Roger Miller was a normal man. Quite normal. He lived the average life, had a nice wife, a lovely home, two adorable children and a sweet dog with whom he loved to take long walks through the beautiful neighborhood. He would leash his dog at the door, exit the house and would start his every morning dog walk clockwise through his little suburban microcosm, always walking on the right side along the road, so that when he returned from his walk he had not been forced to cross the street to re-enter his house. There wasn´t a zebra crossing in front of his house, so crossing the street would expose him to the danger of being run over, a fact he had often pointed out to his children when they were growing up. As a man of his word, Roger Miller never broke any of his rules; and it was one of his rules to never cross the street if there wasn´t a green light or a zebra crossing.
Roger Miller loved his life. He loved his wife as well and he loved his children. He didn´t love the dog, but he enjoyed the morning walks immensely, so over the years he grew quite fond of the dog as well. He was never certain if the dog actually reciprocated his feeling of affection, because the dog often tried to bite him or stole the food off his plate, but during the morning walks the dog rarely every complained and even listened to commands such as “heel” or “sit”.
Roger Miller and his wife led a happy marriage life. They had met in college, had gotten married in a timely manner, had moved to the suburban home they still lived in and had worked hard to offer a lovely home for their two children. Roger Miller and his wife both loved the neighborhood they lived in and they got on well with their immediate neighbors. Similar stories roomed in the houses left and right to the Millers´ home and Roger Miller liked the general atmosphere of how everyone seemed to come from the same background and led the same life.
When the neighborhood began to change, Roger Miller grew impatient. He appreciated changes, had encouraged his children to spread their wings and live lives of their own, but when the neighborhood started to change, when people died or moved, Roger Miller felt a discomfort he had never felt before. At first, he only frowned at the change in his neighborhood, but when his immediate neighbors, the Colemans, died in a car crash and their children sold the house, Roger Miller grew to hate change in a way he could never voice in front of his wife.
Roger Miller walked past the empty house every day on his morning walks, saw the rotting leaves in the front yard, the uncontrollably fast growing grass, the screen door hanging from its hinges after the last storm, assumed an uncanceled subscription to the local newspaper and watched the soaked bundles of paper slowly decay near the front door; he noticed the chipped paint on the front of the house that Roger Miller had complained about to his neighbors before and was now viewed by him as a conspicuous eyesore that tortured his sense of normality. Along with the other changes, small to some but vital to Roger Miller, the decay of the house next to him became a constant annoyance that shook Roger Miller´s way of thinking. He realized that he was not ready to accept change after all.
With his children gone to live their lives elsewhere and his wife busy with redecorating the house, coupon shopping in the nearby store or on the phone with her sister, Roger Miller had a lot of time on his hands. He carried out repairs around the house, spend a lot of time in the garden shed building new aviaries that he put up in fall, filled with birdseed, to help the bird population get through the rough winters, he did his forty-five minute morning walk every morning, but lately Roger Miller had picked up spying on his neighbors. He found his old binoculars in a small brown box stuffed behind the cardboard boxes filled with his children´s old toys. Fighting his way through Barbie dolls, little robots, teddy bears and Lego, toy cars, doll clothes, baseball cards and a large number of small plastic items, ribbons and single puzzle pieces, he thought that he was making a fool of himself, kneeling amidst children´s memorabilia trying to find espionage equipment. But when he found the brown box the thought disappeared and, driven by a new agenda, he went downstairs again and started to set up a lookout in his son´s old room.
Over the course of two weeks, Roger Miller watched his neighbors come and go and he registered the little changes in his neighborhood by writing them down in a little black book he had asked his wife to buy. She had been more than pleased when he asked for a notebook, because in his younger days he had impressed her with beautiful words and had written poem after poem for the woman he loved. Roger Miller never told that he had no intention of picking up writing poems again.
His recordings of the changes he noticed so close to his home were meticulous and pedantic, showing not only time and event he understood as abnormal, but he also included drawings if necessary. Sketching was never his forte, but on Monday at eleven past three he drew a picture of Mrs. Carter from across the street in his little black book, because when she returned from her regular Monday shopping two hours late, Roger Miller noticed that she had not only cut her chin-long hair into a fashionable pixie cut, but had also dyed it a light brown.
