In His House in Suburbia
That is not idle, which can eternal strive,
And in new seasons, strange broods may thrive.
--Jaaq al Coustou
One morning a Vespa was parked in the carport of the old Wilson place. I caught a glimpse of my new neighbor the next day. He was mowing and I was on my roof replacing some shingles. His face was a mass of tentacles, with a huge eye on each side. That seemed a little strange, even for SoCal.
I saw him again while raising money for the orphanage down the street. He had finally put his name on the mailbox. Instead of Wilson it now read "Phnglui." When I got to the door I thought I heard chanting inside, but it stopped as soon as I knocked. A few minutes later the door opened. Mr. P. stood there blinking. He was wearing a Miskatonic University T-shirt and jeans with holes in the knees. I couldn't help noticing that his bare feet had webbing between the toes.
"Hey man," I said, "I'm selling raffle tickets for the orphanage. They're a dollar. You could win, like, a big screen TV, or dinner for two at Steamers." After I mentioned that one I wished I hadn't. He might be a little uncomfortable with the idea of seafood, being a sort of human calamari.
"Oh, uh, sure. Hold on." He went to a little table that was covered with papers held down by a green soapstone statuette. He picked up his wallet. "I'll take five."
"Thanks man. Say, could I borrow your mower? Mine quit working last time I used it and it's still in the shop. This time of year they're so busy it takes forever."
"No problem. I already mowed."
I saw Mr. P pretty regularly after that. I got the feeling he'd been keeping a low profile until he found out how the neighbors would react to his appearance. I even saw him jogging in the park, and ran into him at the grocery store. He was buying shrimp, so I guess my seafood restaurant gaffe hadn't been a problem. When it came time for the neighborhood's annual Fourth of July picnic, I made sure to invite him.
"You may not be American, but you're welcome to party with us. Plus, we're going to do the drawing. For the raffle." I couldn't place his accent.
"I'm from Massachusetts," he said. "A little town near Arkham. Innsmouth; you probably haven't heard of it. Got kin up that way. And I'll definitely see you Saturday. I'll bring some crabcakes."
Everyone agreed the crabcakes were awesome. A couple of people asked for the recipe, and he promised to e-mail them. I don't know why, but for some reason I hadn't expected him to use e-mail. He noticed my expression.
"I can't afford to call my relatives long distance; I use Skype. I have some cousins near Ponape. Aquaculturalists."
About then, Missy Langston sat down next to Mr. P. She was wearing a very brief bikini, and she draped her arm across his shoulders. This made him a little uncomfortable, if the frenetic writhing of his tentacles was anything to go by.
"Oh Mr. P," she said. "I hear you have all kinds antique statuary in your house. I would love to see it." She leaned over and whispered in his ear. He turned bright red. I got up to get another beer. It was a while later when I noticed the two of them had gone. I also didn't see Missy's sometime boyfriend Chuck. Seemed like Missy had been fighting with him a few hours earlier, before she started talking to Mr. P.
About then Missy came running out of the darkness, screaming that Chuck was killing Mr. P and we needed to make them stop. She had lost her bikini top. A couple of us ran back the way she had come, to find Mr. P on the ground. About a third of the tentacles were missing from around his mouth and he was bleeding from a cut above his eye. There was no sign of Chuck. We got Mr. P upright and half dragged him to his house. I asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, but he shook his head. At the front door he waved us away, and closed and locked it behind him.
The next morning I checked on him. He didn't answer until I shouted that I was going to call 911. I heard a faint whisper from just on the other side of the door.
"I'll regenerate. Just go away. Please."
That night I took him some chowder. He didn't answer the door, so I left it in a cooler. The next morning the cooler was empty. A week later he was out trimming his hedge, sporting a set of bright pink stubby tentacles that replaced the ones Chuck had torn out.
In the meantime, no one had seen Chuck at all. Missy tossed her head and said "I'm glad! All he ever gave me was a black eye."
A few days after that Chuck turned up... floating face down in a canal, partially eaten by fish and crabs. He had been in the water for days, and his face was completely gone.
I was one of the few who showed up at the funeral. Missy arrived right before he was lowered into the ground, riding behind Mr. P. on his bright yellow Vespa.
It was about a month later that Missy started to show. Mr. P bought a used Accord. Missy announced that she was carrying quadruplets, and I bought them one of those fancy four-seat strollers. A couple of humorists down the street chipped in and bought a 100 gallon fish tank. I didn't think it was funny.