THE SWEET FUNK OF REVENGE
This is the fifth anniversary of the deed.
It was on this night, five years ago, that I took part in a daring plot of fitting vengence against a villainous man. It was on this night that the vitriolic seeds of final victory were planted, and reaped in tenfold splendour by the following morning. It was a cruel denouement before the violent climax, the closing act cued by the cretin himself more than my cohort, reeling in his just desserts.
It was revenge -- cold and sweet, elaborate and successful.
Five years have passed, and now the tale can be told.
I Quit My Job
I quit my full-time job because I was unhappy. Due to certain economic disparities inherent between a state of employment and one of non-employment, my fat-cat cracker lifestyle needed some pretty immediate adjustments: I stopped taking all my meals at restaurants, for instance, and I started putting low grade fuel in my car; I sold my extraneous possessions and I gave up my quasi-fabulous midtown apartment in favour of something more frugal.
Chance had it that my old friend Littlestar had bought a bungalow, and she wanted to rent out the basement as a bachelor apartment for a modest monthly fee. "I can afford that modest monthly fee," I told her on the telephone from my naked office, my desk kipple loaded before me in two small cardboard boxes. "I'll move in to your basement, if you'll have me."
And so I became Littlestar's lodger, living in a cramped basement while I tried to force life into my nascent freelance practice in commercial art. The day after I moved in we had coffee together in the upstairs kitchen and I asked her about the neighbours. "Well, the guy on this side is nice enough. He's Japanese. Some kind of engineer. He stutters, and he talks to my chest." She sipped her coffee, and frowned. "On that side, though...do you know what Short Man Syndrome is?"
"I'm not sure," I said, trying not to look like I was talking to Littlestar's chest.
She explained that Short Man Syndrome is when a little guy feels he needs to make up for his lack of physical presence by being extra aggressive. "Men with this syndrome have often been traumatised by being compared to women," she explained; "so they're terrified of ever being in a position -- or the appearance of a position -- in which they are equal or subordinate to a woman."
"So, this guy doesn't like you?"
"No, he just won't accept that I'm the landlord."
"Well, we've got a minor issue to work out about the property line and the new fence, and he can't seem to bring himself to discuss it with me. It's hilarious. He keeps trying to talk to my dad or my brother when they're here. Yesterday he tried to talk to the real estate agent. I guess he figures that just about any man must have more authority than just some girl." She laughed. "It makes no difference to me in the end, it's just funny. He simply can't accept that we are peers as homeowners."
Indeed, it was not long before I experienced this phenomenon first hand.
Say It, Don't Spray It
I was awakened at a refreshing hour of the morning by an insistent rapping on my back door. I blearily stuck my head out, and found myself nose-to-forehead with a stringy little man in a white, sleeveless undershirt, tight jeans and workboots. (He would have looked gay, had his face not been pinched in anger.) "I'm Piccolo, I'm your next-door neighbour," he began belligerently, spraying a bit of spit as he barked at my neck; "I need to talk to you about your dog, and the yard --"
"I don't have a dog," I interrupted lightly.
"You...don't have a dog?" He squinted, confused and annoyed.
"The dog that lives here?" This malformed question sounded incredulous, and suspicious, as if I had been attempting to pull one over on him.
"That's Littlestar's dog. She's the landlord. She lives upstairs. I'm CheeseburgerBrown, I'm just a renter here." I began to retreat into my hovel, but Piccolo would not be so quickly turned away.
He put his hairy, girlish hand on my door. "Okay, whatever. I need to talk to you about the dog, and the yard --"
"Her door is right around the front," I told him helpfully, withdrawing once again.
"I already tried the front and there's nobody home," he said, his tone bafflingly accusatory.
"Listen, anything about the dog you'll have to take up with the landlord, Mr Pickles. I'm sure she will be home eventually," I assured him, nodding and smiling as I pulled my door out of his fingers and closed it firmly. "Pushy little bastard, isn't he?" I said to my cats, both of whom are named Schrodinger.
