It was late afternoon. The sun was beginning its slow descent from up on high down to the Below, it was only half there, now, and blood-red, the rest of it was covered with clouds, and it looked to be winking, as though it knew it was going to leave, and where it was about to go...
Some sort of music was playing throughout the house, soft, the singing voice was inoffensive and forgetable. The television was on and some brand of some product was advertising just why it was better than all the other brands by way of a song involving a stick of celery, two sticks of carrot and a peanut-butter jar, animated, dancing to and fro, big fake red female lips stuck on their fronts, little yellow arms with over-sized hands shaking back and forth in time with the singing, a kick here when the line ended, a push there when a new one began, and there is merriment, and laughter, an unspoken agreement between the viewer and the television is made that, if this specific product is bought and no other, then the merriment and laughter will somehow enter their lives, and their celery and peanut butter will take on a whole new reality and eating healthily will be fun for the rest of their days, and all you have to do is buy this now!

O! Buy the product, buy it now
Buy the product, we'll show you how!
Carrots and Celery and Cucumber and Salt
Get 'em Cut 'em Stick 'em in down
All it needs is a jar of Crunchie Peanut Butter and you'll...
You'll (kick) find yourself (kick) sa-tis-fied!

Nobody was watching the television. After the game of poker, everything had sort of wound down until mumblings about going home and doing something else, and maybe even going to work were being uttered, even by Jonesy. Milton was passed out on his chair, a small patch of drool darkening the shoulder of his shirt, and he was snoring, perhaps dreaming about a happier time, when passing out before 3 in the afternoon wasn't really an option. Overhead a fan twirled, cutting through the air with a gentle swish that was both comforting and cooling, a two-fold reassurance that was sorely needed during this incredibly warm February, hottest on record since records for temperatures were recorded, back in the 1870s, or so the news reporter had told everyone last night while waving her talk- cards in front of her chest to get some circulation flowing, sweating like everyone else, the damp patches of her shirt actually overtaking the clean so that the best description would be to say that there were dry patches dotting her wet shirt, instead of the usual comment about damp patches on dry, and she was attractive, blonde, quick to smile but with a frazzled look around her eyes that suggested that maybe the air conditioning should be turned down lower, but not too low, because her nipples had a horrible way of popping at a certain temperature which, while enjoyable to a large male demographic, was not always appreciated by the more conservative of viewers, generally female or elderly men, and had caused, only recently, an avalanche of letters addressed to 'That Hussy Who Tells Us The Weather'.
The phone was ringing, and had been for some time now. After the first few rings, Milton had stirred, snorting in his sleep, twitching his chin and wetting his cheek with a strand of salivary drool, but then he had succumbed to the temptations of alcoholic stupor and stayed where he was, only dimly aware that there was a sound outside his immediate sphere of reality, that being his dream-mind, and now his dreams, which were deepening, were involving an awfully large amount of weird telephone instances. Jonesy was wandering around out the back, still wearing his suit though the hat was long gone with the other three wondering if they had ever actually seen him wearing it at all..he had no intention of answering the phone, this wasn't his place after all, and besides, the noise wasn't bothering him. A huge fan of obsessive compulsive behaviour, Jonesy was rather affectionate towards constant noise like a telephone, often letting them ring out just so he could listen, which annoyed his housemates no end. Loud, recurring drum beats were another gem for his ears, which perhaps explained his love of a certain style of music known as 'techno', a genre which, though they had tried, neither Stan nor David could every really understand, or enjoy, and Milton, well...
So Jonesy is outside, walking around, looking for something to do, his stomach full of beer and popcorn, a chocolate bar, half a litre of coke, thirteen cigarettes with one more on the way, a shot of whiskey, or two, and an already half-eaten sandwich by the time he had gotten around to finding it, lying there on the kitchen bench on a plate, looking maybe a day old, so still good. He's kicking around a black hunk of something he found on the floor, hurt his foot twice in the process but given he's been working at it for like two hours now it isn't really all that much of a payment. Boredom set in so long ago that he has reached a new phase of bored existance, a level of pure stupification unknown by all but the most puerile of modern day slackers. Everyone else is upstairs, sleeping off the alcohol probably, but Jonesy's head has cleared, he is sober, more used to the affects of drinking than these...these pussies, what with their lousy ingestion capabilities and bad haircuts, and he paces, back and forth, under the shade of a tree that was planted a few years before David arrived at the scene, maybe by his wife before she wasn't, maybe by whoever owned the place before she did, but the tree has gone to hell now, it only gets watered when the sky decides to rain, the leaves are brown, drooping, the branches almost dragging on the ground, some of them, as though they have given up the will to live, thanks to David's care, or lack thereof, but then maybe, like the brown-nippled weather girl said to houses around the state just yesterday and probably for the last couple of weeks as well, we are in the middle of a heat-wave of close to biblical proportions, are we not, so maybe that is why the tree is giving up the ghost, but either way, it is giving Jonesy the willies and denying him the shade he so desperately wants. But again boredom sets in, pacing is really only a worthwhile activity when it is done outside say, a hospital room when someone's mother is waiting to die, or a maternity ward when a girlfriend or wife is giving birth, so Jonesy decides to wander on down to the back of the yard and peek over the fences, see what he can see.
