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Funny Contemporary Fiction

Casserole Night is what Date Night grew up to be, after Date Night’s dreams were put in a plain brown takeout bag and buried in the backyard. Neither Ben nor Heather remembered exactly what had killed the dreams, nor what the dreams even were anymore since it all happened years ago, but they were content to stew in the welcome boringness of Casserole Night. Which is why Ben was alarmed when the new neighbours at 777 threatened to ruin everything.

“Oh my god,” Ben said, his fork clattering to his plate.

Heather nodded to herself. This is where Ben would complain the top of the casserole was burnt but the inside was cold, and then she’d mumble something about doing better next time, and then she wouldn’t because it had taken her years to perfect the cold-burn.

But Ben surprised her which itself was surprising.

“Look at that!” he said, pointing at their kitchen window. “Someone’s actually moving into that eyesore at 777!”

Heather scooted over and took in the moving truck, the white overalled movers, and a plainclothes couple who must have been the neighbours. “But,” she said, her brow furrowing, “it’s a show home. Isn’t it? You can’t… actually live there. Can you?”

Ben turned to her, his eyes as wide as his frown. “Maybe they’re realtors?” He took her hand and squeezed it. “Maybe it’s a joke?” It had to be.

After all, what kind of maniacs would move into a house, where all the walls were made of glass?

Ben and Heather sat like that, hand gripping hand, neighbours gripping attention, as the burnt casserole cooled, as the sun set, as they missed the sitcom reruns each of them could recite from memory.

After the movers finished, the new woman produced a bottle of wine, and the new man poured. Heather squeezed Ben’s hand harder. Then the new neighbours intertwined their arms as they drank, and danced, like some lurid Hollywood romance – only they did it effortlessly, unlike that one time Ben and Heather went to a ballroom dancing class and he accidentally fractured her fifth metatarsal. Ben swallowed hard.

And then, with a single-handed flourish reminiscent of a veteran bull-fighter, the new man whisked the new woman’s shirt off, and suddenly: breasts.

Heather and Ben stared at each other, mouths agape. Unthinking, reacting, Heather leapt up and slammed their kitchen light off, and they suddenly found themselves in darkness. There was a sense of something being so infinitely rude about keeping the lights on, as though through their kitchen light they might announce – to their as-yet-unmet neighbours – that ‘Yes, we see your wardrobe malfunction; we witness you in your shame.’

Ben for his part wondered if it was all right to look, for he certainly hadn’t gone looking for it, and it was basically thrust in his face, and surely Heather could see that. By the white of her wide eyes, she did see it.

But any moral philosophizing about accidentally stumbling upon a breast in its natural habitat was cut short before it began, because with another bull-fighter flourish, the man’s pants were off, and then suddenly there were dangly bits everywhere, and buttocks pressed against glass, and sweat and passion and a thorough, thoroughly visible, house warming.

All around the neighbourhood, kitchen lights suddenly vanished.

They stayed off for the rest of the week too, until the bimonthly neighbourhood barbecue. Tom and Gina Clambert were hosting, and they figured it was high time to meet-and-greet the new neighbours.

Ben and Heather brought a casserole, as always – except they didn’t actually, this time. This time Heather said she felt inspired and she made a three-bean salad, “With a pinch of curry spice.” And Ben didn’t even complain.

Gina giggled, and said she had made deviled eggs herself, instead of her usual pickled eggs, and “I just have no idea what came over me!”

Most everyone came down with a case of grinning outrage, the symptoms of which included an abundance of winking and nudging, except for Old Lady Taberhandle who was not one for grinning, and Elmer Gortz who came down with a flu and stayed home.

The key topics of discussion were of course the new neighbours, and all the wonderful saucepans and dressers and other euphemisms they had. “And that dining table,” Tom told Ben, wiggling his eyebrows. “Oh ho! If a tablecloth could talk!”

A silence – a grinning, red-cheeked, throat-clearing silence – descended on the barbeque when the guests of honour arrived.

“My name’s Peter Frampwich,” said the man, presenting a bottle of cava to the hosts, “and this is my darling wife, Lizzie.”

“Hello!” said Lizzie, batting her lashes. She put a hummus on the communal table.

Of all things.

Ben shook Peter’s hand, and seeing him up close wondered – as every man there wondered – How did a guy that looked like a salesman’s left boot pull a supermodel like Lizzie?

It wasn’t the size of his boat. By now they all knew very well that Peter was a kayaker. So could it really be the motion of the ocean? To that extent? Ben feared he’d been playing in puddles all his life.

