It's all blurring together.
Okay, I think I'm happy with the first Dogberry scene and i've gotten through enough where I think I like the characters. Plus, this has given me enough of a break from my usual cast where I'll be excited to go back into the regular story and write them again.
Later I may go back and throw in some lines here and there noting that it's a gated community.
I changed the tertiary character Allison to Darlene.
I may change the title again. I have more thoughts.
Anyway, more words! Deficit smaller! Thanksgiving is near!
It was both Henry and Henrietta’s first day of work. Security for the gated community had a surprisingly high turnaround rate, and the two had been hired on at the same time. They arrived at the office building prior to noon and found Darlene, the hiring manager and head of security, waiting to greet them. She stood with Verne, assistant manager and lead regional supervisor.
“Welcome, welcome. We’re glad you two could start on short notice,” Darlene said, shaking their hands in turn. “You were the only two applicants, so I think you’ll be great.”
She beamed a smile at the two. They smiled back just as eagerly. She handed the two notepads and pencils and took a seat at a table. Henry and Henrietta followed suit. Darlene took out a three-page packet and flipped it open.
“This job is very easy, very basic, so please take copious notes,” she said.
She put on a pair of glasses.
“We train with you for now, and then we’ll see how you two fair on the night shift.”
Henrietta raised her hand.
“Yes, the girl,” Verge said.
“How long does the night shift last?”
“We usually run a strictly sun-based schedule,” Darlene said, shoving a handful of Big League Chew into her mouth. “Starts at curfew, ends at sunrise. To keep things simple tonight we’ll do a eight to six.”
Henry raised his hand this time.
“Yes, the boy,” Verge said.
“It’s noon now. Are we going to get a break?”
“Of course! The whole purpose of training is to break you in.”
“No, like, that’s eighteen hours. Do we get to go home at any point?”
Darlene and Verge looked at one another, confused.
“Do you want this community to be unsafe?” Darlene asked. “You know what, how about this, if you finish training before midnight, you can have the interim period to do whatever you kids do these days.”
“I’m nineteen…” Henry whispered.
“Same,” Henrietta whispered in reply.
“Though, back when I did my Master’s in Business Administration, the motto always was, ‘the more training the better’” Darlene continued. “So we’ll try to go for as long as possible. First question: Are you honest people?”
Henrietta and Henry nodded fervently.
“That’s a good answer,” Verge whispered to Darlene.
“What if they’re lying?” Darlene whispered back.
“They said they were honest; honest people don’t lie.”
Darlene continued in a full voice.
“Are you ready for your first assignment?”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“There are two separate positions to be filled at all times,” Darlene said.
“This is better with a visual aid. Verge, go get the model.”
Verge nodded and left the room. Less than a minute later he returned with box approximately the size of a standard board game. He set it down on the table and opened it. Much like a board game box, inside there was a board and several pieces. Henry and Henrietta looked at one another confused. Verge spent the next few minutes putting together what was eventually revealed to be a model of the neighborhood.
“Now I know what you’re thinking,” Darlene said, looking at the faces of the new hires. “It’s not to scale. And you’d be right. The cul de sac less square than the model makes it out to be, but there are only so many online board game manufacturer’s that will produce ready-to-use prototypes like this in quantities of under one hundred.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“So back to your duties.”
Verge pulled out one of those baton-like teacher’s pointers that were a thing before laser pointers got cheaper and smart boards took over schools like lice. He pointed at the gate at the opening of the cul de sac.
“You may remember this gate; you entered through it to get here. It is much like the gate on this model except much larger,” Darlene said.
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“There is language in the neighborhood code of security duties indicating that someone must be present in the gate at all times,” she said. “Prior to your hiring and right after our last two security guards were lost to the food service industry, Verge and I have been working twelve hour days trading off every four hours. It’s been an exhausting experience, but I think it has definitely brought us closer together.”
Darlene grabbed Verge’s shoulder and shook it in a ‘wow look at us being friends’ way. Henry raised his hand.
“Yes, the boy again,” Verge said, pointing the pointer uncomfortably close to Henry’s nose.
“Who is staffing the gate right now?”
Darlene and Verge looked at each other and looked out the window in horror. Verge stood up immediately, handed the pointer to Darlene, and left the office. Once the door closed, Darlene handed the pointer to Henry.
“Here you go. Verge usually does the pointing while I do the talking. Just follow my lead.”
“So as I was saying, someone should be covering the gate at all times of the day except for New Year’s and Christmas Day,” she said. “We think that was written in the code to give us the time off, but as it turns out there’s no way to keep the gate open for more than a few minutes, so we just work those days too.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“To recap, one person must always be in the gate,” she said. “Secondly, during night hours, one person must always be patrolling the street.”
