Friday, October 31, 2008

The Crazy Hobo and The Mule

Our story begins with a neighbor.  But not your typical pleasant-but-not-overtly-friendly sort of neighbor. No, this starts with a stupid neighbor that came fully equipped with a vicious sense of entitlement. No extra parts to buy!

Trust me when I say he's stupid. I do not label people 'stupid' lightly, but when I say he is not intelligent, it's because I truly believe he lies along the Simon-Binet IQ scale in the region of 'moron'. But my evidence for that is another entry entirely, and I digress.

We had just moved into the neighborhood and the first time we shook hands he had advice for us. To paraphrase, 'You're my bitches until I say otherwise.'

That came as a surprise. Head Chef and I are not the servile sort. And upon our first meeting, it seemed unlikely he'd already know whether or not to expect us to behave obsequiously.

But to prove that we were, in fact, his playthings, Neighborstopheles decided he was going to start tampering with the water to our house. As it pleased his whim, he would turn off the main valve to the house at its source, well out of view from our home.

We'd find the water off and hike up the hill to turn it back on. Three to five times a week. Sometimes more than once per day.

When we asked him to stop, he ignored us. He didn't say 'no,' or leave a note explaining why he would not stop. There was just emptiness, like a void. It was as though we were sending emails and leaving notes for our imaginary friend.

We were nothing if not patient. But after three months of tampering with our water, he made a fateful error. One day, Neighborstopheles disconnected our water line altogether, damaging some of the piping in the process. And with that simple act of annoying, passive-aggressive tampering, 'Stophels set in motion a series of events that might well become the subject of the heroic songs of future folklore.

I flew into a rare rage. I was working alone to repair the damage to the water piping, and my blood adrenaline and testosterone levels were at saturation. My brain stem was taking over, transforming me for battle, and I was surging toward the embodiment of righteous anger, revenge, and harm. I muttered to myself staccato bursts of hate for my unrepentant foe.

And at the point in my anger arc at which I become most deadly, he came down the road. In thirty-six years, only seven people had ever witnessed my fury at it's height, but 'Stophers would become the eighth that day. 'Stophs drove a mule - a sort of cross between a dune buggy, a four-wheeler, and a mini truck - and when I stepped into the road, I spread my arms into the broad gesture of a man saying, "bring it on, son."

'Stophs had no intention of direct confrontation, and I no doubt radiated physical threat. Faced with the choice to stop or try to pass by, he chose for escape. But rather than try to avoid me, he drove straight in my direction as though to hit me. So I jumped back to avoid the little buggy truck and then sprang onto the side of his vehicle, clinging to the frame tubing.

He panicked and began to speed up and swerve. To knock me free of the mule, he ran the right side through brush and made for trees. But I held fast and yelled threateningly at him, bellowing demands that the tampering stop or he would suffer consequences.

Finally he began to speed into a hairpin turn. I knew my car was parked on the other side and I felt the mule's tires slip on the road beneath us. I judged that he might be losing control, and rather than have the vehicle tip over on me or hit my car, I jumped free.

Moments later a friend's car came up the road and slowed to where I stood. She rolled down the window and peered out at me with a perplexed grin. She said nothing for a moment, assessing me.

"You jumped on Neighborstopeles' mule? " she asked incredulously. I admitted that yes, I had. My heart was still racing from the adrenaline that fueled the encounter.

"I was fixing my makeup in the mirror and almost hit him. He told me I should be careful; some crazy hobo with a white car jumped on his mule up the road." She paused again and looked at me like she'd just discovered some dirty and pleasant secret about me, and she really liked it.

I thought I had misunderstood her. "Hobo?" I repeated back to her.

She grinned and thought for a second and then shook her head, saying, "Maybe he meant crazy homo..."

Or maybe he did say 'crazy hobo.' Whichever it was, jumping on his mule seems to have done the trick. We've had water at the tap ever since.

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