Over coffee the next morning I asked Littlestar for the skinny on the raging little girly-man in the sleeveless white undershirt. "Oh, he complained that he could smell the dog poop in our yard," she said, rolling her eyes. "I promised him I'd scoop up more often."
I admitted that I could relate to Piccolo, to the extent that I also wouldn't appreciate an effluvium of open-air animal faeces drifting in over the fence. Littlestar pointed out that she was usually quite vigilant about clearing the scat. "Maybe he's got a really sensitive nose," she suggested.
"Perhaps. But that doesn't excuse being an ass," I said. I figured, however, that my dealings with Piccolo were done, now that I had made it perfectly clear that I was not in charge of the house, despite my genital qualifications...
I was quite wrong.
Officers, Constables & Ahab
Piccolo's small mind had seized upon me as the alpha operator, and no amount of argument could shake the conviction from his mind that I was somehow (secretly, perhaps) the final authority on behalf of the property. He continued to pester me about details of the shared fence-building project, question me about the number of cars parked on the street outside, and update me on his perception of the crap content of our lawn. As our encounters multiplied, he seemed to take it as a personal affront that I would not accept responsibility for the house. "Ya gotta grow up sometime, pal!" he jeered one day.
"You are a sad, strange little man," I said, getting into my car. "And you have my pity."
As spring turned into summer, Piccolo became obsessed with dog poo. He would knock bombastically at any door of our house at any time of the day in order to angrily report a single pile of fresh turd on our property. "Look, it's no secret that I don't like no dogs, but I got nothing against most of them. I'm just trying to have a nice barbecue wit' my wife, and the smell is putting me off my fucking food!"
In an effort to mollify him, Littlestar hired a service to come by and scour the yard twice a week, removing any sign of sheiss with a scraper and a bucket. "Between me stooping and scooping and the service, Piccolo can't possibly have anything to complain about," said Littlestar, content in the knowledge that she had been the bigger person and had successfully acted to maintain the neighbourhood peace...
But Piccolo had found his white whale.
He would not be deterred, no matter the facts. Piccolo was man enough to tolerate a house owned by a young woman, he was even man enough to tolerate talking to people who weren't intimidated by his inflated machismo; but by God he would not tolerate the incessant stink of imaginary dog shit!
Piccolo called the city, and an Animal Control Officer was dispatched to our bungalow to investigate the situation. After interviewing Piccolo, he came over to take a tour through our yard. "That guy is pretty...uh, intense," said the boyishly handsome officer, jerking his thumb over the fence at Piccolo's house. "He kept trying to get up in my face," he said; "I thought he was going to bump his nose on my chest."
"He's a real card," drawled Littlestar sarcastically.
"Everything looks fine here," smiled the officer, petting Littlestar's dog and shrugging. "You sure do a great job of keeping the yard cleaned up. You say you have a service?"
"That's right. Twice a week."
"Twice a week?" echoed the Animal Control Officer. "That's more than we ask for, even in a so-called 'problem' situation." Littlestar's eyes twinkled in victory, but he missed it because he was talking to her cleavage.
One autumn evening I drove home from a long day of flogging my portfolio, only to find the driveway blocked by a police cruiser. Littlestar was sitting on the porch, faced by two peace officers in crisp black uniforms. "Oh, this is my downstairs tenant," said Littlestar, gesturing; "This is CheeseburgerBrown."
"Mr Brown, can you confirm a visit from an Animal Control Officer here yesterday?"
asked one constable briskly. I confirmed this, and recounted the inspection from my point of view.
"Well, as we were telling you, Miss Star, you're in compliance with the law as far as we can tell, but we'll have to check up with Animal Control," said the constable as both of them turned to leave. "As long as they gave you a pass, you have nothing to worry about. Take care now."
"What was that about?" I asked as the cops pulled away.
"Piccolo," said Littlestar, laughing. "Poor guy keeps throwing lame punch after lame punch, doesn't he? He's absolutely convinced that owning a dog is somehow illegal."
