BLAMED IN MY OWN BACKYARD – OR – IT CAME FROM RIGHT NEXT DOOR
A Story of Frustration By Andy Bozeman
A while back, maybe a few weeks ago, I was in my own little corner in my own little yard with my own little family around me. We were having a cookout. Chicken and burgers were on the grill, because we will eat animals. That’s an odd point to make but it will become important.
The two story house next door had been vacant for years, but a new family had moved in the day before. I hadn’t met them yet, but was about to. The manner of the meeting was based entirely on a matter based on belief, as in faith. As I would learn in only a few minutes, the new family, especially the father, were vegan extremists. They wouldn’t eat anything with a face. So, no animals of any kind could be killed for food. On the surface that’s not extreme, just vegan. More to the point, however, the father was a practicing Animist.
Animism is the belief that all plants, animals, and objects have spirits. The father believed that the only way he could use or consume anything, let’s say lettuce, was to pray to the Deity of Lettuce and ask for permission to eat it. Over time I had the opportunity to notice that he never waited for the answer granting permission. It was just a ritual of praying, “Thanks to the gods of all things contained with this sandwich. May I and my family eat?” chomp. Also over time, I observed the difficulty of practicing Pious Animism in relation to performing simple tasks, like yard work.
Before the father could mow his lawn, he had to pray to the spirits of the equipment he was about to use – mower, trimmer, hoe, ax, saw, work gloves, sweat rag, ball cap, etc… – the fuel and oil within the motors, the grass and shrubs he would cut and trim, the insects inadvertently stepped on, even the innocent microorganisms upon which his sweat might drip, thus completely upsetting their day. Me? I believe the Bible where it refers to God giving Man dominion over all the life on Earth. Having dominion means I can just say “thank you” to God, then grab and eat, or crank and go. I can live my little life, in my own little territory without having to think about it too much, and I can not worry about how anyone else is living their own little life, even if their ways are strange to me, because it’s none of my business, but neither should my ways, even those that seem strange, be of concern to anyone else. I say “Live and let live.”
However, my live-and-let-live attitude didn’t suit my neighbor at all. In his mind anyone who would just grab and eat, anyone who could callously crank and go, anyone who could so easily drop the phrase “it’s no one else’s business,” is an abomination to the gods of broccoli and motor oil and bugs and bacteria, and should not be allowed to continue inflicting such violations, on a second by second basis, on any object or form of life.
So there we were, my little family in the yard in the shade on a perfect day. Scents of Honeysuckle and Tea Olive floated on an almost imperceptible breeze. Aromas of barbecue drifted from the grill, from which perfectly cooked drumsticks and burgers ( I’m a heck of a griller ) were moved to plates where they would join sliced tomatoes and potato salad. I was saying a prayer of thanksgiving aloud, eyes closed, head bowed : “Dear Lord, thank you for…”, but that’s as far as I got. My prayer was interrupted by an odd sound, sort of a thud, and sort of a splat. I opened my eyes and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place. Then I noticed that as I was looking from child to child, they weren’t looking back at me. Their gaze was fixed on the table, specifically the potato salad, each with the same look on their faces of horror and disgust. So, I looked there, too. It took a moment to comprehend what I saw. Then, the same wave of revulsion that had hit my children hit me.
Stepping out of the story for just a moment, I want to say that when I write, I try to express my stories in ways which are entertaining without being vulgar. I believe vulgarity in story telling is a failure of creativity. But in this case, as we return to the story, there’s only one word that conveys the situation.
Turd! There was a turd in the potato salad. Also, based on a quick analysis in which I compared all my experiences with the many characteristics of various matters fecal, which I had observed in my long life, taking note of the color, texture, shape, size, and odor which was invisibly spilling from the bowl in which it rested, I deduced that it was a human turd.
I wanted to form the question in my mind, ‘Where did that come from?” but didn’t have to. My children, using the same dramatic gesture, pointed in unison toward an upstairs window in the house next door, and shouted, “He did it!”
But an old habit seized my brain. In spite of the situation, a ghastly object in the midst of a picnic, and horrified children frantically identifying a new character who only seconds before wasn’t even involved in the event,….. with all of that, the first thought I could conjure in my mind was, “Why weren’t your eyes closed during the blessing?” But the words never left my mouth, overruled by the curiosity-based questions, “Who is HE?” and “Why?”
Well, HE was the father of the family just moved into the house next door. Before I could even turn my head to look, I heard him shouting, “You filthy swine! You snakes! You will not defile the world, or violate the will of god!!” He disappeared into the window, which an event several days later would make clear was a window that opened into the bedroom of his toddler son. He was only gone a couple of seconds. His head popped back out the window, and his rage-filled eyes were popping out of his head. An arcing motion of his arm and hand released another object of the exact same composition as the first one. But this one didn’t land on the table. It came apart in midair, and had just enough spread to reach the heads and shoulders of both my children and me. We all saw it coming, but the point of origin was too close, the travel time too short, and the vector too accurate to allow any chance of escape. We were covered with crap.
