Phil the Paranoyed Guy Down the Street

June 8, 2010
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A thin blanket of light grey clouds heavily diffused the afternoon light as it shown on the defiant Douglas Fur Trees. The trees in the neighborhood were steadily dropping and re-growing their needles as they did throughout the year, maintaining their uniform prickly chaos. The Vine Maples however, were exploding into their fall colors, and clogging gutters or drains with their dead leaves.
Two of the neighborhood’s residents, Cathy and Laura, had just returned from lunch. They’d both been selling Girl Scout cookies in the stereotypical little red wagon to raise money for their troop all day, just as they did every summer and every fall. They arrived at a small grey house, the second from the last on their route. The bluish gray paint was peeling in multiple patches, and the windows had old rusty steel plates bolted over them with some kind of sealant lining the edges. The lawn was like a map of grass continents separated by vast seas of dirt and rocks, and the cement equator of a walkway was badly cracked in a number of places along its length.

“Laura, shouldn’t we just skip this one?”

“Don’t be such a baby, we’re almost done, and besides I am not losing to that stupid Lizzy Davis again!”

“But this house is reeeeeelly creeping me out!” Cathy whined.

“It’s just a house Cathy, and where there is a house there is probably a sale. Besides, like I said, we can’t let Lizzy sell the most cookies! She may be rich, but she is still just a spoiled little daddy’s girl, and we are going to prove it.”

Cathy stared at Laura unblinkingly, as if expecting her to stand on the wagon and give a speech. Then, inching away from the house, Cathy said, “Sooooo, we’re going to prove she’s rich, spoiled, and stupid by selling more cookies than her?”
Laura jerked her head to face Cathy. “Very funny, now get back over here!” Laura said, her voice now rising.
Cathy stopped inching with a frown. “Fine, can we just get this over with then? You’re really getting moody.”
“Working on it,” replied Laura as she carefully pressed the doorbell.

Phil had been up since 2:00 AM watching his collection of movies he believed to be video proof of aliens. He munched away at six-year-old pork rinds as he scribbled down the weaknesses of certain aliens from the films on his ever dwindling notepad. He would stop periodically to check that his notes were accurate.
He had just gotten halfway through Men in Black when he heard the doorbell ring. Phil’s greasy unshaven head perked up with what resembled the twitching motion of a bird. His snack-packed cheeks lagged slightly as they struggled to follow the rest of his face in the movement, resulting in a noticeable jiggle.
“Visitor?” he thought.
Suspicious, but curious nonetheless, he got up. With well-rehearsed speed, Phil tossed on an old pair of yellowed gym shorts and an equally old set of football armor, a pair of orange floaties, black combat boots, and a cup which he strapped on outside his shorts. He finished dressing by donning his Darth Vader mask with the eyes cut out, and retrieving a laser gun he had made out of Legos. Now, no one could hurt him. Phil jogged over and slammed his back on the wall next to his front door, clutching his plastic weapon tightly with both hands.

“Come on Laura! Let’s get out of here! We’ve already stayed past the normal fifteen seconds by like, a minute!” Cathy yelled in a whisper, her vocal chords threatening to burst out in sound.
Laura was just about to give Cathy a piece of her weary mind, when they both heard a hard thump inside the house next to the door.
“C’mon, c’monnnnnnn!” wined Cathy.
The front door flung open so fast that an odd mixture of smells was fired at the two girls with what seemed like the power of gale-force winds. Before them stood a tall, skinny, and pasty man totally decked out in smelly protective sports equipment with his arms raised and brandishing what appeared to be some kind of gun made out of various colorful pieces of plastic. He was yelling incoherently at them, waving his weapon in the air with menacing speed. He even began to dance what can only be described as, a jaunty jig.
Cathy dove for cover behind the little red wagon, her hands clasped over her neck as if waiting for an earthquake to start, or for a finishing blow, whichever came first.
Laura just stood there with her mouth agape, trying to process what had just happened.
“Hi.” She said, unable to think of anything else to say. The man stopped his dancing and gibberish and looked down at her, his Darth Vader mask showing warped reflections of the houses on the other side of the street. He lowered his weapon and cocked his head slightly.
“Um, would you like some… cookies?” Laura continued, her voice quivering slightly as she raised the box she’d been holding.
The man looked at the box and pointed his gun at it as he backed up a step. He looked back at her, his eyes full of suspicion.
Laura nodded encouragingly.
He looked back at the box, slowly reached out and took it. He looked at it closely with one hand while keeping his weapon in the other, finding the five holes in the box where Laura’s fingers had punched through in her surprise.
“You can keep that.” she said.
The man’s head shot up from the box to meet her gaze. He pointed to himself, once again cocking his head.
“Yeah, it’s yours, think of it as a present.”
The man returned his gaze to the box and put it under one of his ghastly armpits. Leaning to one side to see the wagon he pointed at Cathy, who by that time had raised her head just enough to see over the boxes, a look of suppressed fear in her eyes.
Laura looked back at her friend. “Oh she’s fine, she’s just a bit of a coward sometimes,” she said, almost giggling. Cathy stuck her tongue out as far as possible in reply. Laura began to hear shuffling and saw that the man was speedily retreating back inside his house.
“Wait! You never told us your name!” she called. He ignored her, shutting the door without answering. Laura stood there a few seconds, slightly disappointed. She looked back at Cathy, who was now quite fearless in the stranger’s absence.
“Can we go now?” asked Cathy impatiently.
“Sure, I guess” replied Laura. Just as they were about to turn the wagon they heard an old speaker next to the door come to life with an extremely noticeable buzz.
“Phil!” Buzzed the speaker, then it went dead. Laura smiled slightly, and turned to catch up with Cathy, who had seen enough, and continued despite the sound.
“What do you think was with that guy?” asked Cathy.
“I don’t know, he seemed okay though.”
Cathy looked at Laura. “What do you mean?” she asked with a hint of suspicion.
“We’re still alive right? And he even seemed kinda nice” replied Laura.
“So maybe we can help him.”
“Laura, what makes you think he even wants help? Besides, the guy had a cup strapped on the outside of his shorts! He was wearing bright orange floaties and smelled like who knows what! And what’s up with you anyway? You just switched from angry leader mode to being some kind of empathetic wannabe nurse!” Cathy’s last few words came out with a wheeze due to the combined efforts of pulling fifty pounds of cookies, and carrying on a conversation.
“I thought it was kind of funny,” replied Laura.
“Yeah well I’m not going back there. You can go ahead and recruit Jason for your little mercy mission.”
“Fine by me.” said Laura.

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