It’s been a while since I worked myself up into a blind rage, but last night, kapow.
The three of us went out to a nice Oktoberfest dinner, and when we got home, there was a message on the voice mail from one of my neighbors.
Apparently that afternoon, four of the boys, including my boy, were playing baseball with rocks. Which is a bad idea, it goes without saying. Apparently, one of the rocks hit a house adjacent to our development. This sounds all nice and Americana, even shading into Norman Rockwell terrain, no? No.
The owner of the house calls my neighbor and claims that a window was broken. He wants us to “make it right by sundown.” Or, what? I’m thinking. He’s going to get his posse together and learn us a lesson?
So while I was enjoying my spaetzle and beer, three other mothers went to the guy’s house. He indicated that Caleb was “mouthing off” to him. He said, “I’m a Vietnam vet—don’t go there, kid.” He mentioned that he’s friends with police officers. Also, it turns out a window was not broken, but a screen was torn.
I talked to Caleb, who contends that he didn’t mouth off. He didn’t say anything at all, just ran home as fast as he could when he heard the guy shouting at them. When he ran, the guy called after him, “You better run.” (Again—or what?) The only thing the other kids said was, “I’m sorry.” One kid, the youngest, was especially shaken.
My conversation with Brandon went something like this:
Me: WHAT THE HELL? ACCIDENTS HAPPEN! THEY’RE KIDS, FOR GOD’S SAKE! DOES THIS MAKE HIM FEEL LIKE A MAN? SCARING THE SHIT OUT OF FOUR LITTLE BOYS?
Me: OOH. “BY SUNDOWN”! OOH! “DON’T GO THERE!” DOES IT FEEL GOOD, ASSHOLE, SWINGING YOUR DICK AROUND [figuratively, I hasten to add] LIKE THAT?
It was already dark. I collected a bunch of rocks in a cup and walked over to where the boys were earlier that afternoon. I started winging them at the house one by one.
Lights came on. He stepped out. Before he could say anything, I started in.
“Here,” I said. “Here’s your chance. If you want to bully someone, bully me. I'm another adult.” I clenched the cup of rocks.
I’m kidding. I didn’t do that, but I really fucking wanted to.
I have methods for not getting into these kinds of rages, but sometimes, I have to just live through them. Eventually, I calmed down enough to try to understand the guy’s perspective. Before our houses were built, he had woods behind his house. The developer promised him things that he didn’t deliver on. The guy’s resentful of us anyway. Then there are these kids and their rocks on the camel’s back.
My normal impulse is to root for the underdog, and I know, I know, that he appears to be the victim here. He’s the one with the torn screen and the shitty backyard view now. But on the other hand, I know this type. And he better watch what he says. Or what? I'll think of something.