Angelo was a big man. Tall as an F-250. Wide as the door frame he rested against. Like it was a lightpole in some zany musical and he was the other-side-of-the-tracks bruiser, hitting heavy on the straight-and-narrow blonde.
“Every house here has gotta sump pump. Some even have two. Whatya gonna do.” A statement; a fact. “We’re below the water table. Right?” Now with the confession.
His face stretched with an enhanced youthfulness. His eyes told other stories. The miles and years added a tarnish to that twinkle.
Nic met Angelo the day he and Ashley moved to Haddon Heights. The upper-middle class township that was more upper than middle. Philly was a bridge span away to the west. AC and other Jersey shore points were less than an hour east. New York could be hit within the runtime of a typical Scorsese movie. Haddon Heights had a thriving main street that was small town chic. Long streets shadowed with trees and kids on bikes. And neighbors whose business extended well past their own manicured lawns.
“Now he tells me,” Nic winced. He published an exaggerated feint of anger to his wife. Ashley stood her ground. Her resistance to the lovable man-child was an armor of scabs. Her weakness was his flawless Tom Brady smile and a chin dimple that could swallow Ben Affleck whole. “My pump’s been running non-stop. Gongs every fifteen minutes like a grandfather clock.” What remained of his North Jersey accent escaped with a breath of annoyance. Angelo had heard worst in high school drama performances.
“Things good with you, Ang?” Ashley asked. “This storm?” She sighed. She shook her head in disbelief. In relief.
Some storms can uproot trees, slashing away at the pavement as easily as slicing open an Amazon box. Others can bring a street together as a giddy calm trickles through the survivors on their first venture outside. This one accomplished both in style. The late summer, later afternoon gale was a volley of pelting downpour and accompanying gusts of 50 plus that roared west to east. An eighty-seven year-old sycamore made like Melanie and was gone with the wind. Landed in the neighbor’s pool. The displaced water, no longer in its cool container, rushed everywhere looking for a new body. A small lake’s worth flooded Nic’s backyard and into his half-finished basement. Those neighbors? They were suddenly dealing with a limb the length of Montana rudely pushing in their pool-facing sunroom. Roof shingles galore giving it companionship.
Homeowners street-wide began congregating once the gray skies gave way to blue. Communing. Consoling. Even whispering grateful little secrets of pleasure, of escape. The buzzsaw whirrs would not burrow into everyone’s eardrums until tomorrow. The beeps from the PSE&G utility trucks echoed in the distance.
From the basement, the pump snapped on. Drained. Clunked off.
Nic rolled his eyes at the repetitive sound. He looked dead on at Angelo as if he was offering key evidence to the prosecution. Trying to project his misery. His house felt saturated. What was once silent and stationary was now noisy and active. A cycle of draining, flushing, refilling, absorbing into his life. He knew this was a reminder to be prepared. Not to get cocky in vigilance. But wincing at the thought of the cleanup ahead.
Angelo’s attention was not on cleaning up. Or displaced water. Or once skyward boughs now down with gravity. He was holding court. Performing. Even if his stage was Nic and Ashley’s portico. The storm was a great excuse to casually wander across the way. Like worms rising to ground level after the spring rain.
Angelo, both a divorcee and widower, lived in the late-century two-story across the street with his girlfriend and her three teen daughters. The moving truck was still in front of Nic and Ashley’s when he and Cecilia carried over a hot lasagna and cold salad, gooey chocolate chip muffins and dry Spanish wine, boxed alongside their welcome-to-the-neighborhood smiles.
That was in April. Nic was more interested in getting the cable working. Broadcasting the Phillies game on that new 62” Samsung rather than playing the meet-and-greet game.
Recently? He’s come to enjoy Angelo’s casual strolls across the street. The status check-ins. The impromptu history lessons of McKinley Lane.
Angelo’s introductions to other neighbors came with a direction. A description. A fault. And the occasional charity. “Two doors down. With the vinyl siding? Single mom. Always out with different guys. My girls take turns with the babysitting.”
“Over there? Her husband died the same day as Kennedy. She’s a hoarder. I make sure her lawn is cut. Driveway is shoveled.”
Neighborhood faults. Dramas. All that history. Angelo dispatched epics throughout the summer like Homer around the fire. As the count of empty wine bottles increased so too did the proliferation into the realms of imagination. The neighbor who continually has missing cats? Sacrifices to the devil. The guy with the landscaping business? His driveway full’a mowers and gas cans? Heroin junkie. Never wears T-shirts. Even when mowin’ in a’hunner degrees.