We were stunned. But, my son was quick to offer an observation, “God Almighty! It’s BABY SHIT!!” There are so many circumstances where I would have severely chastised him for such profanity, but here, now, all I could say was, “God Almighty you’re right!!”
I cast a fierce look at him, the father, a look that threatened retaliation if he did it again. He un-popped back into the window, and didn’t return. I thought I had faced him down, and was proud to have defended my family, but I would find out later that he was simply out of ammunition.
The way I found out was the very next time I cut the grass. Following along behind my self-propelled Toro mower, walking away from his house, but near the property line, I felt a wet, warm stickiness on the back of my neck. Instinctively I put my hand there, and when I took it away, and looked, was immediately reviled by the sight and the smell of the fresh baby-made grenade that had exploded on me. I looked toward the same second-story window as before, and there he was, shaking his fist and shouting words which were drowned out by the roar of the lawn mower engine, but I’m pretty sure it was swines and snakes, again. Then he quickly disappeared and didn’t return. I didn’t even get a chance to stare him down.
Now, lest you think that no action was taken, let me set the record straight. After the first attack, as after the second, I made an effort to talk to him, knocking on a front door that was never answered. Also, as before, after these failed attempts to communicate, I called the police. They interviewed both of us. I accused him of attacking from a particular location, using a specific weapon, which unfortunately could not be used for evidence because in both cases we, the victims, had washed the filth off our bodies. He denied ever even looking out the window. The police said that unless I could prove my charges, there was nothing they could do. In fact they said my claim was so preposterous as to be non-credible, and I should try to be a better neighbor. I should be a better neighbor???? They had to be kidding. But, no. I was wrong. Even so, I was sure the event would not be repeated. But, no. I was wrong.
Over the next few weeks, similar attacks were launched against anyone in my yard, my children when they tried to play on their tire swing, any of us when we tried to feed our golden retriever, who was never attacked, by the way, me whenever I did yard work, or rolled the trash can to the curb, or went to the mail box by the street. After each of bombings three through seven, I knocked on his door to try to talk. He never answered. After that I didn’t try any more communication directly with him, resorting instead to conversations with other neighbors. It was from them that I learned of his Animism orthodoxy. I also learned that he was telling the neighbors that I and my children had attacked him with dog feces, just because he was a vegetarian, and new to the community. Since he’d gotten to them first, the neighbors believed him. They told me to try to be a better neighbor.
After attack #8 I yelled at him to ‘stop it!”
Attack #9 -”Stop it! I mean it!!”
Attack #10 -”Stop it! I mean it!! You won’t get away with it again!!!”
Attack #11 – I was about to sweep the fresh-cut grass off the patio, and was standing beside the picnic table where the first attack had happened. When “it” hit me, it didn’t stick and ooze all over me. It failed to detonate. It just bounced off and landed on the ground. This was the end of me trying to be a good neighbor. This was my turd of last resort. Bare handed I quickly picked up the unexploded ordinance. As hard as I could I threw it straight at his head still poking out the window. If this had been baseball it would have been a perfect strike. But it wasn’t a game, and he wasn’t a batter waiting for a pitch. He was a coward who ducked. The “ball” sailed right through the exact space previously occupied by his pop-eyed head, right between the window curtains, and out of sight. I expected to be barraged by more swine and snake insults, but that’s not what I heard. A mere two seconds after the turd passed the window sill, I heard a baby cry. “Uh-oh,” I thought. This is the moment I discovered that he had a toddler son, and that the room used for the origin of the attacks was the child’s.
Soooooooooooooooo, the police were called again. The other neighbors gathered around the scene of what was being called a crime, my crime, my viscous attack on a baby, my premeditated launching of a dangerous human-waste-projectile into the forehead of a child in his own room in his own house, and whose father just happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness the whole vile incident, with the unwashed crown of the baby’s head still showing the full evidence, along with an evidentiary spattering on the wall, which proved high velocity. Yes indeed. I was in trouble.
No one believed my defense. Why would they? It’s so ridiculous. I was made out to be the bully. My neighbor was perceived as the victim. I was arrested, taken to a hearing, and leniently listed as a first offender. However, I was compelled by the court to attend ten hours of anger management classes. I posted a low bail, and was home in few hours. As I was getting out of my car, my children ran to meet me. We were all hit with great greasy gobs of gooey baby glop, as we were simultaneously harangued by hate-filled, barely intelligible screams. We could pick out little more than swine and snake and violators. Then we were hit again. Were there any other witnesses to this? No. Just us. We went inside and washed off the stink. I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do. The choices are just as cloudy as the issue.
The issue should be to refrain from throwing insults and missiles at your neighbor, based on nothing more than a difference of belief. I eat meat, but my neighbor doesn’t. I crank and go, but my neighbor doesn’t. But those are just preferences. The real root of the issue is that my belief system tolerates his. His belief system has no tolerance at all. My belief system says live and let live. His says “my way or die.”
In a small way his beliefs are starting to creep into mine. Death for one of us is starting to make sense.
the end for now……more to follow, ……someday.
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