Heather greeted Lizzie with a tight smile, but her eyes kept drifting to Peter. The man was a mysterious storm cloud surrounded by an aura of trembling passion, and the slightest of his rippling movements weakened her knees.

How a two-bit putz like Lizzie caught his eye beggared belief. Her hair was outdated, and her fashion sense was all over the place and way too revealing. And the way she just kept pawing at Peter, like she made it clear what she wanted instead of playing games… men didn’t like that, did they?

Did they?

Everyone gravitated around the newcomers, who it turned out were actually cagey and secretive, even if they appeared to be open and eager to share. They insisted they were just normal folks, but no matter how many times Peter repeated “No, yeah, I am actually an accountant,” and no matter how often Lizzie stressed that “My love of kids is what led me to early childhood education,” everyone knew these were covers.

They had to be.

The going theory was the Frampwiches were spies, or maybe on the lam. Or, at the very least celebrities keeping a low profile, to live a normal life. “I’m sure I’ve seen them somewhere before,” Tom said several times. “Maybe not in movies, but definitely on TV.”

Ben manned the grill. When the hotdogs were done, he waved Peter and Lizzie over.

“What’s this?” said Peter, as Lizzie grabbed a bun.

“Uh… a hotdog,” said Ben.

“A hot?”

“Dog.” He placed a frank in the bun, and Peter and Lizzie’s eyes lit up. “Surely, you must have heard of hotdogs.”

The Frampwiches shared their hotdog, each eating from one end, and when they started their satisfied moanings another round of winks and nudges rippled through the crowd – all except for Old Lady Taberhandle who first gasped, then glowered.

“It’s fantastic,” said Lizzie. “You simply must get me the recipe.”

“Um…” said Ben. “All right.”

“Definitely celebrities then,” Heather whispered in his ear. “Or just plain nuts.”

That evening they settled into the kitchen, and Ben brought a pair of binoculars. When Heather took her seat, she decided on a whim to try something new, and reached out and touched Ben on the shoulder. And he flinched.

“What!?”

“No, nothing–”

“–Is there a fly? Was something biting me?”

“No! I just wanted–never mind.” She crossed her arms and huffed.

Ben knew when he had screwed up – because it was a day ending in y – but he noticed that something was off about Heather. Or rather, on. Sitting there with her arms crossed like that brought a lot of attention to some of her features.

“Say, now, is that a new shirt?” A new low cut shirt.

“Maybe,” she said, pouting. “You like?”

“Uh… yes!

Heather grinned. “I thought I’d try something new.”

“Well it definitely works!” Ben scooched on his side of the table and beckoned her closer, and she moved her chair beside his. “We can share the binoculars.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“Binoculars? Good idea!” She snuggled up against him, and then sniffed. And then sniffed again. “Are you wearing cologne?”

“Maybe,” he said, and a careful smile formed on his face. “You, uh… you like?”

She kissed him.

And then the show began. It seemed Ben and Heather weren’t the only ones who took inspiration from the barbeque, as the Frampwiches had some new ideas too. For some reason they loaded their dining room table with numerous bottles of mustard and ketchup, and then a huge jar of sauerkraut. And then everything got weirder when Lizzie put on a tall, red, cylindrical costume and Peter put on a floppy brown one that was split down the middle.

“Oh my god!” said Heather. “They’re a hotdog!”

“Oh my god,” said Ben, gasping. “You’re right! But wait – why is he the bun?”

But then, these weren’t really questions that needed answers, and that night, Ben and Heather learned a couple new ways of making hotdogs.

A few days later, they were unloading their shopping in their driveway when the Frampwiches – out on a walk – ran into them.

“Big plans on the weekend?” Peter asked.

“Nope,” said Ben.

“We’re kind of homebodies,” said Heather, and then she coughed to cover the sudden heart wrenching chill she felt.

“Yeah,” Ben added, sighing. “Never really do anything.”

“Well that’s super!” said Lizzie. “Why don’t y’all come over to ours tomorrow? We’ll have a nice dinner.”

“Oh…” said Ben.

“Um…” said Heather.

“That’s settled then!” said Lizzie.

Heather and Ben spent most of Saturday morning inventing excuses and diseases and most of the afternoon tearing through their closets in search of anything at all that might be presentable. They weathered lascivious calls from their other neighbours, a dire warning from Old Lady Taberhandle, and no fewer than three panic attacks. Finally, with their hearts pounding, they found themselves ringing the doorbell of the glass house at 777.

