Harry Polson, a manager at a grocery store, pulled up to his new house in a small housing development outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. While unloading his belongings into the house, a man walking his dog approached him in the driveway.
“How do you do! I’m Tom…I live in that house,” the man said, pointing to the house right next to Harry’s.
“Oh, I guess we’re neighbors then?” Harry said.
“It looks that way. Where are you from?” Tom asked.
“Is that right. What brings you here?”
“My job relocated me out here.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what is it you do?”
“I work for the grocery chain, Wentworth Foods. They opened up a new store out here and they choose me to run it.”
“Lucky you. Well, I’ll let you get back to unloading the rest of your stuff. If you need any help don’t be afraid to ask.”
“Thanks, I really appreciate it.”
Harry continued his unloading and Tom went back into his house. As Harry finished moving the rest of the heavy furniture into the house, he heard the sounds of people arguing, coming from Tom’s house. Harry paused for second and heard both a man’s and a woman’s voice. He tried to mind his own business as he continued to work.
The rest of the weekend, while Harry arranged the furniture in his new home, he heard sporadic arguing from Tom’s house. A few days later, Harry walked over. There was a light on in the kitchen and Harry decided to knock on the screen door. Seconds later Tom came to the door, but didn’t open it.
“Well hello neighbor,” Tom said, greeting Harry.
“How are you doing?” Harry asked.
“Harry, right?” Tom asked.
“Yes. I was wondering…if you weren’t busy, would you care to join me for a drink back at my house?” Harry asked.
Tom paused and turned around, looking back into the house. “Uh, yeah sure, why not. Let me go tell my wife,” Tom said.
Tom left Harry standing at the doorway, with the main door open and the screen door shut. A minute passed as Harry stood at the doorway, waiting. "I'm going to the house and that’s final!” Tom’s voice carried to the front door. “I'm just having a drink with our neighbor, okay?"
"Well I don't like it! You don't even know this guy, Tom, and I don't want you to leave in this state!" another voice shouted back. Harry presumed that the other voice was Tom's wife.
Harry stood there, feeling even more uncomfortable. "I'm going and that's final!" Tom shouted and slammed the door behind him.
The men walked back to Harry's place and sat down in the kitchen, slamming back a couple of beers. Tom looked around the kitchen and turned his head toward an empty living room.
"So there's no Mrs. Polson around?" Tom asked.
"No, not anymore. I used to be married but ended up getting a divorce several years back," Harry said.
"Couldn't do it any more, huh?"
"My ex-wife and I drifted apart years before we split up. I worked long hours at the store and she had her own side business. We just didn't make time for each other and after a while...hell, I even thought she was cheating on me," Harry said, starring at his bottle.
"Wow that's too bad. Marriage is a beautiful institution but it's not for everyone. I guess I've been blessed," Tom said with a grin.
"How long have you been married, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Eighteen years. Eighteen glorious years with a wonderful person."
"That's quite a long time."
"Yeah, don't get me wrong, there were some rough patches along the way, but we always seemed to work them out," Tom said.
"That's where my ex and I failed," Harry said, shaking his head.
"Sounds like you have regrets?"
"More or less, but I guess some people are not meant to be together, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah I do."
"Well, you're wife sounds like a great lady. We should all get together sometime."
"Yeah," Tom said, looking a little uncomfortable. He chugged the rest of his beer. "All right, I better get going. The misses hasn't been feeling well lately and I should get back to her."
"I don't want to keep her waiting. Tell her I hope she feels better and I look forward to meeting her," Harry said.
"Yeah, I will," Tom said, walking to the door.
"Have a good night Tom."
"You too and thanks for the beer."
The following week at the neighborhood drug store, Harry went in to pick up his eczema prescription at the pharmacy. Tom walked up behind Harry, who was already standing in line.
“Hello neighbor. How’ve you been?” Harry asked Tom.
“Fine, and yourself?”
“Can’t complain. Hope your wife is feeling better?”
“She seems to be.”
“Good to hear that.”
Tom gazed down at his phone, which was buzzing. Harry turned around to face Tom, who was trying to make some more small talk while they waited in line. “Hey, in an hour or so I’m meeting up with a couple people from work over at Eddie’s. If you’re not too busy you should come join us,” Harry offered.
“Uh, yeah okay. Just for a while,” Tom said, looking a bit flustered.
“Okay that sounds good.”
After the men were done in the drug store Tom followed Harry to Eddie’s, a local neighborhood bar/restaurant. It was a little early and the two decided to get themselves drinks and shoot some pool in the back room. Tom, who still seemed preoccupied with something, sat on a stool at the side of the room and watched Harry play Rick, who was a regular.
