I've gone running through this neighborhood in the early mornings on one of my regular routes. The homes are newer and bigger than the ones in our neighborhood--part of a development or several developments that went up in the '80s or /90s. The neighborhood slopes down a hill, towards a strip mall with a Safeway. Its modernist, split-level and ranch homes are set amid immaculate landscaping.
It's always quiet when I run through it at 6 in the morning.
It was odd how it was just as quiet when my son and I strolled through it at about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.
It was a gorgeous spring afternoon, the kind that beckons people out of their homes, into their front yards, driveways, out onto their streets.
Mildly warm. Blue skies with puffy white clouds. Everything in people's gardens and in the nearby grasslands, including the wild yellow mustard blossoms, were in bloom. Poppies burst bright orange in people's native-plant-bedecked front yards.
But my son was right about the strange quietness of this "perfect" neighborhood. As soon as we crossed into it, via a short walking path from our neighborhood, things suddenly became much quieter. We stopped hearing the birds tweeting, for one thing. And we saw no one out and about, walking in the neighborhood, or gardening in their front yards, or moving things out of their garage. We saw no one.
But, yes, it was "perfect." Homes neatly painted, and shrub and flower balds also neatly in place, and clipped and weeded. All the plants looked healthy and thriving. None of the plants seemed to be dying from drought thirst--like in my yard--or of old age and disease. The lawns looked freshly mowed.
I suppose I've corrupted my son, but he, like his twisted, cynical mother, couldn't help but imagine a sinister story lurking beneath all this suruban perfection. And, as we walked through the neighborhood, he began to spin a story of how, suddenly, residents of this perfect neighborhood wake up to find themselves cordoned off from the rest of the community, the rest of the world.
A zombie invasion. Zombies marching in the streets of the perfect neighborhood. Zombies popping up outside residents' living room window. Zombies, zombies, zombies. Vacant-eyed, shambling, deadly, trampling through the neatly trimmed shrub and flower beds.
No, my son hasn't seen The Stepford Wives (The 1975 Katherine Ross version, thank you very much), but there was something about his imagined scenario that reminded me of that film's illusion of suburban perfection masking an underlying lethality and robotic vacuity.
You never know. My son's idea for Zombies invading a Perfect Walnut Creek neighborhood could be coming to a movie theater or X-box game. Or he could make his video and post it on the award-winning website, Lostzombies.com, a community-generated documentary, which was created by three East Bay suburban guys.