Jack always left early. Jack always returned late. Before dawn and after dark, he would drive that quiet road by the house his aunt had left him. He didn’t have to work late. He didn’t have to work early. Regardless, sun up to sun down, he would be gone. They knew he had a reason, though gossip never managed to pin what, exactly, that reason was.
Every house on the block had a plastic pink flamingo standing at attention in the front garden. It was understandable, as they were all older women, clucking together like a bunch of old hens. One would do something different, and all of them, hoping to be different, would do the same. Jack would walk out, just before dawn, and scowl at the shadows of those pink plastic prints. They were easier to take before light and after dark.
Though, on occasion, he would sleep in.
Jack took his sweet time getting ready. He knew it was too late to beat the sun. He made breakfast and took a long, calming bath rather than his quick, efficient shower. He watched a few cartoons and put on his work slacks. It would have otherwise been a brilliant day, if it weren’t for those damn looming flamingoes.
Jack stepped outside and rolled his eyes at the bright pink glare that attacked him from every angle. On the way to his small, efficient car, Jack’s eye stuck on something strange in his next door neighbor’s yard. Something the size of a flamingo, but different. Something black and white. Something spotted and squat. Something that was definitely not a flamingo.
Jack felt his heart start to pound. The cycle would continue. First, there would be one cow; then three; then five; then the whole damn block would have them! Jack grumbled and got into his car to leave. He pulled down the visor that didn’t help to hide the hideous shade of pink that still dominated the street. He sighed and knew that soon, black and white would be the new pink.
The week passed just as predicted. Before the end of the week, every yard had dismissed their pink plumage for squat spots. Jack picked up a flamingo from its new post by the dumpster and brought it home for his small collection of abandoned ornaments. He set the flamingo next to the Lawn Knome and the Peeing Boy. The Flamingo would soon be joined by its conqueror, the Cow.
Jack abandoned his collection and sat down for dinner. It would be a while before his collection was added to again, and the longer it took, the happier he would be. He looked out the window at the lulled face of the neighbor’s cow. The one who had started it first was always quietly seething at the others, the followers. No one could ever just step out of line and do something different. There was no rule about it, but that was just the way of things. Everyone knew it.
Jack poured a glass of something hard and took a seat by the window. He glared at the cow and drank his liquor until an idea, or something like it, started to surface in his head. He would do something different, and make sure everyone knew not to follow.
He could do dangerous lights on the roof…
Or expensive ornaments, in so many rare varieties they couldn’t possibly follow…
Or, he could make a statement.
Jack laughed and went to his garage. He had a full night ahead of him before his quiet Sunday morning. He pulled out a small battery powered saw and opened his garage door.
Sunday morning brought out the church-goers. That happy little group of little old Christian women. Every house on the street was filled with hustle and bustle, getting ready for their big public appearance. Jack sat by the window and looked out at his work. It was a masterpiece, in his own humble opinion.
The first neighbor, who had been the first with a cow, walked out of her house and greeted her happily unscathed lawn ornament.
And saw something was amiss.
Every other cow on the street was lying on the ground, missing at least two legs. She gazed at the massacre for a good few minutes before her eyes caught a mass of stolen legs. The legs were nailed together in a sloppy fashion, but were standing as a single wall and a tilted roof that went all the way to the ground. She cautiously moved to see what such a shelter could possibly house and saw something pink emerge from beneath the spotted stilt.