He met his neighbor in the driveway to explain the flashing lights and police officers across the street. With a wry smile he relayed the shooting that occurred before they took the man away. It was about time, too—that man and his wife in that gingerbread cottage of theirs. No kids or family to speak of. Every other lawn in the neighborhood manicured and new-looking as the houses, he motioned across the street with a sweep of his arm, everyone but that hideous eyesore. That prissy pink dollhouse was visible probably even from space.
Leading his neighbor toward the parking strip, he reminded him how they had all heard the altercations from the couple’s yard. Actual punching and scratching couldn’t compare in violence to their shouting and screaming. He presumed his neighbor remembered how the wife had nagged her husband ceaselessly while she worked at her flower beds and lawn decorations, and how, in the back yard behind their white picket fence, he had taken out his frustrations by cutting fire wood. The more she had yelled at him, he said, nodding in dismay, the more he had hacked away at the log pile. He must have chopped four cords of wood this summer. Sometimes, he searched for his neighbor’s eyes, you could see him glaring at her, panting, holding the axe for a moment’s consideration before splitting the next log.
When the shots and screams had echoed through the neighborhood, he knew what was happening. Like anyone else peeping over his window sill, he had seen the husband working his way from the carnage in back and changing clips while he churned the flowerbeds into heaps of brightly colored terra cotta chips. The wife must have given up trying to stop him and had resigned herself to following him around, sobbing and collecting broken pieces.
He chuckled to his neighbor about how the husband had stormed all over the yard, cutting them down like chopping so much wood. Pointing to a pile of shards near the front stoop, he said the female gnome had been shot “right in her big fat kitschy ass.”
Following his neighbor’s gaze to the driveway, he laughed at the bullet holes in the family of gnomes decal on the back of his wife’s mini-van. From there the husband had dropped the semi-automatic pistol and empty clips and set about squeezing off six more gnomes with a big revolver.
“He shattered every gnome on his property but one,” he said as the neighbor slipped away back home. Pointing toward the corner sidewalk, he continued, “It had to be the only one he ever liked, probably the only gnome he ever brought home as a gift for her. Squatting with its pants down,” he said, turning to find his neighbor gone. He looked back to the scene across the street and said aloud to himself, “. . . the grumpy little codger smiling and flipping the bird. You just have to know he left that as a statement to the rest of the neighborhood.”
B. E. Smith is a freelance writer from Utah. In addition to essay and article publications, his stories and poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines such as Gutter Eloquence, Zygote in My Coffee, The Legendary, Static Movement, the delinquent, and in the current issue of The Binnacle. He lives in Salt Lake City and is writing a memoir.