This is my latest work in progress. It is set in a New England suburb, present day. 

The body of Miranda Finn was found by a maid she’d hired to clean her house for the upcoming annual Finn Christmas party which would never actually happen. Though few details were available, it was an apparent suicide. This begins the story of two people, three if you count the dead woman, in a subdivision located in suburban New England. None are remarkable, what makes them interesting is how similar they are to the more than fifty percent of the US population growing, fighting, fucking and living in suburbia. Though the details of this story are fictional, they are close enough to truth to be utterly terrifying. Next time you stand on your lawn laying seed in an attempt to drive out the grubs, or mowing away the fallen leaves in preparation for the inevitable winter snow blowing, look around to the neighbors who share the same landscape, connecting parcels divided only by fences, trees, or shrubs and remember they all hold secrets. The man next door has his wife tied up in a strange sex game they like to call, ‘the oil man cometh.’ The woman walking the pit bull, she passes off as a lab mix, has a fondness for swing and a bum hip, which would explain the barely there limp. Gaze longer, delve deeper and you’ll find what lies beneath, a real fucking suburban freak show.
The Kelly’s moved into the house in the middle of a heat wave. When he entered through the foyer, Cormac noticed it for the first time, the smell of rot. Why not? Someone had died in his bedroom or was it the playroom? The information hadn’t been offered liberally, instead they had to dig and the few Spartan details surfaced only because the woman, two houses down, had stopped by to warn them. The realtor, a bulbous, middle-aged woman, was beyond angry. She chased the neighborhood gossip out in the most polite way possible; she told her a dog had relieved itself on her lawn. Of course they couldn’t complain, Mia said the house had been a steal. In this neighborhood things had gone for double what they’d paid. But, since the settlement his wife had changed. Cormac supposed he would have too if he’d been the one hurt in the accident. After all she’d lost…
“Cor, can you help the movers Hun? They want to know where to put the armoire.” Why didn’t Mia call the damn thing what it was, a wardrobe? Lately she was the queen of spin. The money had gone to her head. Mia was going to travel the country selling the strange contraption she’d dreamt of as she slipped in and out of consciousness in the hospital. Cor sat by her side praying, though for what he wasn’t sure. There were times he thought it would be better if she didn’t wake up. Of course he would never admit to it now when she was back among the living even if it was in a more diminished form.
“When do you leave for Topeka?” Cor directed the movers as if directing traffic, arms shifting left or right, up or down, he felt like a plastic policeman in a cartoon world which is what the neighborhood seemed like. The houses were so similar it was hard to discern one street from the next, and the names printed on wooden signs at the corner of the lanes and circles didn’t help, Sycamore and Elm ran congruent to Maple and Pine. Mia assured him the differences were palpable, but to Cor they were merely variations on the same theme.
She never answered his question instead Mia pointed to the calendar; a color-coded nightmare Cor found gave him migraines. After trying to decipher the overly organized map of their life, he walked into the bedroom, checked the bathroom, and when he knew he was alone, lifted the toilet seat cover and vomited. He wondered if suburbia made him sick or maybe it was the lack of purpose he felt being a new stay at home father or was he a househusband? Either way, Cormac understood he had discovered purgatory at 6 Sycamore which ironically looked a lot like 6 Elm or was it 6 Maple? Cor wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and flushed the toilet. He had to help Mia pack and drive her to the airport. Though he hated to admit it, Cormac would be happy to have some time to miss his wife.
“Cor, where’s my purple Poppycock? I have a meeting with potential investors in Wichita.” Mia joined him in the bedroom where he pulled out the mesh contraption. He had often wondered if anyone would ever express an interest in his wife’s penile device.  Before Cormac had a chance to really think about it, the baby began crying. “Can you grab her?” Mia threw a pair of thong underwear in her travel bag. He didn’t want to ask, because he didn’t want to know and equally as troubling, he didn’t think he cared.
“Fine,” truth be told Cor was glad to have a reason to escape.
“She probably just did a boom boom.” Mia’s cutesy way of saying their six-month-old, Ryan, had taken a shit. He promised himself he’d have a talk with his wife when she returned from her business trip. Things weren’t working out since the accident, hell maybe things had taken a turn before that.
“Marriage is hard,” he heard the voice of his dead mother, “that’s why I keep trying. Your Ma ain’t a quitter.” This was true. In fact, she held the record of most marriages in Newcastle with five, two husbands she buried and three she divorced. Colleen Kelly thought of herself as a pioneer, the town held a different view which wasn’t quite as favorable. Cormac grew up a misfit whose only friend until he was 12 was an imaginary one. Saint Seamus was an excommunicated priest who was banished by Cormac’s mother in a traumatic ritual involving pig ears and red candles. Before she died, Cor’s mother apologized for whatever role she played in ruining his childhood. He forgave her more for himself than for her. Carrying grudges physically manifested in Cor, the one woman he slept with outside of his marriage called it a psychosomatic response. She tried to cure him, but wound up sleeping with him instead. While Cor wasn’t exactly handsome there was something about him women seemed to like, maybe the brogue.
