A young man is having trouble with his mean old neighbor.
|“Well,” I said, “Okay. You’re not going to believe it, but Okay.”
“Try me,” he said. “If I don’t believe it, I’ll believe you believe it.”
That seemed fair. “I said, “Okay. That seems fair.”
He gave me the nod to go ahead.
I looked at him and opened my mouth to speak, then paused. It’s a thing I do. I look at them and open my mouth to speak— then pause while I very slowly close my mouth and make then wait. I call it, The old Pause-a-Roo. Believe you me, before you begin a story, any story, a little of The old Pause-a-Roo does wonders for the tale. Then lean forward and whisper, “Are ya’ ready. . .?”
The doc was waiting.
I go, “Are you ready?”
He goes, “I get paid by the hour, Teddy, and your hour’s almost up.”
“Okay!” I said. “Here it is. There’s this old man. Old, old, old guy, lives down the street. We hate this old cuss. All the kids. Hate him! His name’s Mr. Strode the Toad. That’s what we call him.”
“This is the guy says you torment him every day of his life?”
“Yes, sir. The very same.”
“Says you sabotaged his driveway?”
“Yep. It’s an untruth, but that’s what he says.”
“He called the police on you. He says you put him in the hospital!”
“That part was just an uncanny coincidence.”
“Because that’s why your mother. . .”
“Sent me to you. I know.”
“She wants you to straighten up. She doesn’t want you in jail. She wants you to graduate.”
“I know that,” I told him. I said, “You don’t think I know that? Look Doc, if there’s one thing in this world I know, I know that!”
“You got one more year of high school.”
“News broadcast for you there, Doc. I Know that too.”
“Okay, Teddy, please continue. You got five minutes.”
“I can’t do this story justice in no five minutes!”
“Okay! You ready? The old guy down the street. Mean as hell. He hates us, we hate him. We tee-peed his tree once and he’s never forgiven us. Now, I for one, have tried to mend fences with him, but he won’t let sleeping dogs lie. To this day he’s always calling us names as we’re cycling around outside his house. See, he lives at the end of our cul-de-sac.”
The Doc spins his fingers around his wrist like he wants me to get on with it.
“So, the old fart comes out of his house every time he sees us now. He’s always complaining about his tree and his car and—”
“What did you do to his car?”
“Oh, well, one time we Sea n Skied it.”
“Sea and skied it?”
“Yeah, you know, the lotion against sun burn? Sea n Ski. We kind of pasted his car with it.”
“May I ask why you did this?”
“Because he’s always yelling at us about his tree we tee-peed.”
“So you poured suntan lotion over his car?”
“Yeah, and stuck some other stuff on there too. You know, not a lot. Some egg shells. Coffee grounds.”
“Garbage. . .”
“Yeah, that’s right! You know, nothing big. I figured the old guy would get wise to the fact that we ain’t just a bunch of kids he can scream at every time he feels like it.”
“It seems to me, he screams at you for a pretty good reason, isn’t that so?”
“Not following you here, Doc.”
“Teddy, he is unhappy with you because you’re picking on him.”
“We’re picking on him because he’s always telling us ‘get out a my yard, get out a my tree, get away from my house.’ On and on and on. It gets old.”
“Okay, so tell me how he fell. That’s a very serious accusation on his part. You sabotaged his driveway? I understand he was in the hospital for several months.”
“No, no, way exaggerated. Fake news. He was in the hospital for maybe a week. He’s been at home in bed for a couple of months.”
Doc did his spinning finger thing again.
“Look, it’s like this, he wants everyone to believe that I put a banana peel on his driveway so he’d slip and fall and hurt himself. I mean, come on! A banana peel? What is this, Bugs Bunny? We put it on his car. With the coffee grounds and the egg shells. You really think someone can actually slip on a banana peel?”
“Well, I think if the banana peel is covered in suntan lotion there might be a good chance, Teddy, yes!”
“If you don’t mind me saying, Doc, you are very naïve for a shrink.”
“I think, Teddy, that we need to make another appointment for you to come in and talk about this some more.”
“I think what I really need at this juncture in my life, Doc, is a good lawyer. No offense.”
He eyed me in that way he does, little clipboard on his lap, looking all comfortable in his big leather chair, his feet stretched out. Wearing his shinny penny-loafers. . .
“Ten o’clock tomorrow?” he says looking all serious at me over his little round eyeglasses, Hmm, I’m Dr. Calvin Mitchel. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.
I wanted to tell him, look sport, I can get my hands on more Tee-pee and Sea n Ski. Maybe you better pump your brakes there, Doc. Banana peels ain’t exactly hard to come by these days either, if you catch my drift.
I didn’t say any of that though. What I did was, I leaned forward and opened my mouth to speak, and then— Yep.
Try it sometime.