Darlene looked at Henry and then back at the model. Henry slowly moved the pointer away from the gate and to the street. Darlene stared at the road, actively moving her head in a circle, stopping to stare back at Henry.
“A circle,” she said. “Move the pointer in a circle.”
Henry traced the cul de sac once.
“Perfect,” she said. “In essence, one person must always be strolling through the street to ensure that the cul de sac is safe and sound. Does that make sense?”
Henrietta and Henry nodded. Henry stopped moving the pointer.
“Henry,” Darlene said with a condescending tone. “Why did you stop moving the pointer. I told you, one person must always be patrolling the street. Don’t nod in confirmation if you don’t actually understand.”
“I do understand-”
“Let’s not be terse with me on our first day,” Darlene said. “Now keep it moving.”
Henry kept the pointer moving.
“Now you there,” Darlene said.
“Henrietta,” said Henrietta.
“Oh that won’t do. Three syllable names are much too long. From now on I will call you Henri,” Darlene said.
“But my name is Henry,” said Henry, pausing his pointer motion and immediately starting back up after receiving a death glare from Darlene.
“Oh that does create a problem. How about we shorten your name to Hen,” Darlene said. “Does that sound appropriate Henri?”
Henrietta and Henry both said, “yes.”
“No no, I wasn’t asking you Hen. You already failed yourself with the pointer. Hand that over to Henri.”
Henry handed the pointer to Henrietta who began circling the cul de sac quickly.
“Good job,” Darlene said. “Though it may be of note that you won’t be able to actually move at that speed. As I’ve said, the real cul de sac is much bigger.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“Now on to assigning tonight’s duties. Henri, I think you’ve proven yourself as patrol with your work just now. Hen, you will operate the gate. Is that clear?”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“Perfect. Verge, go get the lantern.”
Verge, who was at the gate and not in ear shot, did not respond. Darlene scowled.
“I guess if you want to get something done you do it yourself,” she said.
She left the room, leaving Henrietta and Henry alone to listen to the sounds of the pointer circling the model cul de sac. Darlene returned with a lantern that looked as if it were plucked from a thousand-year-old shipwreck.
“The gate has lights in it, but what you may not know is that not working in the gate means you do not have a light,” Darlene said.
She reached out her arm to hand Henrietta the lantern.
“Should I stop?” Henrietta asked, pointing to her circling hand with her free hand.
“Henri, if you are unable to complete the duties assigned to you, we may need to have a discussion about your behavior,” Darlene said, thrusting the lantern into Henrietta’s free hand. “This is the only lantern we have, so be careful.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“That was not directed at you Hen,” Darlene said. “You have lights in the gate.”
“The rest of your training will take place outside. Let’s go.”
Darlene marched right out the door. Henry followed. Henrietta, sincerely unsure, set down the pointer and the lantern and followed after Henry. As she closed the door Darlene scolded her, reminding the both of them that only the gate had lights in it and that Henrietta needed to bring the lamp. Henrietta returned to the office, grabbed the lamp, and head back outside.
Darlene was not wrong about the dimensions of the cul de sac. The model was shaped quite circular, whereas the cul de sac in real life was like if someone had tossed a long rubber band onto a table. Darlene took the lamp from Henrietta and stepped onto the sidewalk, beginning the circular stroll.
“This lamp is to be held by the lead of the patrol, so we should decide who will lead the patrol when you two are working.”
Henrietta and Henry looked at one another. Darlene looked at the two.
“Henri, would you like to volunteer to be the lead of the patrol?” Darlene asked. “Or would you like me to assign you as lead.”
“I volunteer?” Henrietta asked.
“Perfect,” Darlene said.
She handed the lamp back to Henrietta and strode along the sidewalk. They made two laps of the cul de sac in complete silence save the clunking of the lamp before Darlene spoke.
“Now that we have a feel for the walking, I can give you a tour.”
Darlene pointed to different houses indicating the homeowner, typical residents, and any pets that they may want to look out for.
“The biggest one here is owned by Liza,” Darlene said, smiling. “We have book club together every Tuesday night. Some of her family is staying this weekend including guests of family, so Hen.”
Darlene turned on Henry. He jumped.
“Expect more people than usual, and people that you haven’t met before.”
“I haven’t met any of them before?” Henry said, cautiously, having yet to work a shift.
“That’s what I said,” Darlene said, rolling her eyes. “But we’ll go through more of that when we train you on gate duty. As for patrol.”
Darlene looked at Henrietta. Henrietta straightened her posture.
“Remember the three D’s,” Darlene said.
Henrietta nodded. Darlene started to speak again, and Henrietta nervously interrupted her.
“I’m sorry, what were the three D’s?”
“Did you not read the handbook?” Darlene asked.
“We didn’t get a handbook,” both Henry and Henrietta said.