Over the course of the next fortnight more representatives from Animal Control were sent by, and all of them left smiling and congratulating us on our exemplary care for our pets. Eventually they stopped coming, as somebody at the head office had determined that Piccolo was a crank and that his calls could safely be ignored...
Autumn became winter, and our troubles with Piccolo temporarily subsided, buried beneath a blanket of pristine snow.
With spring's first thaw came Piccolo's renewed complaints. Having exhausted the patience of the police and the municipality, he elected to change his mode of righteous assault: guerilla tactics.
Piccolo opened the season by stealing into our yard in the night, and filling the dog's waterbowl with grassy lumps of winter-hard crap. His next sortie was a handful of poo slung at the window of a room rented by a depressive Columbian clerical worker (she never said anything about it...perhaps she thought it was some sort of repellant Canadian custom, and was reluctant to offend us), and then started harassing the Chinese border on his way to class.
"Hey, I got a message for your landlady for ya!" yelled Piccolo, startling Noodles as he headed out to the bus-stop in the cool morning air.
"My En-gel-ish is not good," apologised Noodles, smiling and jerking his head down in a series of tiny, self-effacing bows.
"Are you walking away from me? Are you ignoring me?" demanded Piccolo, bristling at Noodles' rudeness.
"I'm so sorry, my En-gel-ish is not good," smiled Noodles uncertainly, reaching the sidewalk and retreating.
"Are you turning your back on me? You come back here, you fuck!" shouted Piccolo.
"I'm so sorry!" shrugged Noodles, now looking quite concerned. He walked an extra block to the next bus-stop, and called Littlestar on his cellular phone. "Is that man crazy?" he asked timidly.
Another volley of inspections by Animal Control followed. "Have we not already established that there is nothing illegal about the way Littlestar's dog craps?" I asked one of the officers in exasperation.
"This incident doesn't concern a dog," I was told. "The complainant alleges that your cats are fouling his garden."
Indeed, Piccolo's new obsession was with cat dung. Though many of the neighbourhood cats enjoyed crapping in the rich, well-tended soil of his backyard vegetable garden, Piccolo had become convinced that all of these cats were in fact just my two cats, capable apparently of not only changing the patterns on their coats at will, but also of excreting truly fantastical quantities of scat at a single sitting.
"Your fucking cats are ruining my garden and eating my wife's cucumbers!" accused Piccolo as I took my garbage out to the boulevard. "And stay off my property!"
"I've never been on your property. Cats don't eat cucumbers. You're dying of brain-cancer."
Animal Control told Piccolo there was nothing they could do. The police told Piccolo he had the right to trap any animal that trespassed on his property. Piccolo interpreted this to mean that he was legally empowered to murder anything non-human that he happened to find on or near his property, and so he peppered his yard with tuna-baited death-traps.
"Do you see this?" Piccolo shouted to me across the yard. "If your cat goes in my garden, this cinderblock will crush its fucking head."
In response I offered Piccolo a blase look and a single-fingered opinion. Piccolo turned purple, experienced a sudden bout of Tourette's Syndrome, and stormed into his house to vent at his wife.
Since Littlestar had already made a plan to sell the bungalow, I knew I wouldn't be living there too much longer. I decided to simply keep my cats indoors for the duration of my stay, lest they meet an untimely end at the hands of one of Piccolo's nail-bristling Rube Goldberg contraptions.
"But why do you think he flew off the handle like that? All I did was give him the finger," I said to Littlestar as we smoked cigarettes in the backyard. It was twilight dark, so I could talk at her bosom with impunity.
"Because you weren't afraid of him," replied Littlestar. "It drives him nuts."
This theory was confirmed a few weeks later, when Piccolo and Littlestar had a confrontation in the driveway. Piccolo had gathered up a bucket full of cat shit (exclusively from the neighbourhood cats, since my cats were now locked indoors), and thrown it all over our front porch. Littlestar interrupted Piccolo's self-righteous and profane rant to point out that my cats had not been let outside for almost a month.
