“The Park” – Friday Fiction by Gary Picard

Here are the first chapters of a growing story by Gary Picard…

Introduction 

On the western edge of town, nestled warmly between the town dump on one side, and a major chemical plant on the other, sat the park. It was a private, planned community built after the war for returning veterans. Young married couples eager to start a family quickly snatched up the mobile homes with their cute gingham curtains and jalousie windows. They planted small trees, flowers, and vegetable gardens. As time passed the park grew and prospered. More land was cleared, new streets added and connected, with each one  named after a rodent. Officially it was called Squirrel Hollow but everyone called it The Park. In the late 1950’s the state built an east-west interstate highway only one hundred fifty yards from The Park.

Families became friends. Friday night was pot-luck dinner at the Friendship Hall. Everyone brought a favorite dish. It was a chance to meet new neighbors and to let all the kids play together. They enjoyed the closeness and friendship The Park had to offer. Life was good. 

Nobody seemed to notice the stream of white that eked constantly from the chemical plant smokestacks.

Sometime during the early 1970’s two brothers inherited The Park from an uncle who managed to kill his entire family and then himself. Even shot the family dog. No one knows why since he left no note. But there was plenty of speculation. Some attributed the killings to time spent in the war, while others claim he had financial problems. Most folks figured it probably was a combination of the two and that he just snapped. In all likelihood, that’s what happened. 

It was a very different park by the time Joe and Minerva moved there in the fall of  1993.

 

 

1

 

 

“Dude, should you be smoking? Don’t  ya gotta go to work?”

“Relax, I always get stoned when it’s Clean the Tanks Day. Besides, it’s the only way I can get through that suck-ass job.”

He took another hit and handed it back.

“Shits not bad.”

“Shouldn’t be for what I paid for it.”

“Can’t wait to get off this 2nd shift. This 2-11 shit blows.”

“How much longer?”

“Few more months then I can post out for a different job on 1st shift. And I’ll have paid off that Claireese bitch. Be glad to get her off my back. What time is it?”

“Almost noon.”

“Good. I got time for one more beer before I hafta get ready for work.”

Two and a half hours later as he clocked in at the chemical plant, Joe and Minerva pulled up in front of their new trailer, their cars packed with boxes and a smile on their face.

           

2

 

“Okay, this is the last box. That wasn’t so bad,” Minerva said as she kicked the screen door on the porch closed. “ Uch, what’s that smell Joe?” she asked as she walked into the kitchen. “Dead mouse in one of the cabinets. At least we know the traps the real estate agent left behind work. I put it in a bag and tossed it out back for now. Here let me help you with that,’’ and he took the box and put it on the counter. “Congratulations we’re officially moved in Minerva.” As he walked by he kissed her on the top of her head.

“I noticed there’s a car with its dome light on parked a few houses down. When I knocked on the door no one answered. Tried to close the door myself but it wouldn’t budge,” she said.

“Sweetie, this is a trailer park full of old people. They’re probably taking a nap.  After our walk tonight we’ll stop by and introduce ourselves.” 

“That sounds good to me,” she said, then proceeded to wander around their musty new trailer.

The condo they were renting for the past year and a half had been sold and Joe felt it was a sign to start thinking about making a bigger commitment.  He convinced Minerva they could live in a trailer cheaper than renting another apartment and if they ever got married some day, they could sell it for a down payment on a house. Minerva was hooked after she heard the word “married” and Joe put a modest deposit down on the trailer.

Minerva was walking around the kitchen and living room with her hands on her hips deciding  what will go where and Joe was emptying boxes and putting stuff where it belonged. “You know Joe, looking at things in this light- the way the sun doesn’t reflect off the brown linoleum, and how that matches the brown rug in the living room, and how that matches the brown  paneling , it seems, I don’t know…ugly and depressing in here.”

“I know. It’s like living in a cave. Don’t worry we’ll spruce it up. A little paint, some wallpaper and new carpet and this place will look like home.” He tried to sound eager and encouraging. The move had been his idea.

“I know, hon. If you say so. Hey, how about I make us a quick lunch. You know, first meal in our new home and all,” she offered.

“Ah, no. But thanks. You remember the first few months we began living together? All we had was pop tarts and beer.”

“That’s because the sex was so damned good I didn’t have time to cook.” She said this while twirling her hair with her finger.

She knew he loved it when she did that. “Yeah well luckily for me your talents lie in a different room of the house other than the kitchen,” he grinned. “Besides, I already took care of lunch. I ordered a pizza. Just let me throw some of this trash out in the dumpster and I’ll go pick it up.”  “Good, that’ll give me a chance to scrub the bathroom and get that all done.” Minerva was a fanatic about her bathroom. She said you could always tell what a person was like by how clean their bathroom was.

