Old man in suburban neighborhood's life threatened. Part 1 of series.
|"Love thy neighbor". Obviously the genius who came up with this had a fence. A big fence. A big fence with an electric current running through it. As well as menacing dogs, nay, HELLHOUNDS, scaring his neighbors away. Maybe even a moat with alligators just to make sure he got the message across to the vermin who lived next to him.
My name is Gil, I am a 76 year old veteran of the "conflict" in Vietnam. Unlike most of my now senile counterparts, I am not glad that I participated in LBJ's ill advised monstrosity. Some may call me bitter, but I tell those who do that I have a right to be. I was fighting enemies that I could not even see, and as a result, I had to get my left leg amputated from the knee. My kids will jump at the opportunity to tell you that I didn't actually lose it in battle, but I actually got an infection when I cut myself while skinny dipping in a lake over in Nam. Had I not been there, those putrid waters never would have been able to fester in my wounds, and I would still have my leg. End of discussion.
My life after was pretty uneventful. I got crutches, a cushy job at a bank, married a broad from a nice Minnesota home, had three good for nothing kids who only call on my birthday, and I got a new car at some point in '85. Cindy, my wife, died in November of 2000, leaving me in a big empty home in the middle of nowhere. It's a good thing that I'm not some proud idiot who thinks he can take care of himself. Living in a house with stairs? At my age? I moved. It's a nice, small one story home in Madison, Wisconsin, and much to my delight there were several people just like me in the neighborhood. Widows and widowers just trying to avoid the noise. It was nice.
Until all of those quitters started dying on me.
One by one. They dropped like flies, yes, they did. Heart attack. Stroke. Tripped! I was disgusted. However, there was one interesting instance, when Charles Peterson had a cocaine overdose. It was really one of those "who knew" kind of things that did add a little spark to the whole dying phenomenon. But we soon returned to the gray world of aneurysms and liver failure.
And then they came.
It was a bloodbath.
The new families. Young parents with even younger children. The high ponytails of the mothers and the loud, obnoxious phone voices of the fathers. They were all just dying to live in a nice neighborhood where they could start their lives. Savages. Inconsiderate savages! They started plucking up the houses like they were petunias in the spring. They just kept coming. They were all the same in all of the same ways. The Cunninghams brought a pot roast when they first moved in with their three kids. The Browns brought cookies when they introduced their two girls. The Millers, the Clarks, the Robinsons, the Walkers; they just kept coming! With the kids all named either Sally or Johnny, it was madness! The Youngs even had the audacity to poke fun at the very idea that I might some day babysit 8 year old Randy for them. I swear, it almost gave me a heart attack, but out of sheer will i refused. I refused to succumb to my body's attempt at going into cardiac arrest simply because I will not give these upper middle class robots the satisfaction of watching me die just so that one of their harebrained friends can move into my home.
I will be damned!
They weren't settled for three months before I discovered the first baseball on my lawn. I thought I was going insane, so I left the window to make a cup of coffee and when I returned to the window the ball was gone. I chalked it up to just a classic case of the morning blues. The next Tuesday I heard giggles coming from my back yard. Playful. Careless. Cruel. Sadistic. The unmistakable battle cries of children. I tried not to make a mountain out a molehill, so I returned to my crossword.
Two weeks later, in June, a shot was fired.
And the enemy was seen.
A waterballoon was launched at my house. It came barrelling through the air and exploded on the brick with a sickening WHAP! I saw the red rubber grenade fly through the air when I was casually gazing out my kitchen window. I was alarmed, but only for a second. I knew that it was my chance to finally see who had been reeking havoc on my life. I made my way to the front of my house. That is when I saw what my front lawn had become.
A war zone.
Water balloons flying in the air.
Shouting, laughter, running, throwing, my house was a damn battlefield.
Not in the way that the kids had thought they had turned it into. No, it was so much more than that.
They were waging war on my life. On my home. On my very existence. They were trying to drive me out.
It took them 17 seconds to see me, standing there, my face red and puffy with the rage of many fires. Like cowards they fled. Every which way they were running, back to their own homes, back to their foolish parents who had let them onto someone else's lawn. And the parents wouldn't lecture them, they wouldn't reprimand them for their indiscretion, and they wouldn't tell them not to do it again. They would simply hand them a towel when they entered their doors, sit them down at the counter top, and serve them lunch. These new age parents had no idea how to raise their children. I knew all of this as I saw the demons running back to their homes. I was turning to go back inside to my house when I saw one of them return.
He did not run back onto my lawn. He walked, no, he sauntered. Each step bolder than the last. He walked to the center of my lawn while making full eye contact with me. I knew him. It was the mischievous, freckled face of 8-year-old Randy Young. The smirk seemed almost painted onto his face. He bent down in the center of my lawn and picked up a shoe. He then marched four steps to his left and picked up another. And then another. Two more after that. Randy walked around my lawn picking up shoes of various sizes and styles. When he finally picked up the last one, he was up to his chin in children's shoes.
The other kids had forgotten them. They had forgotten them in their haste retreat. They had forgotten them in their fear of the old man. But Randy had returned, and he was going to give the children their shoes. He was not afraid.
He was there.
I was back. I was back in Nam.
I was back in war.
And this time, it was different.
This time, I was willing to fight