"You're lying!" accused Piccolo, after a dumb pause.
Littlestar shrugged. "I'm not particularly interested in what you believe."
They stared each other down for a moment before Piccolo surged across his lawn to stand millimeters away from Littlestar, puffing out his chest as his face turned purple. He began to yell incoherently, the hair on his shoulders standing on end, his arms gesturing dramatically.
Littlestar did not cower, however, but met him face on, her hands on her hips. She cocked an eyebrow curiously as if to ask, "And your next move is...?"
Piccolo sputtered ineffectually. He was a one-trick pony, and running up into somebody's face swearing was apparently the most potent weapon to which he had access, short of punching a girl.
She disarmed him quickly enough: she laughed at him, easy and natural. "Go home, little man," Littlestar said, and turned on heel.
"You're a rude fucking little girl!" shouted Piccolo, spit flying. "I'll fucking kill those cats, and your fucking dog. And if I ever see that fucker anywhere near my property, that CheeseburgerBrown, I'll fucking throttle him dead!"
By this point I had wound my way out of the basement and onto the front porch, where I met Littlestar. "Everything alright?" I asked. She nodded. "Pickles is just throwing a hissy." Overhearing this, Piccolo exploded into a fresh round of expletives and colourful metaphors.
Naturally, we sent the police around to have a chat with Piccolo. Death threats against human beings aren't to be taken lightly. You have to make sure these sorts of things get put on the record. When the police came they also took a look at the traps in Piccolo's yard, and instructed him to dismantle them. Next, we were wrangled together for an Indian-style pow-wow at the curb.
"What do you want to see happen here?" asked an older constable, looking at Littlestar and I wearily.
"We're moving out in two months. We just want to live in peace until that time. We keep the cats indoors. We pick-up after the dog. What more can he ask for?" I said.
"And you, sir, what do you want to see happen here?" the constable asked Piccolo.
"I want that welfare bum asshole to stay the fuck off of my property, and I was those fucking animals destroyed!" blithered Piccolo.
"For the record," I said calmly, "I'm not a welfare bum. I'm a teleworker."
"A telemarketer?" asked the cop.
"No, I'm a freelance commercial artist. I work from home."
"I see." He made a note.
Piccolo's eyes threatened to pop out of his skull. "This is totally irrelevant! Who cares what he says he does? First of all, he's lying, he doesn't do anything. Second of all, he empties his fucking sand-boxes in my garden!"
"Sir, now sir: you're going to have to control yourself, sir," said the younger constable, standing up to tower over Piccolo.
In one of the sweetest moments of shadenfreude of my life, I managed to smirk officiously at Piccolo over the cop's shoulder. Piccolo immediately purpled with rage and started shouting again. Littlestar and I got our clearance to go, and we walked up the drive and into the house. Piccolo's yelling was muffled as we closed the door.
(And then, for reasons that are not related to the meat of this story, Littlestar and I went into her bedroom and screwed like crazed weasels.)
We were able to ignore the slingings of neighbourhood cat shit against our porch and windows for the next few weeks, content in the knowledge that soon we wouldn't have to deal with a ranting gnome shouting in our driveway every time we came or went.
Piccolo's closing stratagem was to call the Humane Society alleging animal abuse. The local branch sent out a couple of very serious kids in shorts to investigate, and while they found no substance to the complaints (that our animals were being neglected), they were obliged to put a black mark on both of our files, potentially hampering any future efforts to adopt animals. Any further complaints against either one of us would yield far more serious action, they promised.
Moving day eventually came, and the house was stripped of our debris. For all intents and purposes, we had no need to ever trouble ourselves thinking of Piccolo again.
The Vengeance, Part I: Special Soup
Three months passed. I was invited to dinner at Littlestar's parents' house: chicken and ribs and yams and wine. Conversation eventually turned to reflections on Piccolo. "We came out ahead in the end," claimed Littlestar; "He had to wallow in rage, and we got off scot-free."