“Hey there little girl,” Cormac held Ryan close to him and breathed in the scent of sour spit up and urine. She needed a bath, he added the task to his mental to do list, which with their first born, Shaun, had been his wife’s to do list. “Daddy will give you a bath after I take Mommy to the airport. The three of us will have a bit of a break.” He tried to never mention his feelings for his wife around Shaun, who at five, was beginning to understand and, more importantly, repeat everything Cor said. Shaun blabbed to Mia’s mother, “Daddy said he doesn’t enjoy the way you smell, a combination (which came out covinatin) of arse and old lady cream.”
Cor’s only response came in the way of denial, “Jeez Rose, I don’t know where he comes up with this stuff. I think we’ll have to look at what they’re letting him watch at daycare.” He was sure she didn’t buy it and Cormac vowed to watch his tongue with Shauny. Apparently, Ryan was the only he could speak openly with.
Cormac changed Ryan, loaded her into her carrier and headed outside to retrieve Shaun from the backyard. “Shaun, your Ma’s going on her trip. Let’s load into the car and take her to the airport.”
Shaun came running slamming into Cor’s bad knee before jumping into his booster seat and telling his daddy to, “buckle me so we can see the zoomers,” which was Shaun’s word for planes.
                The ride to the airport was less chaotic than he’d expected and to his surprise, the kids seemed fine with Mia’s departure. Ryan held tight to him while Shaun watched the zoomers , made flying sounds and twirled in circles.
“Maybe you’ll be a pilot someday Shauny,” Cor said on the way home as he floundered between radio stations.
“Do they make a lot of money?” his son asked from the back seat.
He’d never asked about money before, either Shaun was growing up or Mia’s constant talk about how much they had, or how much she wanted was easing and settling in his son’s head. “Shauny, you know money isn’t all that important, right?”
Shaun stared at him in the rear view from his place in the booster in the back, “But, you get to buy fings like cars and candy.” The fings which was meant to be things bothered Cor. Should they be helping Shaun in some way? He was in school now and if his speech was an issue…
“Daddy, you didn’t answer my question,” Shaun whined as Ryan made nonsensical noises from her car seat. Cormac wished Shaun were still a baby. These discussions which were becoming more and more frequent made him uncomfortable. After his own upbringing without a male father figure, none of his stepfather’s counted, he had no idea what it meant to raise children.
“Yes, they do make a fair amount of money I suppose. Being a pilot wouldn’t be a bad way to make a living.” Cor tried to imagine a grown up Shaun greeting passengers as they boarded his 747 and came up short. He wasn’t the most imaginative creature. Cormac was a man of reason and practicality. Mia was the dreamer.
“You don’t make any money because you don’t have a job.” Shaun said casually.
“No, your dad’s a real loser,” he almost said before catching himself. “I have a very important job, taking care of you and Ryan. Just because you don’t get paid for something doesn’t mean it isn’t significant.  Do you understand that?” The silence from the back was sudden and when he turned around he realized his son was asleep, drool dripped from his bottom lip onto his shirt, and his daughter was busying herself by watching the cars speed past them. Cor supposed he should be grateful for the quiet, but instead found it unnerving.
He turned up the radio and listened to a man preach about the negativity of living in modern times. Only when he pulled into his driveway did Cor realize he’d been listening to a holy roller on the local religious station. Cormac wanted to get inside, put the kids to bed and finish his crossword puzzle, but the night would be filled with more interesting things.
                The moving van pulled up early in the morning. It was the same company they’d used only a month prior when they’d unpacked everything and attempted to hit the restart button. Addison Everly dreaded the whole thing, but didn’t have a choice not after everything happened.
                “Babe, can you help Hunter with his homework? I have a meeting with the big boys.” Which big boys she wanted to ask her husband, but instead she smiled and moved from her current activity, spying on the neighbors to one much less interesting. Addie hoped Hunt wasn’t working on math, how she loathed numbers.
                When Henry left them in the kitchen, she didn’t mention the fact that it was Saturday because he didn’t differentiate the work week from the weekend. Henry found weekends irrelevant. His animosity for them had once been a shared connection between h e and Addie for it meant an end to the frenetic work they both found so intoxicating. Henry and Addie became parents twice by default. Neither enjoyed children much though Addie never said this aloud. Instead, she did her best to appreciate the offspring who seemed mini versions of herself and Henry. Of course, now she had to learn to become the one thing she never wanted to be, a stay at home mother. SAHM, the cute acronym the gen Xers came up with in their continued attempts to shorten everything, was as annoying as LOL or TTYT. The laziness of her generation sickened her. Instilling a fierce work ethic in her children was going to be a daunting task especially after the nanny coddled them for so long.
