Doctor Szabo moves into the house on Puffin Court right at the end of February — somewhere around then, at least. It’s the middle of February for sure, but none of us can say the exact date. He comes in the middle of this huge, week-long snowstorm we’re having at the time, and so we only notice something’s changed when all the flurries die down and we can see there’s a car in his driveway.

We’re almost certain Doctor Szabo doesn’t leave his house until April. Some of us like to say we saw him moving in during the snowstorm, but nobody can back any of it up. On the fifth, though, everyone agrees they see him come out. He doesn’t do anything that interesting. He gets in his car right away and then comes back half an hour later and goes inside again with a bunch of food.

He starts leaving at all hours of the day after this — just gets in his car and drives away.

The house never gets taken care of. It’s a real shame too, because the gentleman who lived there before spent all his time keeping the place in shape when he retired. Doctor Szabo doesn’t seem to want to stay outside on his property long enough to do this, though. He doesn’t plant any new grass after the snow melts. He doesn’t refinish his driveway when cracks start showing up in the asphalt. He doesn’t knock any hornets’ nests down from his gutter. A young lady sits out on the porch now and then, but she never tries to clean or put anything back in order either.

Things stay like this for a while. We don’t exactly like Doctor Szabo, but we tolerate him. We nod back at him from across the cul de sac and we say as much as we need to say at the mailbox — this is how we establish the name and occupation. Otherwise, though, we do our best to keep him at arm’s length, and we start to get bored of him after a while.

We get bored of him until he wakes us up in the middle of the night on Easter Sunday.

It happens all of a sudden, right around four or so, and it happens loud as hell. Someone’s Lincoln Town Car pulls up into his driveway and slams on the brakes. All of its doors are thrown open and shut so loud it sounds like an air raid. Naturally, we all roll over and look out our windows down at Doctor Szabo’s place, and four big tall guys in suits are wheeling an old man who looks like he’s passed-out or dead or something up to the front door. They knock real loud, and then Doctor Szabo opens up quick and looks around a bit before letting them in.

Nothing goes on for about an hour after this, so we all start to get back into bed and fall asleep again. But then of course, right as this is happening, Szabo’s door gets thrown open. Most of us are pretty fed up at this point, and so only a couple people look out this time.

They don’t have any photos or videos or anything, but they all agree that they see the same four people come out with the same old unconscious guy in the wheelchair. The girl from the porch is there, too. She’s getting led along by the hand and punching and kicking at the air. Everyone falls back into the Town Car and peels off, people say, and then Doctor Szabo runs out onto the porch and stares after them.

Every night for the rest of the week is loud. Doctor Szabo doesn’t seem to sleep at all. He just stays up and turns lights on and off all over his house and yells about someone whose name sounds like “Heather” we all assume is the girl. He throws things around and breaks glass. Sometimes he goes out into his backyard right before the sun rises and starts a fire for a couple of hours. His fence is too high for any of us to ever see what he burns.

And then on Friday, it rains and thunders all day, and he disappears. Most of us think he drives off in the car somewhere again, because it disappears too, but nobody actually sees him leave. He never comes back after this, and nobody else ever enters or leaves the house.

His front door is still open when he disappears, so Nora De Gooyer goes and closes it after awhile to make sure no animals get in the place, but none of us step foot on Szabo’s property after this. We all just look over to see if anything’s changed when we head outside in the morning. And nothing does. The door stays shut, and the porch stays empty, and the grass stays dead.

When Winter rolls around again, we all shovel the snow from our driveways onto Dr. Szabo’s, and the pile gets big enough by December that everyone’s kids start sledding down it on the weekends.

Upper Canada / Creative writing student at Concordia University

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