And even though they saw Lizzie approaching through the glass wall, they nevertheless startled when she opened the door.

“Welcome!”

It took Ben and Heather a while to find the right chairs in the dining room – or rather to not find the wrong ones, the ones that had seen some excitement in nights past – and then they were faced with a view of a completely dark neighbourhood, from this side of the glass wall. Utter shadow, housing countless lecherous eyes.

Lizzie set out some chicken, only it turned out to be duck confit, and Peter put on some music, only it turned out to be jazz. Then he poured some bubbly.

“Oh!” said Heather. “What are we celebrating?”

“Our anniversary,” said Peter.

Ben and Heather looked at each other, mortified all they had brought was a regifted box of cookies.

Lizzie laughed. “Relax! It’s not actually today. It’s in three months.”

“We’re just celebrating today,” Peter said, “because we just sealed the deal on a lovely cruise for the occasion.”

“Oh!” said Ben. “We actually looked at a cruise once–”

“–Big cruisers, eh?” Peter asked. “Open water, hot sun–”

“–Well, we just looked at it”, said Ben.

“Never ended up going,” added Heather, mumbling into her lap. “Anywhere.”

“Great way to really recharge!” Lizzie said. “We go every year. It reminds us of what’s important.” That last word came out breathily, as she eyed her husband. He took her hand and kissed it, and kissed it again.

Heather, wide-eyed, stared through the walls, and Ben cleared his throat.

“So, how many years have you been together?” he asked.

“Ten,” said Peter, “and ten.”

“So… twenty?”

“This is actually our second go at it,” Lizzie said.

“Things weren’t great the first time around,” said Peter. “Lots of fights. Lots of shouting.” He intertwined his fingers with hers.

“Both of us had a lot to say, but no time to listen. It was hell.”

“But we put in the effort,” Peter said, kissing Lizzie’s hand again.

“And this time round it’s heaven,” she finished. They kissed yet one more time, as though they didn’t realize people just didn’t behave this way.

Ben once more cleared his throat and Heather stared even harder out the walls.

“Say, Heather,” said Peter, “you see something out there? I see you keep looking out the window.”

“No, no, nothing!” Heather said, startled. “I just, I wonder… I think someone’s watching. I mean, I thought someone might be.”

Peter and Lizzie laughed.

“No way,” he said. “This neighbourhood’s nice, but it’s a graveyard. Everyone clocks out real early.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie said. “We actually wondered if you’d make it out tonight, since you seem like early sleepers too.”

Peter and Lizzie laughed again, and Ben and Heather smiled tightly. The laughter faded. The Frampwiches looked at each other, then at their guests. Then out the walls.

“Oh god,” Lizzie whispered, paling.

Dessert was skipped.

Three days later, the house at 777 had a for sale sign and the Frampwiches were never seen again. “Good riddance!” said Old Lady Taberhandle, though the rest of the neighbours mourned the loss of their crypto-celebrities. The stories of the transformative power of their short stay would long outlive the house itself, which was knocked down a month later, and rebuilt as a safely resalable bungalow drenched in beige stucco.

Ben and Heather missed their new new neighbours moving in, as they had a week of date nights on their long awaited, and long delayed, cruise.

October 11, 2023 21:36

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47 comments

12:15 Oct 12, 2023

Woah, this is so good! I have no idea how you managed to conjure up this idea, but I love it!

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Michał Przywara
20:36 Oct 12, 2023

Thanks, Wafflez! I think it started with that saying about not throwing stones if you live in a glass house, and then wondering what literally living in a glass house would be like - and then, figure out a way to meet the theme and prompt, and here we are :) I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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Mary Bendickson
00:54 Oct 12, 2023

When I was just a little girl To church with Mother I often went To hear the sermon from the Good Book Then to the potluck we'd go. Here's what she always took: Casserole - serole Tastes so good hot or cold. What's in it ? Well, we don't know. Casserole - serole. ... Yeah, sorry 'bout that. Whenever I see 'casserole' I laugh remembering the parody my sister, the Dragon Lady from 'Where the Wild Things Aren't", wrote and we found in the hoard. It has many verses. Think 'Que sera, sera' sung by Doris Day. Or are you too young? Of course the ...

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Michał Przywara
20:39 Oct 12, 2023

That looks like a song, but I'm afraid I'm not familiar with it. An original work? Was the story any good? Thanks for dropping by, Mary!

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