Carl was always a little unsure about moving into such a suburban area. All these cookie-cutter houses right next to each other were strange to him. Every yard was neatly manicured with an excessive number of flowers in their yards. All the cars were perfectly clean and the neighbors seemed just a bit too happy and friendly. It was as if none of them had lived in the real world where people can be mean, cruel and Home Owners Associations did not exist to govern the appearance of one’s house and yard.
What was he to do though? He had retired from the Army and his wife was now making the money. It was his turn to go where her job took them. And it took them to a suburban center of gravity it seemed. Carl was lucky though; his wife had a great paying job at the Pentagon near Washington D.C. She worked in a very secure building, received good pay, great benefits, and Carl got to stay home and do what he wanted during the day. Which mostly consisted of suburban house dad duties.
His routine was fairly well set by now. The family woke up at 6:30 P.M. and started their days. Carl would hobble down and make coffee while his wife Alexandra showered. Once done with their morning rituals they woke up their precious daughter Kiera and drank many cups of coffee over breakfast and the news. Alexandra would then get her stuff for work and drive off in her little compact car to the metro stop. She would be gone until 530 P.M.
Carl and Kiera would then get her lunch packed, backpack ready, and walk to the bus stop. As the two walked by the rows of townhomes each neighbor would be out manicuring their yard and say good morning to the pair walking by. There were always some neighborly, and very suburban-like, comments about Carl’s yard needing work, or the block BBQ coming up, or how adorable Alexandra and Carl were.
Once Kiera was on the bus and headed for school Carl would go back home and continue to unpack boxes, put away the items and sometimes try his luck at hanging something on a wall without his wife. So far, he was zero for nine on item placement. Every day seemed the same; day in and day out transpired like this.
To break up the monotony Carl and Alexandra would take Keira to the playground while the other suburban parent's BBQs and had picnics in the park. It was nice to break it up once in a while. That is where Carl met his next-door neighbor Mike.
Mike was a United States Marine. What Carl liked about Mike was that he seemed like a badass like Carl was when he was in the Army.
And like that, a close friendship and bond was made. The two would hang out on the weekends and talk shit about the suburban lifestyle killing them. They would sit and poke fun at the civilians in the area who had never served in the military. Those were the same ones that would complain about tax assessments on their house. One of their neighbors, Kyle, complained that the kids in the neighborhood played too much basketball and it bothered him.
Going from serving in the Army to being a house dad was by far the hardest challenge Carl had ever faced. Nearly every time one of his neighbors complained about silly suburban stuff carl was in his mind yelling at them for not being worried about how the enemy was training or how they had never accomplished anything hard in their life.
Once Carl did lose it on a neighbor. His neighbor James was complaining how hard it was to manage his team of four people at work. For reasons unknown to Carl this set something off in him. Carl snapped at James laughing at first. That quickly turned into making fun of James as supervising four people was a job, they gave to low-level Sergeant in the Army. At the end of his career, Carl was supervising over 150 Soldiers daily! Then the tirade of curse words flowed from his mouth like it was a waterfall.
Poor James had run almost crying when Carl was done with him. Carl was happy that at least today was different from all the others. It was the first time that he got to yell at one of his suburban neighbors!
Things changed after that. The neighbors were not as friendly anymore. Instead of their usual good morning cheer when he walked Keira to the bus stop, he was met with glares and whispers. It did not bother Carl that much though. At least now he did not have to play their silly suburban politics and manners.
Three more weeks went by like this. Carl and Mike would sit on their balconies and drink old-fashioned’s while smoking cigars. Life was good. His relationship with Alexandra was the best it had been in years. Kiera was growing up fast and had just turned 8 years old. He was starting to like it here. So much so he started to buy his wife flowers every week just because!
Then it happened.
One day Carl was coming home from the local nursery and garden center with a truck bed full of plants, small trees, and seeds. Carl decided he would accept the suburban Homeowners Association type lifestyle some. Plus, he was about to be fined $800 for failing to plant flowers in his yard and maintaining the HOA yard standard.
Carl propped his backyard gate open as he made multiple trips from the truck and his backyard. When he was done Mike came over and helped him dig up the yard and the deeper holes for the small trees. Mike did leave early though to pick up his wife from the airport. Thankfully though most of the work was done by 1000 A.M. Carl decided it was time to make himself a screwdriver… or three. I mean no point in being retired if you don’t day drink.
Carl’s smartphone starting going crazy with alerts. He should have read them but he was already three screwdrivers into the morning. You see, if he had read them then he would have known about how all the law enforcement in the area was looking for a man who had just used a knife to end five people’s lives a half-mile away across the wooded area his yard backed up to. Unfortunately for Carl, he was good at ignoring his phone unless it was the special ringtone he had for his wife or daughter’s school.
