Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hand of Friendship

Now hear this, new neighbor! John and Linda Somerset have decided to combat urban alienation by hosting an open house for the whole cul-de-sac! We’ll be all moved in by Friday; come at six pm. The buffet menu is antipasto, chicken Tetrazzini, cioppino and black-bottom pumpkin pie. Kids and critters are welcome, but remember only the kids are welcome to our pool!

The note was put in the mailboxes of the other six houses in the cul-de-sac. Two of the houses were foreclosures, so long deserted that their “For Sale” signs had been stolen. The third house was occupied by a shift worker with a time conflict. The fourth house was occupied by a devout family who never fraternized outside their own church. The fifth house was occupied by a couple with dander allergies, who had to avoid animals. The sixth house was occupied by a registered sex offender who had to avoid children.

But the open house was not unattended. The city collected mail and circulars from deserted homes, and had no record of a permit for the Somerset pool. Therefore, at six exactly, a process server arrived with a court summons.

--Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California. Two of his short stories are Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and his novel, Vow of Silence, was favorably reviewed by Publishers Weekly. His website is at

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