Chris trudged across the lawn toward the neighbor’s house. He’d barely gotten home when his crying four year old had greeted him at the door with news that Snuffles had gotten out and run under the fence. Now he was lost somewhere next door.
Somewhere in “the memorial”.
The house next door was an eyesore. Chris’s house had belonged to his parents since before he was born. He and Emily had moved in after his folks passed away about six years ago. It was still a good neighborhood and the house was nicer than anything they could have afforded on their own. The next door neighbor arrived three years ago and immediately began work on his monument. That’s what he called it, anyway. Chris and Emily didn’t even know his name, he’d never volunteered it after the usual prompting. He’d just go on about his monument, and how proud he was of it, but would never say what it was for. Truthfully Chris wasn’t sure if he wanted to know or even cared, he just wanted it and him gone. The thing undoubtedly had a negative effect on his property value.
Chris briefly paused on the neighbor’s front lawn. Should he ring the doorbell or just go into the back yard? Better to not talk to the man if it could be avoided. He decided he’s try the side gate and if it was unlocked he’s just walk in and look for Snuffles. The gate swung freely when he depressed the latch, letting off a sharp squeak as it opened. With one step he entered the monument.
Ahead lay a forest of carved wood of various heights but all broadly monolithic is proportion, skinny carved fingers reaching out of the beaten dirt where a lawn used to stand. As he stepped carefully between the pillars large chunks of sawdust adhered to his shoes.
He began whispering in a soothing voice, “Snuffles? Here boy. Where are you, you stupid cat? Come on.”
From what Chris could tell there was no rhyme or reason to the display. From his yard he could only see the top two or three feet of the taller columns, but now amongst them he could see that there were dozens all too low to be seen from his porch. There had to be hundreds of these rectangular statues back here, randomly jammed into the property.
Chris experienced a momentary panic. What if he got lost? He shook the thought from his mind. The idea of getting lost in your neighbor’s suburban back yard. Ridiculous.
“Here, Snuffles. Jeez, I don’t know if you could even find me in this mess.”
Keeping his gaze down in a duel effort to not trip and to spot the cat, Chris tried to touch the pillars as little as possible, conscious that if one went down the entire field may fall like dominoes. What a lawsuit that would be, trespassing and destruction of the most ridiculous property imaginable.
Chris stepped out from behind one particularly large column and before him lay a roughly circular patch of grass devoid of monoliths. In that manicured green grass lay Snuffles, cleaning himself without a care in the world.
Cautiously, so as not to scare him off, Chris knelt down to retrieve his daughter’s wayward best friend. “There you are. That’s a good boy.” Standing up with Snuffles securely in his arms, Chris happened to glance up at the circular field of statues that surrounded him.
He could see now that the patterns carved into the pillars were not entirely random. Many of the lines and holes made crude, almost tribal, faces. Chris was standing in the center of the grassy circle and it seemed that all the faces, carved toward the top of almost every pillar, were looking directly at him. The columns were of no uniform height, so that the effect was that of a diverse crowd staring at him. There was no rational explanation for it, but Chris felt that these statues were standing in judgment of him, for what he did not know.
Suddenly aware that his heart was racing, Chris bowed his head so that he couldn’t receive their disapproving stares, then began walking with Snuffles back the way he’d come. He swung the gate shut behind him and as he heard the latch engage he remembered something an old teacher of his had said. “Art isn’t about technique, it’s about feeling.” The statues were crude and amateurishly made, but the feeling had been irrationally disturbing. Even now Chris felt that stare, an overdue criticism for something he’d done wrong in the past but never atoned for.
Chris had never thought much about art, but he was certain he’d just experienced it, and it was an altogether unpleasant experience.