Darlene scoffed and glared at her two new hires.
“You should have asked them before we got out here. Now I’ll have to tell you all the acronyms myself,” she said. “The three D’s are no Drugs, Dogs must always be on leashes, and anything else Darlene tells you to Do.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded, committing this to memory.
“The neighborhood code unfortunately doesn’t specify what kind of drugs to prohibit, so to be safe you will not be permitted to self-medicate while on the clock, prescription or otherwise,” Darlene said. “We don’t need any more stoners than we already have.”
Darlene glared at one house in particular, three houses down from Liza’s.
“If you find someone breaking neighborhood code, you are to perform a citizen’s arrest immediately,” Darlene said.
Henrietta and Henry nodded, unsure of the legality of the request.
“We don’t have a jail cell or anything, but the office is always open for use and the closet can usually fit anyone under four feet tall,” Darlene continued. “And please refrain from arresting any dogs. We used to enforce that policy, but the last time Verge threw one in the closet it peed everywhere.”
Henrietta and Henry nodded.
“Do arrest people; do not arrest dogs. Here are some zip ties.”
Darlene pulled a handful of zip ties from her pockets and handed them to Henrietta and Henry. Darlene informed them that there were more in the office and more in the gate if they were to run out during the night. After that, Verge gave an overview of the gate, how it opened and closed, ID verification, and her own tips for the best ways to identify weed smell.
“Skunk is a bad comparison to use,” he said. “I’ve been informed by many youth in the area that the streets are full of them. Always spraying. Haven’t seen them myself, but I’m a good driver.”
The three returned to the office, and after giving Henry and Henrietta both copies of the handbook and contact information for the neighborhood residents, Darlene reluctantly let them break.
“Be back by eight at the latest,” she called out as the two shuffled out of the office quickly.
Post-nap, Paul took a car of friends in town to grab new clothes for the party. Liza – even after the repeated demands of her daughter – refused to give a dress code or color theme aside from ‘smaller party than last night, better fashion, and we will be using the ballroom.’ Heather and Billy stayed with Liza through the afternoon and helped set up the party. Help here referring to the contractors that Liza had hired rather than Liza herself.
“I didn’t know this place had a ballroom,” Billy said, arranging chairs.
“Oh we don’t use it much,” Heather said.
Though it was her own home, she did have to ask for directions when Liza said to meet in the ballroom, but to her credit she had lived elsewhere during college.
There wasn’t too much to decorate. The ballroom was gorgeous already. All that was added were a few silver ornaments here and there, a seating area for guests, a seating area for a seven-piece musical group that Liza had hired, and the bar.
The first to arrive was a woman who looked remarkably like Andy, but carrying a violin. Andy had never carried a violin. She was more of a bagpiper herself. Once the rest of the music section arrived, a viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, and bassoon, Liza shuffled away to go get dressed. Heather and Billy followed suit while the musicians tuned their instruments.
Liza was first to return with only the musicians and bartender present, so she left. Heather and Billy returned, Heather in a well-tailored floor length charcoal grey gown with a sweetheart neckline and pockets, Billy in a grey suit that was just a bit reflective over top of a hot pink shirt and white bowtie.
“The pink was a choice,” Heather said, stepping out of her slippers and into a pair of black two-inch pumps.
Billy was about to defend himself when Liza entered the room in wearing a gown of pure silver. She looked like pure mercury, and as she entered the musicians began to play. She pranced over, the sound of stiletto heels clicking as she walked.
“I paid them to do that,” Liza said, turning to the section and telling them they could stop. “Isn’t money wonderful?”
“It really is,” she said.
Paul and Jon were next to arrive, looking better dressed than frankly anyone in the room had expected. Well, it would be disingenuous to imply that the bartender or musicians would have pre-conceived expectations of the brother’s fashion abilities, but it definitely was surprising. The two wore standard matching suits, which Jon somehow made look considerably uglier just by the way he walked, stood, breathed, and existed.
“I hope we’re not early,” Paul opened.
“Oh by no means,” Liza said, staring over his shoulder at the door. “The invitations did say nine. Why don’t you four have a drink while I go look for my sister.”
Liza left the ballroom under the pretense of looking for Andy, but actually just to have an excuse to reenter with more people. Chris and Ben showed up, also in matching suits – they chose a dark navy. Connor and Bailey were last to arrive, Connor in all black and Bailey wearing a dress very similar to Heather but much limper, and no pockets.
“Oh no, you might have to go change,” Chris whispered to Heather after getting a good look at Bailey.
“I think we know who wore it best.”
Liza returned with Andy to flowing music. Liza was still in her silver dress and Andy was in a slightly duller and thicker version of the same, like if Liza’s dress had been washed a few too many times, but was also built for the winter.