Like all lies there is always that basement of truth. No matter how shallow.
One gorgeous summer night, with Ang already heavy in a second bottle Pinot Grigio bottled at a time from before the housing crisis, an accidental confession slipped right off that grape soaked tongue.
“Now Clarence,” Angelo taking a breath. Motioning with his index finger. “Right next to you?”
“Oh yeah,” Nic responded. “Clarence. He’s a character.”
Clarence was retired. Nic often spying the older man outside in his yard. Clarence would wear boxer shorts and a wife beater with a white, casino hotel robe draped over those wide shoulders. Untied and open across his beer gut. Dark socks of absolute black compressing on tiny white shins. Tan Reeboks that were also untied.
Clarence would eternally swat at mosquitoes while watering his hydrangea at one in the morning.
Clarence only left his house for Saturday evening mass in his Buick Riviera. Or the occasional grocery pickup from that old Italian market on Marlton Pike.
Nic waited a beat before adding his own lie. “Quiet.”
Clarence would never talk. He would scream. Loudly. And often in Italian, no matter the time of day. Whether directed at his nephew, into his Android, or upwards at the saints in the heavens. Nic could pick up cugino and innato and a shitload of exclamatory slurs but would never engage the man in conversation. He would wave. He would nod. He would thank his realtor for finding a house with a security fence.
“Yeah, Clarence,” Ang confessed. “Back in the eighties, Clarence was quite the house painter.” Wink-wink, hush-hush, and on the QT, was quickly added.
Yeah. Good old Clarence. All nods and smiles with a twist of lime.
Fate filled the silence as the bottle tipped over, crashing onto the brickwork.
“Shit!” Angelo yelped, jumping back to avoid the splash and glass. “See that?” his exclamation mixed with a laughter of relief. “That busted open like a ripe antelope!”
Cecelia moved to fetch a broom as Ashley responded with confusion. “An… antelope?”
“Yeah! C’mon,” Angelo’s slurring words betraying the intoxication. “You know… those bowling ball… whatchamacallits…”
Laughter as infectious as a Robin Williams routine followed the realization. “Cantaloupe? You mean cantaloupe. Right?” From then on, “antelope” was the choice word for any and all substitutions. And the animal became Angelo’s spirit animal, providing grace, speed, and silence.
The storm runoff was still sluicing down the graded asphalt. The wide, corner drains were backing up with moldy leaves of ink black and Gatorade orange plastics. Angelo had been all over once the rain had depressed to a trickle. He inspected the neighbor’s impromptu skylight. Passed on a name and number attached to a contractor. Then avoided the deep puddles tiding on Nic’s landscaping.
With Angelo, salutations were always brief. As were his farewells. Preferring to think that conversation is eternal; pockmarked with brief interruptions.
“One time we had this storm. Right?” Angelo was getting deep with his storytelling. “You know, I think it was Sandy. Right in the middle a’ all that nonsense, Clarence’s pump went whack. Burnt. Whatevva. The water in his basement up past his balls. Pardon my French, Ashley.”
“No problem, Ang,” Ashley smiled back. Accustomed, if not appreciating, their neighbor’s forthrightness.
“Never thinks to come to me.” Almost a sigh. A shrug later, “All a’ our houses have direct feeds into a stormwater drain. Every one of ‘em. I could’a gone over and ran a hose from the basement into the drain. Nope. Clarence waits until the storm is over then sends his cousin’s kid out for a new pump. The kicker. Ready for the kicker?”
Nic and Ash were ready for the kicker.
“ ‘Cause of the storm? No one had pumps in stock. This kid’s driving up and down both Pikes hitting every Depot and Lowes from here to Pleasantville. Finally decides to cross the bridge. Scores a pump at the place on Oregon Ave. By then? Clarence has tadpoles swimming around! Like the goddam Everglades down in his basement! Ah… what a mess!”
Nic smiled at Ashley. She ran her fingers through her dark, silken hair. Away from her eyes. Behind her ear. Smiling and nodding at Angelo’s tale. Ashley and Nic? Married for three years. That meant three years of un- or underemployment. Of living in tight apartments with ridiculous neighbors and their close-proximity odors. Three years under the belt before a change was offered. Scoring new jobs, they moved from North Jersey to South. Signed their names on a mortgage and leases on new Beamers. Both came from proud New York families. His the DiFiores. Hers the Olizis. Nic ran with an IT firm specializing in cloud management and cyber security. Ashley held her own as a Center City paralegal.
