front lawns. Their wives always smile and they take turns doing the laundry at the retention pond. Wild animals forage through overgrown soccer fields. Families hunt together or build furniture or conduct healing rituals, wild screams in the dead of night, all life now nocturnal, or whatever the situation calls for.
Allen Griffin is a writer and musician living in Indianapolis. His work has appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, The Mustache Factor and several other cool places. He also plays bass for Profound Lore recording artists Coffinworm.