Mr. Turner´s elder daughter had a boyfriend who came under the screen of night to pick her up. She would climb out the kitchen window, leaving it ajar just enough so that she could get back inside in the morning. The boyfriend, Roger Miller noticed with revulsion, wore tattoos over both arms that didn´t seem to end where his tank top started and he had a punk haircut that told a tale of trouble and danger. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ravieres seemed to enjoy the attention of other partners; Mrs Ravieres always took the same book with her when she left for her book club meetings, and while his wife was out, Mr. Ravieres enjoyed the company of a girl, but never the same girl twice in a row. Ms Nichols seemed to be dating a man half her age, whilst Mr. Nichols, her brother, not her husband, only left the house once a week to go out and buy something he returned home in a brown paper bag; and while he always used the back entrance to the house, Ms Nichols always entered the house through the front entrance. Mr. Clark escaped his baby newborn´s cries by pretending to mow the lawn in front of his house at least twice a day, though he did nothing but sit on the lawn mover, did neither turn the key in the ignition nor made any attempt to do so, but drank beer after beer, but the even though the newborn stopped crying eventually, Mr. Clark did not return inside until late and the baby seemed to be taken care of, though Roger Miller never saw a Mrs. Clark anywhere. Mrs. Richard´s teenage boy always helped his mother with odd jobs around the house, but when he closed the door to his room after him, he almost instantly dropped his pants to masturbate to a picture of cheerleader he had probably ripped out of a porn magazines; after only two days he went over to masturbating to girls from his yearbook, and then he even downgraded to animal and travel documentaries on National Geographic. Mr. Smith and Mr. John not only worked in the same company in basically the same job, they also drove to work together in the mornings, spent most of their free time together and even had the occasional sleepover; and neither one of them took a sleeping bag or a toiletry kid with them. The Rutherford boys skipped school every other day and stayed home to play computer games while ordering in pizza, but by the time their parents returned, they had cleaned the house, had disposed off the pizza boxes and sat at the table in the living room pretending to do their homework. On the other side of the road, the four Campbell girls studied not only on their way to school, presumably in school, but also on their way back from school and in their porch swings all through the evening right until dinner time, yet all four of them managed to always wear new clothes, show off the perfect hairstyles and expertly applied make-up and had also time to do sports (Beth preferred Pilates, while Jody and Melissa followed the instructions of a workout video. Only Anne, the rebel, who wore blue tights with her school uniform, didn´t do any sports, but spent the evenings in the living room watching her sisters exercise. Yet, miraculously, Anne was the fittest and had the toned muscles her sisters tried to acquire by hard work.)
Roger Miller saw it all from his son´s bedroom. He sometimes had to walk back and forth between the windows, but after a fortnight, he knew all that went down in his neighborhood. And he was appalled. No one paid any attention to schedules, timelines, appointments or even manners anymore. Normality, he sensed, was a thing of the past and he feared that it would take over the neighborhood soon. People entered houses through windows and backdoors, took off under the cover of night only to return in the morning, acted promiscuous even around their partners, engaged in social relations that should be frowned upon, experienced the wide range of pubertal fantasies in its full glory, not caring that everyone could see through the open window, and displayed all sorts of weird behavior that had to be suspicious even to those who were not on the outlook for any deviations of normality and order.
Roger Miller would have continued to watch the street and its doom and demise, had it not been for the lady who moved into the old Coleman house. Her appearance sent Roger Miller into shock. Perversely abnormal in style of clothing, apparently ethnic in origin and with an established sense of portraying otherness, the lady in her mid-thirties arrived one day in her old Buick with hippie flowers painted on its side, seemingly spraying her bohemian charm all over the neighborhood, for everyone in viewing distance stopped to stare at her.