Their modern, dual-story, single family was spacious; would be perfect once kids entered the equation. Neither were ready to pull the goalie on that particular play yet. Both acknowledging that timer would eventually start its inevitable countdown. For now it was sangria and beers on the patio and silent sex on the deck once the neighbors went to bed.
Earlier in the summer Angelo walked around their perimeter, advising on the suburban skill of mulching. Angelo, you see, was an authority on everything. The proper grilling time for prime rib. DIY oil changes. Keeping squirrels off the bird feeder. Insect repellent. Where to park in Old City. He was never pushy. Never bragging. His advice was smooth. Conversational.
“Took the girls shopping at the new Fashion District. You ever have to go there, park at the Cherry Street lot out where the Russians live. Used it one time for this totally off the record job. Always spaces. Offa Eighth.”
“Cecilia and I ate over at Vellacuittio’s. South of Lombard. Had the Rosa di Parma. Whew. Tenderloin with prosciutto and cheese. Knock your socks off. Wine selection ain’t bad either. What’s cool about the place is it’s built over this old 18th century church. The wine cellar? Their freezer? All worked into this ancient stone basement. Had their main chef Marco take me on a tour. Huge walk-in freezer. Rows and rows of pork. Dead little piggies all in a row. Marco, man, he’ll take care’a you.”
Angelo Carchicci, to which Nic and Ash could attest, knew everyone. Rarely would a conversation end before Ang muttered, “I know a guy.”
Once upon a time? Angelo owned a roofing business. Served as president of the roofer’s union.
Nowadays? No more roofing. He splits time between duties as the municipal council president and chief manager of the town’s recycling and waste management facilities.
Angelo keeps active. Knows a lot of guys.
He’d always be out in his front yard. Mulching the flower beds. Working under the hood of his Explorer. Consumed with a project in his garage. Tools and parts and open boxes laid out on the driveway like a coroner performing an autopsy. Waving. Smiling. Watching. Ever and always present.
Nic and Ashley’s New York paranoia kicked in.
One night? With a cold Heineken in hand while some one-hit wonder from the Nineties warbled out of Bluetooth speakers, Nic expressed his confusion into the night. “I don’t get it. Why is he always outside? Any time. Every time we come home. There he is! Like. Is he? Keeping tabs on the neighborhood?”
“Or only the neighbors?” Ashley had to add.
Sometimes? A warning text would be fired off if the other was still in transit. Careful! The Antelope is on his front porch. Or: the Antelope is outside arguing with the Big Man again. That one using the double-shot of top-secret speak. Ironically analogizing Clarence with the late, great sax-man Clemons.
“I keep thinking,” he said. “I really want to park around the corner one day. Instead of driving up and seeing him? Parking around the corner. And then hopping the fence into our yard.”
“Yeah, you do that, Batman,” she laughed into her glass of sauvignon blanc.
Recently? When the hot sun was still at play even late in the fourth inning over at Citizens Bank Park? Ashley waited for Angelo to retire from his front porch to back deck before heading out to water her flowers. Desiring the sanctuary of her front yard without the scrutiny of the neighborhood judge. This was her test. She waited to see if old Ang would suddenly re-appear. Maybe leering through binocs? Or would it be something innocuous like cardboard score cards? A 7.5 for the marigolds. An all out 9 for attention to the zinnias. She scored a perfect 10 on her solitude.
Angelo would maneuver around at odd hours. Nic and Ash often hearing the distinct clumpf of the Explorer’s door through their open bedroom window. The bass of the engine kickstarting into life; rumbling in idle. Venturous intentions in play after the witching hour; the game matched before dawn’s first light.
Angelo would already be deep in suds washing his truck by the time Nic kicked-off his daily commute and Starbucks run.
The couple started looking for a pattern. Choosing to work from home at random times. Hoping to catch their neighbor in an act that would explain his… normalcy. Nic and Ashley? They didn’t buy it. The couple came from duplicitous households where strength came through raised voices; piercing judgements. Both raised in New York, where one was always on guard and neighborly succor was occasional at its best. Yet, Ang remained a constant sentry of suburban fantasy. The sanctity of chores in his hand-washed Explorer; a communal fire pit where stories grew and whispers remained on the QT.