Three possible options open up to him. The fence on the right, a little above head height and green, would be the easiest to climb. He's heard a lot of fights from that house over the months of sporadic visitations, the ratio being close to 1:1 of fights:visits, so he's not too sure if that would be the best idea, not wanting to get into a fight himself. The left fence is much higher, and pink, it doesn't match anything at all in David's backyard so how exactly it came to be that colour, Jonesy isn't sure. There is a pool over there, and where there are pools there are often girls in bikinis, blue ones, maybe, or yellow, that'd be nice too. But then there is always the chance of a horribly wrinkled, fish-pale white old man in speedos, the sort of sight which can make a man's reasons for living seem useless, feeble. Better make that one the second option, then.
The last possibility, the fence at the back, short and stumpy, with branches and leaves reaching over the new wood and the white tip of a reasonably large house emerging, like bird from a nest out of the greenery, seems to be the best bet. Sidling up to the back fence he rests his hands casually on the wood, like he's inspecting it, checking it for termite damage or something, lowering nodding his head thoughtfully and running his finger along the edge of the wood while his eyes dart nervously about, trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything! Through leaves that run along the parched scale of dried green to crackly brown, Jonesy can see an imitation marble bird feeder, that, if he was to ever actually go up close to and inspect properly, would reveal itself to be actual authentic marble, and there, over by some steps, is the edge of a fold-out chair, garishly striped with red and white. He cranes his neck and dances about a little, but he can't see if there is someone in the chair, or if there is someone, if they are female. Standing on the wooden backing of the fence doesn't help either, it only gives him a splinter. What to do, what to do?
Not much else to do but go over. He put his hands onto the wood, firm, holding tight, not letting the timber grab at him with little splinter-teeth, raising himself up, flexing his muscles, the black plastic pressing against the wood in a painful way in his pocket, feeling the burn in his chest - not too fit, are we, Jonesy? - lifting himself up and over, one foot on the top of the fence, push off and land heavily on the grass, stay crouched down because, yes, yes, there is someone there, in the fold- out chair, pretty sure it's a woman, she's leaning over, tilting her straw hat up, gazing over at the fence where the noise came from, checking to see if, say, an animal had scampered along the leaves or something, wouldn't be the first time, for so close into the city there are an awful large amount of rodents and, and...critters running about, if she thinks about it, she can remember this one night, not so long ago, just before the heat wave started, it was late, past midnight for certain, probably before three though, that's when she gets to bed, and she wasn't in bed yet, maybe just brushing her teeth or something, when she heard this great loud noise, a thump-thump, thump-thump outside, on the grass, out the back where the leaves had just started falling. She slowed down with her teeth brushing, looking at herself in the mirror, raising her left eyebrow - right in the mirror - and cocking her head in the direction of the sound, a little gobbet of toothpaste spit trembling on her chin in the light summer breeze, just dangling there, holding on, the muculent liquid joyous, almost, at a job well done, a testament to her skill with the toothbrush, but, shh, we won't tell, she uses an electric toothbrush, oh yes! It's like she isn't even brushing at all, taking the easy way out...and you have to wonder, really, if she skimps on an important detail like teeth-brushing, where else does she cut corners? Does she have an electric blanket, maybe? Or some sort of strange electric feminine product? But the sound comes again, thump-thump, thump-thump, and she can't hold off anymore, the toothbrushing - lazy as it is - can wait, she wipes her mouth, vain little thing, but cute, still, and goes to the top of the stairs, in her pyjamas, boxer shorts and a little white t-shirt, the sort of pyjamas that most young men of Jonesy's age hope and dream that attractively figured women wear, she looks about, can't see a thing, and even though it's hot, she's, yes, she is, her nipples are browning, becoming visible, two little round dots - not so little, she's got class, this one - they're appearing against the white, there's the nipple, closer inspection would reveal the areola, but, alas, there isn't anyone to see, she's thankful for it, but would David be? Not likely, he's fifty metres away in his living room, oblivious to what's going on outside, if he'd just, maybe, get up or something, go to the refrigerator and grab a drink, and then, on a whim, if he'd look up he'd see, see this...goddess of a woman, in tiny little pyjamas, standing there, on the top of her stairs, looking vulnerable, looking lost, maybe even a little scared, but he doesn't, so she has to go it alone. Down the steps she walks, they creak, make some noises that she could've sworn they've never made before, taunting noises, aware noises, like they know what is going on, and, thump-thump, thump-thump, there's the noise again and she involuntarily takes a few steps back up, away from whatever it is down there, has a few deep breathes, calms herself down, gets a broom for the doorway just for the hell of it and back down she goes, confident now, this animal, this thing, it's hers, scaring her like that, what the fuck was it thinking? She's got a broom, now, a weapon of mass destruction, she can handle anything, a mouse, a snake, a possum, a rat...oh, please Jesus, don't let it be a rat, but even if it is, even then, she can handle it, with the broom, the one she got from the doorway, just before, it's in her hands, hers.
