Drew Diaz wants to know why he’s got to be the heavy, every time.
My two eldest are small and playing at the end of the drive. I hear the bass beat and death metal from a driverless CJ-5. I turn around to watch it blow the stop sign. The kid at the wheel has dropped her joint (I tell myself) and is reaching down to find it and is unseeable for twenty-five yards. I yell for my kids to freeze, toss a handful of gravel at the Jeep and holler some encouragement. The kids and I head in for some lunch.
Shortly, the missus calls from the front because there is some irate woman on our stoop. The neighbor and I go around a bit concerning what may or may not have happened. Whether or not rocks got tossed at “her child” is discussed. I ask how old her child is —“Eighteen”—and explain that my kids are children, three and four, hers can vote and drive and that the next time her little sweetheart blows the stop sign at 40, we’re going to have more than harsh words. Had her “child” stopped they would be looking for the car keys in the storm sewer.
I’m making tuna, and a cop shows up at my door. We spar a bit, and finally I ask him, “Where do you want to go with this?” He asks what I mean and I tell him I’m about 30 seconds from telling him to send someone in a tie to investigate this as I’m about to clam up. He puts away his notebook and we discuss it like guys. He asks, “Where do I want to go with this?” I suggest that maybe there was a misunderstanding, but, as I understand these things, I can go down the street and say something, then this irate homeowner might say something harsh, the next thing we know, it’s some kind of white trash war, my dog is poisoned and her garage is aflame … so maybe he should go down the street and suggest it was all a big misunderstanding. He’s about my age and which means he’s been around: I’m speaking in a jocular way and we are guys while she is a menopausal maniac. We high-five each other and get on with our day. And I am deeply on my wife’s shit list.
Soon it is Halloween. The people down at the end of the block are out of the house pending mold remediation and have left a bushel basket-sized witches’ kettle of candy out front on the honesty system. We’re headed up the street: me, the wife, the neighbor, and our kids. A couple of teens stroll out of the gate with the kettle of candy. The two women turn and suggest I have to say something. I decline the opportunity, reminding them of how much trouble I got into for chastising the teen for blowing the stop sign. Finally, I agree to deal with the problem if they both cut me some slack the next time. I wait for these dummies and ask, “Which one of you shit heads really thought all that candy was for you?” They mumble a bit and apologize and try to hand over the kettle. I tell them “Get lost—carry it back yourselves”, and when they return the kettle I make them empty the candy from their pillowcases into the kettle.
This silliness goes on for years, and it’s tiring. The next Halloween I suggest a woman hit the kid who is harassing her son with shaving cream. She whacks him with a hobo cane and it comes back on me. Years later I euthanize a baby rabbit, crawling broken-backed across the road one morning, and that evening a neighbor with whom I’ve never talked stops us on the street to ask in front of my kids, “Was that a squirrel you were killing this morning?” I throw plastic garbage cans out on the street in front of speeders; I speak up when a line is cut. I go to bat for all the kids who are about to be cut from summer baseball, despite my son having the third highest evaluation score, and create two additional teams. All the red-blooded boys get to play baseball that summer. I’m on a fishing trip in Canada with a bunch of neighborhood guys younger than I and they suggest I sit on the aisle side of the table next to the drunks wearing Buck knives.
Two years ago the neighborhood block party is at the ball field. Some grandfatherly fool shows up with his grandson and starts pitching him a bucket of hard balls. Ron, Jim, and I are watching this kid get into his groove. The balls fly further and closer to the line of little children waiting to get into the inflatable fun house. I turn to my buddies and say, “This doesn’t look so good.” These clowns mutely stare at me meaningfully. I say “Fuck you. No, really: FUCK YOU. Why does it always have to be me? Once I’d like to not be the hard-on. Why can’t one of you man up?”
And Ron looks up from his shoes and says, “Because we’re not you,” and takes another pull on his beer.
I flip them a double bird and walk out on the diamond, like any good manager, to query my pitcher. “Just out of curiosity, what’s your game plan when one of those kids get’s beaned with a baseball?” I ask him. He asks if they shouldn’t be practicing baseball. I tell him “I don’t know. Me, I don’t give a shit. None of those kids are mine.” He’s confused and wants to know what I’m asking and I explain.
“I’m curious, what is the plan is if one of those kids goes down? Jump in the car and run away? Stick around and swap numbers for the lawsuit? Call your grandson’s parents before the cops arrest you? Pull a gun to defend yourself when the half-drunk father of a concussed, bleeding kid comes after you?”
He asks if one of the kids is mine and I retort, “If one of those kids were mine, little Jimmy’s Louisville Slugger would’ve been through your windshield five minutes ago.”
Gramps and grandson head for their car without retrieving their balls from the outfield.
I walk back to my buddies by the fence. Jim asks, “What’d you say to him?” I say, “Fuck you … fuck both of you. You want to know what I said, next time you be me.”
I drive up from enrolling my daughter in college and get home at 02:30 Saturday morning. I’m exhausted: Thursday night prior to leaving I had maybe 2 hours of sleep. So we get banged by Irene Saturday night. Lose power Sunday morning and by mid-afternoon we haven’t seen anyone from the town, county or utility company. I awake from my nap and say fuck it. I go out to the shed, move the bikes and lawn furniture out of the way, grab the 24″ Stihl, dump the old gas out and refuel it. I say to myself, “If this starts on the first pull I’ll go to work,” and son of a bitch, it starts first time.
Go inside, put on Levis, steel toe boots, and a T-shirt. Tell my 12-year-old to cowboy up—we’re going to cut the trees blocking the street and covering the neighbor’s car. A couple of other construction and Fire Department type guys join in. In 2 1/2 hours we clear our street, two garages, and several more driveways. My son gets stung three times as do I: there was a massive yellow jacket hive in the boll of the first tree. It’s evident from the number of guys who come out to assist and offer comment that there are guys who seem to think they are capable of doing this. So why was it incumbent on me to keep a pro chain saw? Why do I have to be stuck with some kind of anti-suburban, oddball survivalist jacket? Why do I have to tell the idiots in flip-flops to get lost? Why do I have to ask one of the mommies standing around to get some Benadryl, ammonia, and ice for my little guy? In the apocalypse, these are the people who will be hunted for meat. Other guys have fancy cars—I have chainsaws. What is wrong with me?
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with me:
I was bored. If we’d have had lights I’d have been blogging.
I was showing off.
I was hoping to teach my sons a life lesson.
The punchline is my street has no power for almost two weeks.
This previously appeared on Standup2P.
Image courtesy of the author