For all his talk – and Angelo could talk – he never discussed his own day-to-day. Controlling the convo instead. Asking about their day. How was the commute? I heard about the accident on 76; bridge traffic must’a been a mutha. Pardon my French. Please, take some tomatoes from the garden. Side-stepping questions about his day with other pointed questions. “Today? I hadda work. Eh, whaddya gonna do? Hey, how was the bread I dropped off the other day?” The next quarter hour full of sourdough lies and flax seed misdirections.
Angelo was shaking his head, weathering the humidity. The storm brought rain, pain, and damage. Zero relief. Raindrops plopped off the maple; landed on the pavement in loud, fat splats. All three enveloped in the quiet that stalks the ravaging storm.
Angelo looked up and down the wet, empty street.
Angelo changed the topic.
“How’s the office, Ash?” he asked, almost cautiously. “Things starting to resume? Life, ya know, back to living?”
“Been a rough two weeks. Luckily Jack’s death, I mean, God, it’s terrible, but luckily his… passing… does not affect my workload.” Ashley sighed. Shrugged. Her eyes as gray as the passing clouds. “My cases are with the other partners.”
Jack Flannery was a partner at the firm of Gruenwald, Goodwin, and Cooke. Specialized in estate and property contracts. Jack had a sharp eye for fine print, a love for two-hour, billed-time conference calls, and shallow pockets that couldn’t fill that black hole of Texas hold-’em. There were plenty of bets around the office that Jackie would never make partner. Jack should have taken those odds. Moved in with the partners quicker than a hand with pocket kings. Didn’t make it to his one-year anniversary though. Heart attack hit while waiting at the casino’s red light. A late night at Parx now stretched to infinity.
“I’m glad you are doin’ well. What a way to go. Getting shot like that?” Angelo observed the couple. Waited for a response. Continued. “Must’a been a… what? Carjacking gone wrong? You know I keep a crowbar in my door? Anyone tries any funny stuff with me? I crack their head open like a ripe antelope.” Angelo chuckled. Trying to lighten the suddenly-dark mood with their inside joke.
Tonight, following the storm, Ashley wasn’t smiling. But she did nod.
And the realization hit her with more power than that sycamore slapping into the pool.
Angelo caught her nod. Threw it back. “Ah, whatya gonna do? I’ve spent too much time here. I need to get back to Cecilia. I’m glad you two are alright. Stay safe. Come running if you need me.”
The couple lingered on their wide, top step. Watching the large man move across the avenue until he was eventually swallowed up in the shadows behind his garage halogens. They remained still. Hands entwined. Taking notice of the clear sky once again getting dark. Recognizing the encroaching night.
Nic turned to go in. Ashley behind him, locking the door. They silently walked through their house. Turned on lights to vanquish the sudden darkness before descending to the basement.
The carpet squished with every footfall. Plastic tubs packed with memories and high school yearbooks and DVDs. Crystal gifts from their wedding yet to adorn a kitchen shelf. Winter clothes from seasons past. Now all sitting in pools where the uneven floor dipped. The unfinished side of the cellar faring better. The concrete moist but the water receding.
Nic inspected the dehumidifier. Satisfied with its content hum of white noise compression. He appreciated its monaural background of repetitive waves.
The sump pump cycled. Drained. Gurgled as it refilled.
The noise was jarring. Always interrupting. Nic knew he should be thankful for the stalwart device. For the protection it provided in keeping unwelcome streams from the outside breeching his precious defenses. The mechanized solider, he concluded, was too loud; too inconsistent with its routine. Nic liked his patterns. His rituals. The beats of his music. The cadence of a baseball game. The schedule of the b train out of Lafayette. The pump reminded him of Angelo: always around but you never knew when he was unexpectedly going to get loud.
Tonight? Nic thought Angelo was screaming.
He turned to his wife. “You know what this means.”
Ashley’s face was expressionless as plywood. “Angelo Carchicci is definitely involved with the Family.”
Barely half-a-dozen people knew about Jackie Flannery’s true death. Most of his family – and a large one that could pack in the pews at St. Gabe’s – believed the lie.
Heart attack. The silent killer.
His true death? That was a little louder. Three shots, center mass. His face untouched for the good graces of the funeral.