So Shana is at the bottom of the steps, see, and...Wait, you didn't know? Shana, that's her name, she's a nice girl, real calm and collected. 'Head screwed on', her form teacher told her parent's all through high school, she's the sort of girl any boy would be glad to take home and fuck...ah, meet the parents, she's nice. Says the right things, makes the right moves, helps your mother do the washing up without being asked. Real nice. Shana. ...She advances into the deepening night as she leaves the warmth and comfort and light coming from her house, she would've liked to have turned on the outside light right about now but she didn't think of it and it is much too late now, if she goes back up she'll never come down, it'd be too easy just to give up and finish brushing her teeth and climb into bed and forget all about it, that'd be easy, and Shana isn't interested in easy.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, she trips over a carelessly placed bucket while exploring deeper into her backyard. She stifles a curse, not quite knowing why, but maybe it's because she doesn't want the thing to know she knows it is out here. Her eyes are adjusting, she can see better in the dark, can see the fence that indicates where her property stops and someone else's begins but she can't see the thing it doesn't seem to be anywhere, but she can still hear it, thump-thump, thump-thump, it sounded like it might've been behind her then, she grips the broom tight, raising it high above her head, channeling the spirit of an Amazonian princess from 6th century Lemnos, back when men were men and women were fucking tough or so she's read, she spins around, dancer-like to her, it seems, but to a casual bystander - of which there are none, thing excluded 'cause it sure isn't casual - it came off kind of awkward, actually, the mop of the broom, it collides with something, there is a grunt, then a yelp, then a scurry, sounds like towards the house, she can see a figure on the ground, an animal shaped figure, but what, and does it have teeth?
She crouches down, like a warrior, enjoying her role, imaging the broom handle - she quickly whips it around so the mop part is behind her, not in an attacking position - as some sort of a sword, deadly to her foes. Shuffling her feet forward, peering ahead at her house, looking this way and that, into the shadows, trying to see where it went, but then it limps into view, down by the stairs, and all it is is a dog, just a dog, nothing special, nothing scary, actually it's a pretty small dog, really, and it don't look so good, now, what with the being belted by the mop and all, even if it was the shaggy end that feels pretty soft to Shana, but then she wasn't hit with it. The dog gives a bit of a growl when she comes closer, but she can see it's heart really isn't into it, she puts down her weapon, relinquishes her status as Hypsipyle, for now, and approaches the dog, hand out, supplicant to the canine. She pats it, softly, smoothing her hand along its ribs, so thin, and she's not afraid now, she scoops it up, it yelps and bites her arm but not hard, more salivary than painful, she carries it, child-like, upstairs, leaving it on the top of the steps, with the other mop, the plastic one, less deadly, gives the dog some water and left over meat, from dinner: pork, and a few potatoes. It eats gratefully, not saying much, she watches it for a while, breathing heavily, adrenaline still coursing through her veins but not so much as before, she thinks she'll be getting to sleep tonight, probably after a shower though what with the sweat and the dog-smell and all, maybe another tooth-brushing, which isn't so bad an idea if she'd only use a non-electrical one, so vain.

She leaves the back door open for the dog, in case it wants to come inside and sleep or something, but she closes and locks the door to her bedroom, for safety's sake, turning on the fan and opening the windows, watching the moon with its luminescent fullness, then resting her head down on the pillow, closing her eyes, slipping into exhaustion, a natural come- down after the high, dreamless, a fallen warrior, not out of grace but out of duty, she sleeps.
Twenty minutes later, outside, the thump-thump, thump-thump begins again, but she is fast asleep, and does not hear it.