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The Neighbors and the Vole
by Eric Suhem

The vole is a secret agent, scuttling along the perimeters of suburban housing developments, observing behavior patterns of inhabitants. The vole accumulates data and reports it to higher authorities at Yardtel Inc., a multinational corporation with feelers in the area.

When the Sneedwillows move into the neighborhood, the vole goes on high alert, seeking stimuli, its nose sniffing at sidewalks, fences and patches of mulch. Yardtel Inc. develops increasingly sophisticated technology, and equips the vole with cutting-edge surveillance tools, which the vole employs efficiently to gather new information. Busybody neighbors meanwhile, utilize highly complex binoculars and cameras to observe the vole and the Sneedwillows. The vole and the busybody neighbors keep each other under constant surveillance.

Now ensconced in the neighborhood, Mrs. Sneedwillow, wearing a bright red dress, trims edges of the front lawn minutely with tweezers each day, then returns to the house. On Saturdays, Mr. Sneedwillow, wearing a bright green tuxedo, mows the lawn, grass clippings affixing themselves to his outfit. Various relatives visit, dressed in bright blue, while an assortment of friends stop by, all dressed in bright yellow. The neighbors are baffled by the Sneedwillows, and continue their observation, as does the vole. The vole notices that Mr. Sneedwillow has purchased, at great expense from a catalog, a serenity pod, a bed shaped like a large porcelain egg, replete with relaxing music and soothing vibration. This looks very appealing to the vole.

One day, a red hearse pulls up, and Mrs. Sneedwillow is loaded in, while Mr. Sneedwillow sheds tears into a bright green handkerchief. A week later, Mr. Sneedwillow passes away. Both of the Sneedwillows are buried in the front yard. The vole informs Yardtel Inc. of the developments, and it purchases the yard in a yard sale, along with the garage, in a garage sale.

One of Yardtel’s subsidiaries is the cable Tyrant Channel. Using the yard as an advertisement resource, the corporate interests of Yardtel, Inc. plant posters of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot on the front lawn, and bring in a mysterious cloaked figure to mow the grass at 4 a.m., carving a Hitler mustache into the grass. As neighbors voice objections to the signs, a slow green and red liquid seeps up from the ground near the Sneedwillows’ well-manicured gravesites. It curdles into a strange pool that dissolves Hitler’s lawn mustache, and spreads through the lawn, pulling the tyrant posters down into the ground.

Not seeing a revenue upside to the situation, Yardtel Inc. sells the yard to the cable Hedge Channel, which uses lawn clippers to convert the greenery into a miniature labyrinth, enjoyed by local mice and squirrels.

The vole, upon reviewing the latest developments, has what can be termed as a crisis of conscience. It decides to retire, buying a serenity pod and then spending most of its time in the porcelain egg. The neighbors become bored with viewing the vole in its serenity pod, so they observe and record each other instead, looking forward to reporting it somewhere.