Cause of death? Owing Little Anthony Capuano three hundred large. His I.O.U.s drafted into an D.O.A. ASAP by one Anthony Capuano, an underboss in the Sabella crime family. Philly’s oldest, deepest, and dirtiest.
Capuano’s public activities had been largely silent. Word on the street? He was giving White Flight a new meaning. Stretching his reach out to the ‘burbs. Looking outside of the Family to solidify his power base. Surrounding himself with strong, loyal unknowns. Clean sheets.
“We knew it. I mean, we guessed. But after all these months? Yeah. Carchicci has to be Capuano’s new Number One,” Nic straining to keep his voice down while standing between the dueling hums of pump and extractor. The adrenaline from the storm had passed but was again rising. Blood pumping. Synapses firing. The excitement running into his words. His hand gestures an outbreak of fingers and pointing. His volume rising in time with the pump’s flow. “Right? Now? We know it’s him. How else would he have known about Flannery’s execution? And? Even better? Thanks to his neighborly advice? Now we know how to keep tabs.”
Ashley Olizi-DiFiore stroked back her long, perfect hair, what her mother constantly referred to as a “gift from God.” Carla Badalamenti-Olizi was a strong if impatient woman. Both characteristics necessary as a daughter and wife of the Bonanno family, one of New York’s Five Families. Maybe that’s why Ash rebelled, at least as much as she could. Denying her Italian princess heritage by jumping into extreme activities of disobedience. Shunning a breezy time in a sorority for a 3.7 GPA. Strausberg acting workshops rather than nail salon gossip. Dorm room poker tourneys while others focused on varsity sports. The one family activity she did take to? Sharpshooting target practice with her retired-Marine daddy. Ironically, her daddy’s rules, and an instilled love of challenges, ultimately had her pursue a career in law.
Attending a funeral – a funeral of all places! – she accidentally saw Nic DiFiore, cousin of Michael Innocenzo of the Genovese family. Like Kay Adams, and probably Juliet before her, she resigned her fate to the brown wavy hair and blue eyes of a made man.
His broad shoulders sealed the deal.
Nicodemus DiFiore’s father wanted him to go pre-med. Bribed him with a Porsche as a graduation prize. Even German engineering could not keep up with a mind seduced by video gaming. Many would think he was numbed by first-person shoot-‘em-ups. Until discovering he had an affinity for the programming behind the apps. Ditching pre-med and the 911, opted instead for a BS in computer science from Hofstra. Jumped into cloud architecture when most people were still being introduced to an iPhone.
Nic also realized he could wield a 9mm IRL with as much command as his Fortnite avatar.
Ashley’s need for independence was second to nothing other than her stubborn determination. What’s the difference between an apartment in Chelsea and a condo in Montclair, she’d argue. Location, Nic would reply. Yet, the new husband willingly sacrificed the past to provide for the future. Kung pao take-out and ready-mades from Whole Foods instead of Sunday’s at Il Corso.
When rumblings of independence shot up outta Philly, the Five Families grew cautious. The Bonannos wanted an inside track on Capuano’s power play. When the future came calling? Nic could not resist the generational pull of the family business. Creds could only go so far. The workday routine of testing API protocols? Analyzing reports? Too blasé for his supposed talent. A few calls to his cousin. And an impassioned plea of fidelity later, Nic was ready for a North Jersey exodus. Convinced Ashley to jump at the challenge.
They were young. Intelligent. Beautiful. Loyal.
The perfect moles.
Away from the Families. But so integral.
A realtor cousin got a lead on residence. Spitting distance from Capuano’s suspected new Number One. Made the former owners an offer they couldn’t refuse. As the saying goes. Nic and Ash traded in their Devils red for Flyers orange and became neighbors to Angelo Carchicci. And to Clarence DiVito, old school cleaner for Little Nicky Scarfo himself.
Their mission was intel. They were instructed to remain silent. Be the perfect honeymooners. Enjoy the best life Jersey had to offer. Ashley always tempering Nic’s impatience with endurance.
They watched. They observed. They were friendly. The pollen-heavy spring leading the way to a humid summer. The heavy fans mounted at the 8th and Market PATCO station blew hot air on its commuters. The neighbors opened their pool for the season. The quick, late-afternoon summer storms providing the momentary relief of a calming cool. Until a big one hit. Some storms, after all, can bring a neighborhood together.