"I disagree," I opined. "Piccolo got away with putting us in fear for our pets' lives, and he got away with threatening me. I'm pretty sure he wasn't going to actually murder me, but I was still unnerved by how psycho he was."
Littlestar's father, Old Oak, nodded sagely, his cigarette dissolving down his hand in one long ash. "Ja, it's true, no," he said. "This Piccolo needs something more." He looked at me and winked.
After dinner, Old Oak led me out to the yard while the womenfolk were distracted. "I have been preparing a little something for Piccolo, ja," he told me, chuckling to himself as we wound our way to the back of a cluttered shed. Grinning, he pulled the top off of a nearby plastic vat -- the kind he normally used for making wine.
But it was not wine inside the vat: it was shit soup.
The smell hit me like a hammer. "Mother of Hell!" I cried, wincing and covering my face with my hands. I mastered the urge to retch as he replaced the lid. "What is it?"
"Shit soup, ja," said Old Oak. Old Oak and his wife owned two massive dogs, and Old Oak had been saving the dogs' combined excreta ever since the day Piccolo had blown up in his daughter's face. Old Oak had been carefully adding hot water and old urine from the cat-box, stirring the mixture regularly to keep it from congealing, letting it stew and ferment through the weeks until it had blossomed into the noxious paint-peeling mire before us.
I quickly counted the vats -- there were eight. "How many of these are filled with...shit soup?"
The old man grinned. "All of them."
"What are you going to do with them?" I asked, hesitantly.
"We," corrected Old Oak, "will be gifting them, ja. To Piccolo's house." He laughed. "We will give him something to complain about!"
"...When is this -- uh, taking place?"
The old man's eyes twinkled. "Tonight!"
And so, come three in the morning, Old Oak pulled up outside of my new apartment building with his son, a security guard called Slozo. I climbed into the truck, and immediately thrashed toward a window to get my head and, above all, my nostrils out of the cabin. Slozo laughed. "Smells pretty funky, eh?"
I managed to nod, my eyes watering. "Drive!" I pleaded.
Old Oak's battered truck cruised down the empty streets, turning into our old neighbourhood. Slozo showed me how the load of shit soup had been divided into three industrial-size buckets, each connected via a hand-pump to a watering-can. "When you can't get any more pressure with the pump, just pour directly out of the bucket," said Slozo, donning a black hood.
"This is it, ja," said Old Oak, killing the headlights and coasting up the curb to a slow stop. Slozo pulled open the side door. "Let's do it."
Old Oak disappeared around the side of the house, and Slozo headed for the yard around the back. I hesitated at the walk, looking for a good target. My eyes fell on Piccolo's prized possession: his high-end heavy-duty glossy red pick-up truck. As I shuffled up beside it with my stinky burden, I could just make out the shadow of Slozo using his watering-can to pour shit soup carefully into the cracks between Piccolo's patio stones...
I poured shit soup into the plastic compartments in the rear of the truck, and all over the tail-gate. I swathed the door-handles in ooze. Finally, I upended the watering-can under the hood, and drained it. I could still hear some muck sloshing around at the bottom of the bucket, so I poured the rest of the vile contents on the front porch.
I thought I had become immune to the smell, but the open stench of the driveway was threatening to make me barf. I bade a hasty retreat into the street, where I met Slozo and Old Oak.
"I hit the barbecue!" whispered Slozo triumphantly.
Old Oak could barely contain himself. "That's nothing -- I hit the air conditioner!"
Clutching our sides with suppressed laughter, we threw our buckets back into the truck and sped away. Later, we tossed our fouled clothes into the wash, hosed out the truck and drank vodka.
The Vengeance, Part II: Just Desserts
The next day while Slozo and I slept, Old Oak rose at his usual early hour to putter around in his garden. After a while his curiosity overwhelmed him, and he decided to take a quick drive by Piccolo's house to survey the night's work.
In the daylight, it looked like parts of Piccolo's property had been attacked by some kind of a daemon of diarrhea. Old Oak chuckled to himself and drove on, stopping to complete a few quick chores before returning to his garden.
