Editor’s note: Welcome to “The Peepshow!” For centuries, the peepshow was a popular form of entertainment presented by traveling showmen. By looking through a small hole into a viewing box, spectators could contemplate magical, bizarre and unusual sights that filled them with wonder, laughter … and, sometimes, with fear. The showmen traveling with these boxes would provide patter to go with the pictures, spinning strange tales that sometimes told hard truths.
The Polaroid photographs appearing in this story are the work of American artist Joel B. Feldman. They are not digitally altered in any way. The story you are about to read is a work of fiction. “The Peepshow” posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You know how it is in neighborhoods. Neighbors move in, neighbors move out. Their names don’t matter. They’re just pigeons filling holes. The patterns of these holes stay exactly the same whether or not a busybody’s inside. Our routines don’t change just because Mr. Black is suddenly gone, leaving an empty spot and a faint stain to mark his place. Where did he go?
“Maybe he combusted spontaneously,” someone will say sarcastically, and there will be nervous titters.
“What does that mean?” a timid voice will ask.
More laughter, mocking this time. “It means he caught fire for no reason and burned to pile of ashes.”
The laughter will rise and rise until everyone suddenly falls silent, thinking of that time when …
But we don’t talk about that.
So anyways, my point is that it’s not terribly surprising when strangers show up next door to fill the spot where Ollie Black used to be, even if you live in a perfect town where the few outnumber the many because there’s more for us and less for you.
Time turns over. The past gets renamed history. After a while, the strangers new to town are still strange but because they live next to you, they are now called “the people next door.” Therefore, they are OK. You’ve met them. They’re the Guy with the Riding Lawn Mower or the Lady Who Barbecues a Lot. If I had to give you a name, I’d tell you that the Lawn Mower Man is Mr. Danforth — his first name’s Irwin — and the Barbecue Lady is Mrs. Honeywell, except she’s divorced and so she wants people to call her “Bunny.” Even kids are supposed to call her by that name. Bunny has the Broken Baby, a sexless infant that used to be fine but now it’s got something wrong with it, and I think she’s related to the Old Man Who Sits all Day on a Bench. One of my neighbors has a nasty pet that cannot be petted. It’s not a dog — and that’s all I’ll say about that subject for now.
In a nutshell, the people here are no weirder than the kinds of characters you’d find in any small town, should you have actually lived in one and not just zoomed down Main Street on your way to a more interesting place. If you stopped along the way to ask me the name of my town, I’d reply, “Why? You’d just forget what I said two seconds later.” You know it, and I know it. So I’m just going to call the town, “Here.” Just so I can say, “Here’s good!” as you drive away, looking for greener pastures.
Here’s better than good. It’s the best place in the world.
B.B. Young is the author of the serialized novel “The Peepshow,” which is published exclusively by TheBlot Magazine on Tuesdays and Thursdays and features images by artist Joel B. Feldman. Read Chapter 1, Part 1, The Boy with the Backpack and Chapter 1, Part 2 Anyone Can Call Themselves a Murderer.