#AtoZChallenge, April 3, 2018, The Cameras
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
The cameras watched him all the time from every corner of his house.
Gary Townsend pulled the plaid throw over his head and huddled on the sofa. People watched him, but Joyce pooh-poohed the idea when he’d told her.
Didn’t she understand? He held secrets, vital secrets that could topple governments. His enemies would do anything to pry them from him and create havoc.
He thought moving to Twilight, Arizona would ensure his safety. Who would think to look for him in a retirement community full of other aging, bald men?
They must have tracked him through the phone lines. He’d argued about keeping one when they’d move into their Twilight Palms condo unit. Sandwiched between Alan and Amy Zimmerman on one side and that lesbian couple on the other, he hadn’t asked for any changes to their unit other than removing the land line.
But Joyce didn’t want to give it up in case their cell phone died at the same moment Steve or Brian called.
Well, she’d sing a different tune once They came and hauled him away. Twilight wasn’t so far from the enemies’ secret hideaway where they interrogated spies.
Gary peeked over the edge of the throw. The kitchen camera glowed green. They had tried to disguise it as a six-outlet wall tap so Joyce could plug in the coffee pot, toaster and KitchenAid mixer at the same time. Didn’t they know he was smarter than that?
He’d get some duct tape in the morning and cover the lens, just as he’d done to the microwave and oven clocks. Joyce kept ripping them off, and he continued to conceal the lights.
Gary lifted his arm to peek at his watch but couldn’t read the hands. He guessed it was close to two in the morning. Joyce had given him a new fangled digital watch for their fiftieth anniversary, but he knew it held a miniature camera.
His peripheral vision caught a flash, so low-keyed he might have missed it if he’d blinked. He sat up and glared at the VCR.
Damn, she’d ripped off the piece of tape he’d added the day before.
That did it. She’d broken the last straw.
Gary shirked off the throw and strode into the bedroom. Joyce’s quiet snores indicated she slept, but he’d known her to fake it.
“I’m tire of this.” He snapped on the bedside lamp but not before he saw she’d uncovered the extension cord she used to power her hearing aids. The on/off switch glowed like a red beacon.
“Joyce, get up. We have to talk.” She slept nearest the door, so he shook her. Waking her took a while, she’d always been a deep sleeper even when the boys had been babies.
Unless she faked it.
“What’s wrong?” she grumbled, shielding her eyes.
“This.” He pointed to the extension cord and its pulsating red switch. “I told you to cover it.”
“Not again.” She sat up and reached for his hand. “Gary, I don’t like your t-shirts flung over it like we live in a gym.”
“You don’t understand the seriousness of the situation.” He wanted to shake her and make her realize the risks she took. She’d never understood. Not then. Not now.
“I realize it’s serious to you, but you’re carrying this paranoia thing too far. I’m worried about you.” She rubbed the back of his hand, which had always soothed him, but he knew her tricks.
“There’s nothing wrong with me.” He stood and searched for his slippers. Had he left them in the living room?
Joyce sighed and got up. “Honestly, it’s like living with a two-year-old.”
He followed her as she made the rounds of the house, tearing off a fresh piece of duct tape and covering any exposed lights. When it was as dark as possible, except for the outside yard lights—and he had his suspicions about them—she led him back to the bedroom.
“Go to sleep now,” she said, her voice gentle. “I’ll fix everything in the morning.”
Gary crossed to his side of the bed.
From the window, he watched a black car slowly drive under the alley light. The driver tossed out a lit cigarette. Red sparks exploded as the butt hit the pavement.
• • •
He woke at six when the twice-weekly garbage truck rumbled down the alley and picked up the trash. Which meant it was either Monday or Thursday.
Monday, he decided. The lawn guys came on Thursday, shearing the courtyard grass to within an inch of its life.
Gary sat on the edge of the bed while his dizziness passed. He’d had problems with it lately but had not mention it to Joyce. She worried about him enough.
“Uh-huh,” she said from the living room. Probably on the land line again, no matter how many times he’d warned her. “We’ll leave after breakfast. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. It seems as if I’ve waited for this day forever.”
She mumbled a few other things he didn’t catch then she stood in the doorway, a wide smile on her face.
“You look like the cat that swallowed the canary,” he said, finding the strength to stand. “What are you up to?” A horrifying thought occurred to him. “Is it our anniversary today?”
They’d married in July. Damn, he should have thought to check the calendar.
Her head bobbed. “Yes, it is, how wonderful you remembered. We’re going out after breakfast.”
“Where?” He followed her to the kitchen, too excited to grumble that she’d unmasked all the lights.
“It’s a surprise.” She handed him a plate of sausages and hash browns and nudged him to the table where a cup of strong coffee waited. “I’ve been meaning to take you there for a long time.”
Gary smiled and nodded and tried to get her to tell him where they were going. But, like him, she knew how to keep secrets.
He showered, shaved, and dressed. He was leaving, getting away from the worry of the lights. A day’s freedom waited.
Joyce drove. She always drove since the time when he’d hit that nice young couple at the traffic light.
“Ready?” she asked as she hit the remote control for the garage door.
Gary smiled. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
Behind him, the lights blinked out and the cameras shut down.
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Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon
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Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, April 4, 2018, The Theory of Dolls.
What if the hobby your spouse loves (and you hate) is more than it seems?
Until then, blessings,