It wasn’t a bad place, Joe was thinking to himself as he ripped and stacked the empty boxes outside. Neat little trailers were lined up and down the street. Some had flowers, some had cute decorated mailboxes, and all had older late model cars parked out in front.

As he was stuffing loose newspapers into a large trash bag he caught something out of the corner of his eye. “Oh God, here we go,” he thought to himself.  Straightening up he turned to meet the old man that was walking towards him. “Hi, my name is Joe. We just moved in today.” The old man had his hands in his pockets and made no attempt to shake Joe’s. 

His lips were pursed as he looked Joe up and down, nodding his head. “I’m Henry. That your wife in there?”

“Wife? No. We’re not married. Minerva is my girlfriend.”

“Let me ask you something Joe…you get laid much?”

Thinking he must have heard wrong, a flabbergasted Joe asked, “Excuse me?”

“Laid. You know, poontang. Pussy?” he said with raised eyebrows. 

And before he could think, Joe shot out “Ah, well, you know I do alright for myself. Why do you ask?”

“Let me tell you Joe, you came to the right place. I bet I get more tail from the widows and divorced broads in this park than you get from that pretty little girl of yours. And I’ve made it my life’s work to see that each and every one gets the company and extra comfort they require from time to time. We’re going to be good friends Joe, you and I.”  And with a big smile, Henry slapped Joe on the arm. “Welcome to The Park.”

 

     “Minerva I’m back,” Joe hollered. By the time he arrived with the pizza, the bathroom was cleaned and stocked with fresh new towels, assorted toiletries and a new shower curtain. She might have been in her early thirties, but with her hair up in a ponytail and her cheeks flush from work, Minerva still looked 21. Walking down the long hallway towards the kitchen wiping her hands, Joe thought she never looked better.

“Thanks I’m starved.” Then she took a huge un-lady like bite out of a corner piece. “Joe, there was a mouse in the toilet,” she told him as she talked around a mouthful of hot pizza.

“How did you get it out?”

“I didn’t. I flushed him.”

“Oh,” he said while slowly shaking his head up and down thoughtfully. “Hey Minnie, I just had the weirdest conversation with one of our new neighbors. Promise me you’ll stay away from a guy named Henry.” He cracked a beer and handed it to her then took one for himself.

“Henry? He’s a sweet old man.”

“How the hell would you know?” He looked at her doubtfully.

“Well, after you left he came over and introduced himself. He was on his way to the dumpster and he wanted to stop by and say ‘Hi.’ He seems very friendly.”

They ate half the pizza, drank two beers each then christened the kitchen right then and there. Afterward, they had a few more beers then fell asleep on the kitchen floor propped up against the cabinets. Totally exhausted they never made their nightly walk, nor did they see the yellow smoke pouring out of the smokestacks across the highway or the funny spots on the leaves they walked over as they unloaded their cars.

 

The sound of Joe shrieking instantly woke Minerva. She saw him hopping and scratching himself all over.

“Joe what the hell’s wrong?” All he could do was point.

Issuing from one of the bottom cabinets was a constantly moving line that ended at the pizza box in the center of the kitchen floor on that lovely brown linoleum. Whatever pizza was left over from the night before was now covered with little brown ants. Minerva carefully closed the box then tilted it into a trash bag, tied it up and threw it out-side. Rummaging through a box on the porch she found the half can of hornet/wasp spray and doused the remaining ants on the floor and in the cabinet.

“Charming place we have here, isn’t it,” she whispered.

After Joe got himself and Minerva under control he offered to take her out for breakfast. Then they could swing by the supermarket and stock up on food and supplies.

“Fine Joe. You really know how to show a girl a good time, don’t you?”

They showeredtogether then headed out.

Two police cruisers and a crowd of people greeted them when they returned a few hours later.  Something was going on at one of their neighbors place.  Henry was talking to one of the police officers when Joe and Minerva walked up.

“Joe, you’re not going to believe this,” Henry said. Henry looked at Minerva then winked at her. “Hello Minerva.”

“Joe, old man Jablonsky is dead. They just found him inside. Apparently he’s been dead for a couple of days. He usually talks with his son in Worcester a few times a week and when the son couldn’t reach him, he called the cops to come check up on him.” Joe and Minerva stared at the car with it’s dome light still on, parked in front of the now late Mr. Jablonsky’s house. Joe laughed nervously, Minerva cried.

They had moved in less than twenty four hours ago.

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