Carl stood up to walk over to his phone to turn it off when he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. Then everything turned black. It seemed like he was floating in black nothingness. Just like all the other times, he had been knocked out.
Carl had not seen his assailant but he quickly figured they snuck in thru the back gate he forgot to close. They must have snuck up on him and knocked him out. Must be a common house burgerler he thought while floating in the void of unconsciousness. Carl felt himself coming back from the floating freedom he was in. It was all too familiar to him. His sight came first, blurry as can be of course. He saw a man pacing around in his man cave near the window. He appeared to be muttering to himself but Carl could not yet be sure.
Then sounds starting flooding into his ears. Yes, the man was muttering to himself. He could hear sirens getting quieter as they were going farther away. Carl still had no idea what was going on until he heard the unknown man mutter something about, he lost the cop's trail but now what will he do. The man was holding a knife with blood on it and had bloodstains on his clothes. It was apparent to Carl he had either just finished gutting a deer or killed someone. Since there were no deer around here Carl went with the second possibility.
Then sharp pain surged in his body emanating from his head followed by the sensation of warm liquid slowly flowing down his body. Carl remembered that he had been knocked out and now knew who had the balls to do it. The man kept pacing and looking out the window very worried about something. Carl was pretty sure no one saw what happened since the fence around his yard was over six feet tall.
That strange man stopped pacing when he saw Carl waking up. He quickly checked the bungee ropes he used to bound Carl. They were secured still which gave the man a sense of control. Then he looked at Carl’s pictures in the room and saw he had a daughter and a wife. The man stared at carl with a look that can only be described as a wolf’s smile before it killed. Carl knew he had to do something. But what he was bound in his basement and alone.
The man licked a picture of his daughter while staring at Carl. The rage and anger inside Carl grew like a volcano about to explode. The years of training, the deployments, the horrible things he did while deployed all poured out from that guttural place that he kept those memories locked away. In a split-second, Carl became the embodiment of rage shaped by twenty years of training to kill in the Army. He knew that this man, whoever he was, meant his entire family harm. Especially his daughter.
Carl stood quickly and bungees around his legs snapped free. He let out a blood-curdling war cry at his unknown enemy. He lunged forward at his enemy at a speed that should not be possible for a man. His enemy tried to react, he tried to bring his knife up but he was too distracted by the picture of Carl’s daughter. Carl rammed his shoulder into the man's gut as hard as he could. Then he drove his feet into the ground and lunged forward again attempting to knock the man off his feet.
The rage inside of Carl made his legs five times stronger than what he was normally capable of. This rage and strength propelled Carl into the man’s gut again and sent both of them flying thru the larger window in the room and into the backyard.
The crash thru the window knocked the air out of both of them. They lay there riving in pain, multiple small cuts on both of them starting to bleed. Carl’s unknown enemy started to get up first. He reached for his knife muttering to himself about one more kill won’t change anything. He straddled Carl who was still recovering from the crash thru the window.
Carl was too tired and in too much pain now to fight back. The adrenaline and rage had left him, almost like it was bound to the room he just left. He lay there looking into the glazed-over eyes of his enemy. Then a large foot came crushing into the man’s face. Teeth and blood flew out in what seemed like slow motion. It was his neighbor, Mike. He must have seen or heard the two crashing thru the window. Mike looked at Carl, helped him up, and just nodded at him. With that Carl’s unknown enemy stood shaking his head while more teeth and blood streamed from his mouth and cuts.
Mike and Carl then started to methodically beat the unnamed intruder relentlessly. They both knew that this man wanted only to hurt and kill. Their combined training in the military would not let a threat like him escape this especially after what he did to his daughters’ picture. No one touches Carl’s daughter…no one. When the two were done with the man he was just a cold lifeless shell of what he was fifteen minutes ago.
For the first time since it began Carl spoke. “Thank you, Mike. He was going to kill me and my family I think.”
“I know. Let’s bury his body. I don’t think anyone has seen anything and I doubt the police will let us go after what we did to him.”
With that, the two patched up Carl’s wounds and started burying the man in the garden using the holes they dug earlier. Once that was done the broken window was removed and a tarp was placed over the hole. The garden turned out beautifully when the two were done. When Carl’s wife and daughter got home that day, they were mad and worried about him. His wife was madder about how Carl’s day drinking had finally led to him breaking something, the window specifically. His daughter was worried that her dad had no idea still how to match colors on flowers.
Weeks passed and the police figured the killer had eluded them. Carl’s garden is flourishing and the window has been replaced. Carl and Mike’s bond has grown stronger due to their shared secret now. Living in suburbia seemed ok to Carl every time he looked at his amazing garden.
Turns out life in suburbia is not too bad after all.
About the author
I am a 38 year old retired Army Military Police Officer. I am married to my absolute best friend and the most amazing, supportive and intelligent woman I know. We have three children and currently live in Virginia.