Gateways “The Bluff of Summer Grove” by Daniel Mendoza read by Evin McQuistin

TRANSCRIPT: Daniel Mendoza is an up and coming Latinx storyteller, based in Chicago, Il. Daniel is thrilled to be included in Gateways Story-writing series. He spends the little free time he has writing D&D campaigns and feeding his cat.

People are dying to get into Summer Grove. A diverse, healthy, affordable gated community, where anyone would want to sign a lease to their very own home. Unfortunately for most, Summer Grove is near impossible to get in. You sign up for a lottery system and wait until someone moves out then a person is selected at random and they have 24 hours to respond to the invitation. No amount of money, fame, or connections could secure anyone a spot; it relied on pure luck. 

“You must be Chris and Abigail. I’m James, President of the homeowners association, which doesn’t make me the most popular guy around but sacrifices have to be made. Let me open the gates, and show y’all to your new home.” 

The tall, light skinned man adjusted his thick framed glasses, and drove off on his golf cart, with the young couple behind him driving past the small streets surrounded by specialty shops with incredible smells, a lake that seemed to stretch over the horizon, and a park filled with the laughter of children. They drive until they reach a sky blue house that looks identical to every other but has 217 on the mailbox. With one last congratulations and a smile, James hands our couple the keys, and begins to drive away. 

“Where are my manners, I’m having a little get together at my place. Could serve as a nice meet and greet to introduce you to the neighborhood. It’ll be real casual so don’t bother unpacking your black tie.” James chuckles as he drives off. 

Chris and Abigail spend most of the day unpacking, it’s a trip down memory lane with a quick detour of disbelief that they were actually here. Suddenly a harsh knock. Abigail opens the door to reveal a couple in their 60’s smiling at the door. 

“I’m Ashton, and this is Phil, my husband. We saw James driving off and we knew that must mean new neighbors! We brought over some cookies and wanted to say hi!” Ashton said. 

“Nice to meet you, we were actually getting ready to head over to James’ place for the get together,” Abigail explains. Ashton and Phil’s faces go pale as if they’d seen a ghost. 

“We didn’t hear about a get together, but I suppose perhaps it’s just for newer folks to Summer Grove.” 

Ashton says through a forced smile. 

“I don’t think he gave us his address though so he can’t want us there very much,” Chris jokes. 

“It’s just a walk down the street, the red house, you can’t miss it,” Phil says emotionless “We should let you get going, let James know we said hello,” Phil continues as Ashton and he leave. 

“We shouldn’t have said anything, now James is gonna feel really weird,” Abigail said. “It’s a small get together, I’m sure he invited us as a courtesy,” Chris assures. They arrive at the red house, it is the only red house on the street, and quite possibly the only red house in the entire community. They approach the door and suddenly feel nervous, Chris gives the door a sturdy knock. Every second that passes from this moment on feels like a century, they feel beads of sweat build on their foreheads, they are completely silent. James opens the door and relief fills their universe. 

He has switched out his suit and tie for a hawiian shirt and bermuda shorts as he welcomes them in. They are met with what seems like most of the community. As Chris and 

Abigail mingle with the crowd. James approaches Chris and asks him to help bring in the trays he’s had in the smoker out back. Immediately, almost everyone else volunteers to help. Outside, Chris notices a dog house. 

“I didn’t know you had a dog.” James whips his head and replies, “Yes, the community does allow small pets but they must be kept inside at night to avoid disturbing the neighbors. River is on his night time walk with the community walker. I wish I could walk him but certain sacrifices have to be made.” 

As the night goes on, Chris and Abigail begin to notice the community is incredibly tight knit as they are invited to join the community garden, weekly game nights, book clubs, and to help organize the next block party. Summer Grove is everything it advertised as. 

Time passes and Chris and Abigail settle in. They have friends, they are part of groups, they feel like part of the community. Chris arrives home from the local butcher. 

“Hey, did you know Danny moved?” “No, I thought we scheduled a movie night with him and Maggie,”Abigail responded. “Maybe we can ask around at James’ game thing tonight,” Chris suggested. “Oh, I forgot to tell you, work unloaded a bunch of cases on me tonight. If I don’t jump on them now I’m gonna have to skip fishing tomorrow with everybody,” Abigail said, sounding exhausted already. 

“That’s fine, we don’t have to go,” Chris started before Abigail interrupted with, “No, you should still go, we’re still new here, and James has been so helpful. I’d hate to seem ungrateful.” 

“I’ll make an appearance and say hi to everyone and bring you back a plate, how about that?” 

“Sounds good to me,” Abigail responded. It’s late at night as Abigail works, rubbing the temples of her head with exhaustion. She looks out the window on to the street and sees a shadowy beast-like figure standing in the dark, her naked eyes not being able to make sense of the creature. Right as the street light goes off it vanishes. She grabs her coat and steps out the door, and sees a large, imposing man holding a leash. 

“Have you lost your dog?” She shouts. The man turns to her and assuredly says, “Just visiting some old friends, nothing to worry about. Head back inside.” 

Abigail slowly closes the door as she re-enters the house. She takes one last look out the peephole as the man walks to the edge of the street light and pets the beast-like figure as he pulls a severed arm into the light. “That’s a good boy” 

Abigail covers her mouth as she gasps with terror. She tells Chris everything when he gets back. 

“Gail, everything is alright, the man was probably the walker we haven’t met yet and look at your caseload, of course you’re imagining things like severed arms, it’s all ok. James also wanted to invite us to an evening cookout he’s having next friday, he wanted to let us know early.” 

As the week passes they hear that Phil and Ashton moved out, Abigail runs into James outside of the Butcher. 

“James, what do you know about the walker?” Abigail questions. 

“He’s very trusted, why? Are you getting a dog soon?” James responds 

“Do you know why Danny moved? Or Asthon and Phil?” Abigail continues. “Why are you asking me?” James asks “Something is weird about this place, and you seem to be the leader around here.” James cuts her off. “I don’t know what you mean by leader, I have the authority to ask you to put your trash can away after trash day but that’s all. Danny violated multiple rules, he was forced to leave. Phil and Ashton wanted to be closer to family, that’s why they left. Everything requires sacrifice, I didn’t think I had to publicly announce their business.” 

Abigail feels a bit embarrassed. “Sorry I’ve been so stressed from the precinct, I must’ve brought it home. Should I bring anything tonight?” 

“It’s been cancelled, sorry this week has been hectic, I’ll let you know when I can reschedule,” James says as he walks away. 

That evening, Abigail is just settling in for the evening when she sees she has a voicemail from Chris. 

“Hey, sorry I didn’t have a chance to send a message but I ran into James and promised I would help set up for tonight, I’ll see you when you get here.” 

Suddenly a scratch is at the door followed by heavy panting as Abigail looks out the window of their room to see the dog walker approaching her home. 

“That’s a good boy, River” 

She tries to call Chris but no one responds, She then calls James and is met with the message, “I’m sorry I can’t be everywhere at once, but certain sacrifices must be made. I’ll get to you as soon as I can.” 

It relied on pure luck, no amount of money, fame, or connections could secure anyone a spot. You sign up for a lottery system and wait until someone moves out, then a person is selected at random and they have 24 hours to respond to the invitation. Unfortunately for most, Summer Grove is near impossible to get in. A diverse, healthy, affordable community, anyone would want to sign the lease to their very own home. People are dying to get into Summer Grove.

Evin McQuistin is an actor/director who reads a lot of Shakespeare and digests a lot of sci-fi. He mostly blames the sci-fi (via Star Trek: The Next Generation) for getting him into the Shakespeare.