The lights dimmed, the music played, and Liza quite aggressively demanded that everyone dance.
Heather, appropriately, paired with Chris. Heather had gone through a dance phase after her horse phase, so she knew what she was doing, Chris less so, but Heather was able to lead in a way that made it look like Chris was doing the work. The two spun around the dance floor in an effortless rotary waltz.
Connor and Bailey paired up immediately. The two were surprisingly swift dancers. This left Jon alone, and a charitable Andy swept in as his partner. Jon was a centipede of left feet and his hands were sticky.
Liza and Paul glanced at each other, back at Billy and Ben who were staring around the room nervously, and paired together. Liza lead with confidence and the two spun around, keeping eyes on the rest of the floor.
Billy and Ben paired together in performative reluctance.
“Are they together?” Liza asked Paul as the spun.
She had neglected to put in her contacts, which didn’t make her completely blind or anything. She had had Lasik, and without the contacts she could function, but faces were still a little blurry.
“Heather and Chris?” Paul asked, turning his head every which way. “Or Billy or Ben. It’s yes to both.”
“Good good,” Liza said. “I guess while I have you here, what are your thoughts on Chris?”
Paul smiled, continuing to step in time.
“Great guy,” Paul said. “If you really want a good review, I’d talk to Ben. They’ve been best friends for longer than I’ve known them, but I’ve only good things to say about Chris.”
Liza was comforted by Paul’s words. From her own perception, Chris was relatively harmless, but even the best of people use Yelp from time to time.
“He is a lightweight though,” Paul said. “I’d change that in him if I could.”
Elsewhere on the floor, Billy and Ben were battling hand positions.
“No, no, I’m leading,” Billy said, pulling his hand out of Ben’s and reorienting it so Ben’s was in his.
“Who said you got to lead,” Ben replied, shifting his own hand.
“I took Ballroom Dance 1 in college,” Billy hissed, taking back the lead and nearly running into Paul and Liza.
“I also took Ballroom Dance 1,” Ben said, moving his other hand to Billy’s back. “We were in the same class.
“Yeah well I took Social Dance in high school,” Billy quipped. “That’s got to count for something.”
The two continued to spin. There was something about the rotary waltz that made it so you really couldn’t be unhappy – unless you were Andy of course dealing with Jon’s sticky hands. The background turns to a blur from the spinning leaving your partner the only thing in focus like an Instagram photo. You feed off the push and pull of your partner with a constant joyful fear of breaking the rhythm. Billy stared at Ben and Ben back at Billy, and the two couldn’t stop from smiling, even if they were still bickering the whole time.
Joy aside, the two were objectively poor at special awareness, careening around the ballroom with reckless abandon. Heather and Chris’s dodged the gay loose cannon on the dance floor gracefully. They didn’t speak, but stared at one another smiling. One of those ‘conversations without words’, except not really a conversation, or if it had been a conversation, the only words exchanged would have been ‘I feel joy’ again and again.
The music ended and the couples broke their forms, Billy and Ben quickly, Chris and Heather slowly, and Paul and Liza last of all; Liza insisted that Paul twirl her out for a final spin. Everyone clapped, mostly for the musicians, Liza for herself. The crowd split up, most to the bar, and Jon, Connor, and Bailey to the seats. The music started back up.
“Oh my god, is she singing?” Bailey said, looking over at the music section.
The violinist was playing violin and providing vocals in tandem. Bailey was slightly aroused.
“You two still down for the plan?” Jon asked.
He sipped his drink. Scotchka on the rocks.
“Of course,” Bailey replied, taking a sip of her own drink, whiskey. “My purse is like, full to the zipper with lube.”
Connor blushed, and Jon grinned.
“We just need to ensure that Heather leaves for long enough and we’re set.”
Ben and Chris returned to the table. Billy and Heather were chatting with their parents back at the bar. Chris, who was only one and a half drinks in was already buzzed.
“Well look at you two love birds,” Jon jeered.
Ben and Chris stared back Jon, confused.
“He means you two independent of one another,” Bailey said. “It’s all very cute.”
Ben blushed, and Chris smiled sheepishly.
“You think so?” Chris asked.
“I mean, I always assumed that Paul would end up with her, but you seem to be doing a good job.”
“You two are absolutely adorable,” Liza said.
Heather smiled, but Billy shied away from the words.
“And I want you to know, Heather, that I approve of Chris. Word’s out on Ben though.”
Heather winked. Billy flushed and sipped his drink.
“You know for someone constantly rejecting the mainstream, you seem to be riding my coattails this weekend,” Heather said, playing with her dress.
Billy gave her a confused look.
“Oh you know, Chris and I start being a thing and now you and Ben are dancing again.”
Billy started to speak but was cut off by Heather.
“The change looks good on you,” she said. “The boy. Not the pink.”