                “Mom, I have the whole weekend to do this and look,” Hunter held out his homework paper, “I’m done.”
                “You mean you are finished and,” she stared back at him wondering how he’d ever get into Harvard with his attitude, “you aren’t because there are several unanswered questions.”
                “Those are the bonus ones,” her son protested, “we don’t need to do them.” Hunter placed the paper down on the countertop and began to walk away.
                “Get back here young man. Let me ask you a question, do you want to get by in life doing the bare minimum?” She waited for a reasonable, thoughtful response.
                “Yup.” Was his only reply and a disappointing one at that.
                “How do you expect to get into a great college?” Addie filled her cup again. The caffeine was the only thing getting her through the day.
                “I might not even go to college. I’m thinking about becoming a football star.” Hunter smiled, grabbed an apple and walked into the backyard.
                "Fourth grade is a foundation year,” but he was gone and Addie sat alone in the kitchen talking to the walls, something which happened with alarming frequency lately.
                “Mom, pancakes?” Why was he back already, her son?
                Because he had just gotten out of bed and the whole exchange with the homework hadn’t happened. Instead she sat in her bathrobe at eleven am waiting for the day to either be over or present something interesting enough to propel her forward.
                “Pal,” Henry entered the room or had he always been there? “Mom needs a minute to get things cooking in here.”
                Hunter laughed at his father, “Punny Dad.”
                “Glad you see what I did with that joke.”
                Addie hated the simple ease between her husband and son. She wished for the same sort of relationship with her eight-year-old daughter, but Presley was prone to outbursts and drama. Her tantrums, well known in their old neighborhood, had ceased since the move but seemed to have been replaced with rebelliousness.
                “Honey,” where was the Babe reference from this morning? Right, the first version of her morning existed only in her mind. Henry wasn’t going to the office.  Would he hang around pretending to busy himself with yard work or would he call the babysitter to come watch her? “Can you fix the kids some breakfast or do you need me to call Mattie?” Mattie was the twenty-three-year-old grad student who could somehow manage to run the children’s lives better than Addie did. Henry leaned into Addie and kissed the top of her head. As he pulled back, she waited for the comment. “You need to wash your hair.” A critical statement passed off as a casual remark.
                Addie poured him a cup of coffee and pushed the ceramic mug, a map of the world embossed in white on the glass surface, across the table. “Black, the way you like it.”
                Henry took a sip and dumped the rest in the sink. He smiled as he stared out the window which made him seem scary, a deranged middle-aged suburbanite. The smile, which revealed a crooked incisor, the only imperfection in all 32 pearly whites, screamed, ‘we’re fine, just a man and his wife sipping coffee on a perfect Saturday morning as he watches his beautiful daughter from the kitchen window.’ But something was wrong, the coffee was filled with grounds because the wife forgot to add a filter and the daughter, whose beauty overshadowed her mother’s, though not by much, was burning ants alive with a mirror and piling their tiny bodies inside of what looked like an empty plastic container, the kind used to hold rings or stickers from the quarter machines down at Shanstacks.  The kids used to collect the stuff until the dog finally passed a large faux diamond ring, though the plastic used to hold it was never found. Mr. Jingles was still plagued with constipation and fits of nervous urination. While Addie couldn’t prove the plastic was the culprit, she certainly couldn’t disprove it.
                “New people moving in across the street,” Henry filled the cup with water, swirled it around and placed it in the sink. “Mattie sent a text. She’ll be here in an hour. You can handle things for a bit.” This time he stood by the door and blew a kiss across the kitchen. Addie found his fake attempt at affection more insulting and less honest than the previous comment about her hair.
                “Presley, keep an eye on your mother,” Henry yelled as he opened his car door and threw his golf clubs in the backseat. Presley ignored him and continued torturing and killing the neighborhood ants. Her pile would soon be large enough to warrant another tiny plastic container; maybe Jingles would finally shit one out.
                “Dad, do I have to?” Hatred oozed from Presley, and the child Addie once sang to years ago seemed dead. She’d been replaced with a bitter and resentful girl Henry tried to pass off as their little Taylor.
    “Presley, I’m not going to answer that,” he said as he pulled out of the driveway his smile still intact. Sounds from his car radio filled the street, a song about dreams or visions, something she remembered from a time when they didn’t hate each other, when they were the Everly’s everyone remembered, successful, wealthy, and sane. 

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