“So Tom, how long have you lived here in town?” Rick asked.
“I…Well, I lived here for about ten years since moving back,” Tom said.
“So you’ve lived here before and came back?” Rick asked.
“Yes. I grew up here and moved away for a while, and then decided to come back.”
“Wow, you came back…That’s unusual,” Rick said, surprised.
“Why is it unusual?” Harry asked.
“Because not very many people come back here once they leave. At least not since I’ve been here. Many people consider this to be a dead-end town, but I guess it depends on how you look at it, right Tom?” Rick asked.
“Yeah I guess so.”
“It’s strange that I haven’t seen you around, considering you’ve lived here as long as you have,” Rick suggested.
“Yeah, well, I don’t get out too much,” Tom responded, flustered by the question.
“You live right down the street from Harry?” Rick asked.
“Just you, alone?”
“No, I’m married,” Tom said, still looking uncomfortable.
“Oh yeah, who’s your wife? Maybe I know her?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Tom looked at his phone and stood up off the stool. “I have to get this,” Tom said, storming to the bathrooms in back .
“Your friend seems a little strange, Harry,” Rick commented.
“He’s just a little shy, that’s all,” Harry said.
The rest of Harry’s group from work showed up and they ordered more drinks. Harry glanced at the clock on his cell, and found it strange that Tom had been in the back for so long.
Harry walked to the back of the restaurant but there was no sign of Tom near the exit door, so he went inside the men’s room. A man walked out after finishing his business. Other than that the bathroom appeared to be empty. Harry knelt down and looked under the stalls. No feet. He couldn’t understand where Tom had disappeared to. Scratching his head, Harry began to walk out of the bathroom; and as he opened the door he heard a faint voice coming from the very back stall. Harry about-faced and slowly walked to the end stall.
“I not ready to come home yet. Please don’t make me come home…No I don’t think I can…Please honey…Of course I love you…I love you more than life itself,” said a voice that sounded like Tom’s.
Harry went to the foot of the stall and stood there, not knowing what to say.
“Please don’t be like this. Please!” Tom said in a whiny voice.
“Tom is that you?” Harry asked, knocking at the stall door.
There was a brief silence for a couple of seconds. “Yes I’m fine. I’m fine I’ll, I’ll be right out… I’ll be out in a couple of minutes.”
“Okay, take your time,” Harry said awkwardly, and walked away feeling confused.
Harry rejoined his work buddies and twenty minutes passed before Tom walked in from the bathroom. Tom looked extremely flustered, and strode past the group of guys. Harry chased after him and intercepting him at the door. “Tom, what are you doing? Where are you going?”
“I have to go,” Tom said, walking around Harry to the door. “It’s my wife; she needs me!”
“Well, I hope everything’s all right and I’ll see you soon, okay?” Harry said.
“Okay,” Tom said, storming out of the restaurant.
Back at the house, Harry decided to call it a night. He noticed that his garbage was overflowing, and figured he would take out the trash before he went to bed. As Harry walked to the side of the house with the garbage bag, he heard more yelling and screaming coming from Tom’s place. Harry threw the trash away and walked a little closer to hear what all the commotion was about.
“You don’t listen to me anymore!” a woman’s voice shouted. Harry assumed it was Tom’s wife.
“That’s not true ! I always listen to you. You’re not being fair!” another voice shouted out. That was definitely Tom.
“You are worthless and I want you out of the house!” Tom’s wife yelled.
“Please, I’ll try to be better from now on!” Tom yelled, pleading his case. Harry backed up and went back inside, feeling that he shouldn’t be listening to the private quarrel.
Two gun shots erupted in the distance, waking Harry from a deep sleep. Worried for his safety, Harry called 911 and looked out his window. Tom staggered out of his house, holding his side. Harry ran out his front door and intercepted Tom in the street.
“Tom, what the hell happened?” Harry said frantically. “I heard some gun shots!”
“I shot her…she stabbed me and then I shot her. The bitch stabbed me!” Tom yelled like a crazed maniac. The police came rolling up the street with their sirens blazing. Tom panicked and began to run down the street. Harry went after him and was grabbed by one of the other neighbors.
“Let him go, he’s crazy!” the neighbor shouted at Harry.
Tom was cut off by a police squad car and was tackled to the ground by two policemen. Harry, with the neighbor behind him, ran over to the police.
“His wife! His wife is still in the house and he said he shot her!” Harry shouted to the police, trying to get their attention.
“What do you mean?” the neighbor asked.
“Just what I said! His wife is still in the house!” Harry snapped back.
“That’s impossible…Tom’s wife died three years ago from cancer!” the neighbor said.