He hadn't been out of his car five minutes, however, when a red pick-up truck screeched to a noisy halt just beyond his fence. This was followed by the sound of hoarse swearing. Old Oak wandered over to the fence to investigate. He saw a stranger bellowing threats at the closed gate.
"Can I help you there, ja?" asked Old Oak.
"You! I know you! You motherfucker! You're her fucking father!" screeched the stranger, his eyes going wide.
Old Oak, who had never met Piccolo before, was honestly baffled for a moment or two before it dawned on him who the stranger must be. Piccolo must have seen him drive by for a look, recognised the truck, and followed Old Oak home. "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't have a daughter," said Old Oak simply.
"You're a fucking liar!"
"I'll thank you not to use such language, ja," said Old Oak not unkindly, and then turned his back on Piccolo and went back to his garden to stifle his giggles.
"I saw your fucking truck! I saw your fucking truck, you fuck!"
When Piccolo started throwing himself at the gate, Old Oak told his wife to call the police. "Tell them a crazy stranger is kicking my fence." Over to Piccolo he called, "I've just called the police."
"Good! Fucking great!" replied Piccolo with a nasty laugh.
The police cruiser pulled up, and two female constables got out. Piccolo looked confused, and then annoyed. They asked Old Oak to give a statement. Old Oak began telling them about how this ranting lunatic had been yelling odd things and kicking his fence, but could not finish due to Piccolo's racket. "He's a fucking liar!" screeched Piccolo.
"You'll get your turn, sir," snapped the senior constable irritably, for the third time. "Now please keep quiet until Mr Oak has finished."
"Don't tell me what to do, bitch!"
Things went quiet, then. The junior constable folded closed her notebook, and stowed her pen in her belt. The senior constable turned to Piccolo and said in a menacing tone, "I think it would best if you waited in the back seat of the patrol car, sir."
"This way, sir," said the junior constable, taking Piccolo's upper arm.
Piccolo pulled away savagely. "I'll wait right here," he growled, a vein on his forehead pulsating.
"It wasn't a suggestion, sir," said the senior constable, nodding to her partner. She tried to take Piccolo's arm again, but he pulled it free. The junior constable grabbed his arm a third time, wrenched it hard behind his back, and dropped him neatly to the sidewalk. While he struggled, red in the face, the female officer calmly locked his wrists into a pair of manacles.
After interviewing Piccolo in the back of the car for a few minutes, one of the constables came over to talk to Old Oak again. "He alleges that you vandalised his property somehow. Do you know anything about that?"
"Quite honestly," said Old Oak easily, "I've never seen this man before in my life, no."
"Well, we're going to need to come back to get a full report from you, after we take him to fifty-two division."
"I'm sure laying any charges isn't necessary, ja," protested Old Oak. "He's just some crazy. My fence is okay, ja."
"Oh, you don't have to press charges, sir," said the constable, smiling. "I am."
The moral of this story is ambiguous, at best. For those readers who might judge me and my part in these affairs harshly, I remind them that both Littlestar and I did consistently take the high-road in our dealings with Piccolo for a long time before we descended to more nefarious action. We made every effort to address his complaints, no matter how brusquely delivered, in an honest effort to contain the situation. For months on end we refused to rise to his vocal taunts, or to make trouble for him with the authorities.
We did seek out our own shit-slinging justice in the end, it's true, but the ultimate lick of punishment was brought by Piccolo upon himself, by his inability to respect the authority of a woman. We threw mud, and, in a rage, he shot himself in the foot.
Piccolo's trial was uneventful. He ended up being sacked with some fines and time on probation. None of us attended. We were content to mock him in private.
We've all moved house since then, and Piccolo never had very much proper information about any of us in the first place. Tracking us would pose a serious challenge, and I think at this point I'm willing to say we've seen the last act of this dog and pony show. We're home-free. The good guys won.
Wherever Piccolo is today, I am thumbing my nose at him. Forever.