Mr. Clark lifted his head and dropped the beer can he was holding, though Roger Miller could not be sure that it was due to the same shock he had suffered from or merely because by that time of the day, Mr. Clark was pretty much sloshed. However, Mr. Clark did undeniably stare in the direction of the old Coleman house. When Mrs. Campbell drove past the old Coleman house, she noticeably slowed down and all four girls took the time to look up from their books. Anne, Roger Miller registered as he watched them through his binoculars, was more interested in the new neighbor than her sisters, who in a matter of seconds returned to their books, while Anne pressed her nose against the side window of the car and stared completely unashamed. Mrs. Richard and her boy were in their front yard and tended to the needs of the colorful plants Mrs. Richard had only put in a few weeks ago. Yet when the car pulled up and stopped, halfway on the parking spot and halfway still on the sidewalk, Mrs. Richard dropped her little rake and shifted back, so that she could watch, half-kneeling, half-sitting, while her boy, and Roger Miller felt the same way, must feel strangely reminded of the travel documentary on indigenous San tribe in the Republic of Namibia.
When the movers arrived, the woman rolled up her sleeves in a very unfeminine manner and helped the guys to unload drums and bongos and Tiki masks, beadwork and multi-colored bowls and paintings of giraffes and oddly colored carpets along with a collection of arrows and spears, mahogany retro-style furniture, a two-door fridge in red and a number of boxes filled with, or so Roger Miller thought, travel literature discussing foreign countries, more ethnic decorations, variously colored pillows as well as strangely scented candles and joss sticks along with long woolen scarfs and knitting needles.
The woman walked back and forth between the house and the truck and soon Roger Miller saw the fine cover of sweet sweat on the woman´s bare arms. He adjusted his binoculars and was sure to have seen a drop of sweat run down her forehead and drop down from her chin. In a matter of thirty minutes, the truck seemed to be emptied and as the move seemed to near its end, he watched the ethnic woman call over to the movers to help her with what seemed to be the last item still sitting on the truck. Through his binoculars, Roger Miller saw how the truck shock from side to side, as with all their forces combined, the manhandled the object toward the truck´s hydraulic ramp.
At first, Roger Miller could only see the heads of the movers, then the sweaty arms of his new neighbor appeared and they seemed to be pushing a rock out onto the ramp. With the help of modern technology, one of the movers lowered the ramp to the ground and with all their manpower combined, they pushed the large rock onto a creeper dolly. Panting, or so Roger Miller guessed from what he saw through his binoculars, now pushed tightly against his eyes so that he wouldn´t miss a thing, the movers and the ethnic lady pushed the dolly over to the house, but they were soon at their wit´s end, when they reached the three steps to the porch. The men argued, while the woman only stood on her lawn and frowned. Both Mrs. Richard and Mr. Clark now stared as unashamedly as Anne had before and Roger Miller took it all in, panned back and forth between the rock scene and the scenery around. The movers soon decided that they couldn´t possibly get the rock up the stairs, and soon after left with their mover´s truck. The woman retired inside and for the first time, Roger Miller had a clear shot at the big, mysterious rock.
Along the side facing his direction, Roger Miller saw a number of lines and circles. He tried to get the picture, tried to understand why this rock must be of value to the lady moving into the old Coleman house, when he figured he had to zoom out to see the whole picture. Adjusting his binoculars, the picture turned from blurred lines and senseless curves to the carved image of an antelope, forever captured in stone. A weird feeling ran through Roger Miller as he stared through his binoculars in what were supposed to be the animal´s eyes. At first, a strange calmness crawled over him, but the longer he stared, unable to avert the rock animal´s eyes, Roger Miller felt oddly panicked. He started to pant and shake as if he suffered from a high fever, but still he felt unable to break away from the animal. When panic mingled with horror, Roger Miller finally managed to closer his eyes and break away from the fear-evoking rock. He was panting heavily as he put the binoculars down. It took him a while to get his senses back together, but then he only shook his head, lifted the binoculars to his eyes once more and scanned the cold rock in the front yard of the old Colemans´ house until he met the antelope´s eyes again. The extraordinary experienced he had underwent not minutes before seemed to have passed, for Roger Miller only saw the rock and the carved animal and he reminded himself of the ridiculousness of feeling somehow attacked by inanimate objects.
Roger Miller wiped the cold sweat off his forehead and made a note in his little black book. Then he left his post and went downstairs, where he poured himself a cold drink. He stared out of the kitchen window, for once not registering the comings and goings in his microcosm. Then he turned abruptly, put the glass down and walked in the direction of the stairs. He would draw the ethnic woman. But to capture her in all her glory, he had to go and find his kids´ crayons. That woman sure as hell could not be paid justice with a simple pencil sketch.