Now they were ready to attack.
“We have to amp up. Constant, active surveillance.” Nic was ready for action. Ready to prove his worth. To finally step up. Be a man.
“Bug his place?” the response stirred from her thoughts.
“That would be easy. And maybe too easy. I mean, we’re over there often enough. But it’s not the house I’m interested in. I’m sure he doesn’t do any dealings inside around Cecilia and the girls. No, I want access to his garage. That’s where he works.”
“Bluetooth or radio transmitter?”
“I’m thinking we go a little old school.” Nic was getting cocky. “He gave us an in. ‘Our houses have direct feeds into a stormwater drain.’ I can push a fiber optic line through that drain, which comes out directly into his garage pump. Audio. Video. And best of all? No signal. In case he sweeps for bugs.”
“What about Clarence?”
“That old fool?” Nic’s cockiness was becoming a prideful laser beam. “With his dirty wife beaters and that analog Buick? He’s a relic. Like his car. Like his Old World Italian cussing. He is trying to be relevant again by hanging around with an up-and-comer like Angelo.”
Nic moved closer to his wife. Enveloped her with their intimacy of secrets. “Even Angelo is old. And probably stupid. Why else would he have made that slip? Like those other little hints. How about all his bragging once he has a bottle of wine empty? No. We are the future, babe. Let’s find everything we can about this coglione from the ‘burbs. Let’s show our true worth to our Family.”
That final sentence whispered in Ashley’s ear like an assassin’s sweet nothing.
Nic sealed the deal with a deep kiss.
They turned off the light and ascended. Their hearts full of lust. Their heads full of bravado. The basement pump full of water. The float hit its limit. The drain kicked in. Water emptied from the tub while overflow from its interior feeds rushed in to fill the void.
Directly above the float sat a fiber optic eye.
Its slender tail extracting from the water intake.
Worming through the stormwater drain.
Connecting to a laptop sitting in Clarence DiVito’s kitchen. A kitchen that, save for the occasional upgrade to the fridge or microwave, hasn’t been remodeled since the 70s.
Clarence was sitting at his K-style table under a round fluorescent light.
Clarence was looking at the images of his neighbors whispering. Kissing. Plotting.
Clarence was saving the audio and video file.
Clarence was remembering those late-night drives with Angelo. The deals. The jobs. As Clarence showed Angelo the steps of the Family’s brotherhood.
Angelo learned quickly. Angelo proved his strength. His cunning. His resourcefulness. Clarence remembered it all.
When Angelo slammed an ice pick to the back of Frank Palumbo’s skull. The meat hook jabbed through his trapezius. Whacked, strung, and hung. A one-time corrupt cop who thought to get back in the good graces of Philly PD. Now hanging in Marco Vellacuittio’s freezer with the other piggies. All his regrets dead weight.
Constantine Livenko was a Russian pimp and dealer. Looking to fast track through the Bratva ranks by cutting out tribute to Philly’s famiglia numero uno. A late night meeting in a Cherry Street parking lot was proposed to discuss the error of that move. Livenko planned an ambush. A Bratva strut. One that Angelo intercepted. A bullet to Livenko’s brain stopped that surprise uprising. Two more to center mass – just to make sure – before he was dropped like a CBS comedy into the trunk of Clarence’s Riviera.
Angelo and Clarence spoke to each other in whispers. Shared long, nighttime drives out to the pine barrens; to where the bodies lay. Over to Philly’s Main Line where they received commands for other bodies. Clarence imparted cosa nostra secrets to the new Number One. Knowing the Bratva wasn’t alone. Anticipating push back from the Family a turnpike away to their north.
Clarence was cautious. Clarence was paranoid. The new neighbors? Clarence asked around. Like Angelo, he too knows a lot of guys.
They set up a test. Clarence had Angelo drive out to the Parx casino one night to play out a dead man’s hand with Jack Flannery. Serve him up as McBait. Even if there’s no tugs? No one will miss Jackie.
Then their line went tight. A simple word lured. A nod of a head. A quick exit. And all their neighborly suspicions were confirmed. The vigilant sentry in a shallow basement cycling away old water down into the sewers that connected the neighborhood.
Clarence looked over at his paint brush.
Retirement, he sighed. Whatya gonna do.
Original story, writing, characters, and ideas © 2021 Joe Kucharski