Once upon a time in a land far, far away—oh, scratch that shit!
In a ratty-tatty old shotgun house in a town about the size of a matchbox (700 or so) there in that place. I lived next door to an old bastard.
Now I say he was an old bastard but then maybe I am being a little harsh. I know that from my conversations with him that he had a unique or odd way of situating himself. Conspiracy theories and left-sided political campaigns—but whatever right?
It was a rundown house with planks missing out of the side boards, paint chipping where there was paint and huge gaps of space close to the foundation. The house was like the town, old and in need of repair. Not that this pothole in the road was much of a town, but it was a town nonetheless.
Anyhow, I entertained this old man from time to time and pretty much went about all of it together and untouched for the most part. Kind of handy he was, always slapping me on the ass until finally it became as natural to me as a handshake.
Well, I was sitting on the rotting old porch, visiting of course, when the old bastard began to rattle off a random tale.
The old bastard coughed, “You know this town ain’t been right since those feds came in, ya know?”
“I know,” I remarked.
“People these days and times think and believe just damn near everything, ya know?”
“Yeah—I agree,” my head bobbing with a gesture not necessarily agreement.
“Well,” I said noticing his distraction with the noise of the nearby buses passing on Bonita St.
“How do you handle all the chaos, the noise and such running around on this corner?”
The old bastard just grimaced. “Hell, I don’t tolerate much of that shit anymore,” he sighed and picked his nose, “you see them there yuccas?” The old bastard pointed to the edge of his yard. I watched his finger motion with its crooked, rheumatic bumps.
“Why do you have all those Spanish Daggers edging your property?” I engaged the idea wanting to hear him spout off like a wound oozing puss.
“You know as many times as I have told you this ya ought to remember.” “Humor me again.” I grinned thinking about his animated face and hand gestures, especially the finger—which always made me laugh the way he flipped people off like it was a Spanish Dagger cutting out the heart and leaving the soul ashamed and bleeding.
“Those damn kids,” he began, “used to run all over my yard—hell, now they ain’t. HA!” he coughed and spit a plug of mucus over the edge of the porch. “They might fall on one of my spiny friends out there ya see.”
“I know,” I laughed until I cried, “bet they don’t even come near your property now do they?”
“Nope!” he coughed again into his hand and wiped it on his left sleeve.
I was laughing. The buses and school children were running about noisily. Usually, I am not home to see and hear the entire racket. Today was a little different.
“Say,” I began to ease into the question, “how many cars have you seen going in and out of that thicket over there?”
The old bastard turned his attention towards me. “May have seen twenty or so of them there grey boogers going in and out I’d say all hours of the night and day too. Strange stuff is goin’ on over there. Do ya know anything about it, girlie?”
I shrugged, “All I know is that they from some acronym in Washington showing papers to everyone that they are doing some sort of research on a tree fungus or something. What did they say to you?”
“Hell, I don’t know. They came up here waving them papers and such and I told 'em I didn’t believe in eminent domain and such shit and wished that I supported owning a gun.”
I put my hand over my mouth and tried to keep from laughing.
An old scraggly cat hopped up on the edge of the porch.
“Ah must be dinner time.” The old bastard farted.
“How long you had that cat?”
“Ah, I say now, I have had that there cat for about two years now. Came up one day strutting around in front of that there window like he was that there romance model—ya know who I’m talking about?”
“Yeah, I think I do. Blonde-headed romance model?”
“Uh huh, that is him alright.” A disgusted grimace followed, “Biggest waste of hair I ever seen! Well that cat there walked ‘round here looking at his self in the window so much I wanted to call him Fabio but...” He shrugged his shoulder and coughed deep—no phlegm this time.
“Well what do you call him then?” I nudged his arm.
“I call that there tom, One Ball—because that’s the way he came. Can’t say how it happened though. Tragic I reckon. Guess it was just his lot to be born that way or somethin’.”
“You call your cat One Ball?” I was holding tight to the edge of the seat trying my hardest not to fall off and get a grip on myself before I lost all composure. “Well do you think that you should go ahead and feed him now?” I said moving the conversation along.
“Yeah,” the old bastard disappeared into the darkness behind the screen door and came back with a can of cat food. He was completely ignoring me at this point.
“This damn old porch should’uv fell in by now.” The old bastard said and laughed to his self as he kicked an empty can of cat food off the edge of rotten boards.
The old bastard began to ramble on. The pile of cat food cans were growing-up like the scraggly weeds--a bastard robot child from the Star Wars sequel.
He hated that sci-fi shit. Who gave a damn whether or not we landed on the fucking moon— ain’t any gold up there. Hell, in his mind it was another scam.
The government pulled all kinds of shit. Them som’bitches had to explain all those embezzled tax dollars to an illiterate nation, somehow.
Most folks would believe anything back then and even now. He laughed about that crazed woman who had made a bundle of money selling tumbleweeds. Yeah, people would just about buy anything.
“Well now…where was we?” the old bastard cracked his persimmon smile exposing yellowed fragments and gaping holes. Old One Ball, hopped up on the rotting wooden side beam, flicking his tail back and forth. The old bastard leaned over to scrub the cat’s head. Cat food sat in the tin can attracting an entire fly mafia with all its’ connections.
“It’s a conspiracy I tell ya. All those damn scientists goin’ in and out of there like they own the damn place. Immanent Domain my ass! They ain’t takin’ anything that I know of.” His suspicious eyes watched another flint grey booger pull off the road and disappear into the thicket.
I laughed. “Yeah, a real conspiracy is going for sure.”
“You reckon all those hippy researchers been looking for some exotic mushroom to get all there little buddies high on back in Washington or some such shit?” he screwed his nose and mouth up revealing his yellow, broken shards. “Hell, they were disturbing the peace of the land almost as much as the nearby school yard that keep a ringing noise going on year round with a basketball game here and buses coming and going all day long—when is a man going to get any peace and quiet. Those yapping brats! I hate ‘em. Hope they like my yuccas.” He laughed heartily. “Damn little snot-noses, let ‘em run and play in my yard. Con found it.” The old bastard waved his fist in the air with defiance.
All I could do was bow my head and laugh hard. I finally had to get up and walk towards the cat eating from the fly infested tin can. I glanced into his house past the darkness through the screen door. Piles of newspapers stacked up like bachelor tables ready for a pizza box, were scattered amongst the sparse furnishings of the living room. One odd chair from the seventies sat against a far wall covered in peeling wallpaper as the main attraction. An old box set TV with “rabbit ears” on top was the centerpiece. “You still got one of those old TV’s I see.” I looked over my shoulder to see his face change to amusement.
“Hell why couldn’t them ears be attached to them fine bunnies at the Hefner Mansion in Los Angeles?” But an aching gut took away the thought. The old bastard pushed me out of the way and went into the darkness again and emerged with his own can.
“Most of that interest has past me now,” he snorted as he chomped on a sardine sandwiched between saltines.
“Uh, huh, I hear you.” I raised my eyebrow at him and thought to myself what a disillusioned old bastard. “So,” I said, “You know, I wonder if the rumors are true about those government guys?”
“Tell it girlie, what have ya heard?” he gulped down another sardine almost whole. I wondered if he ever chewed.
“Well, I heard that they are researching fungus that grows as a possible cure for cancer.”
“Nahhhhhh,” he opened his mouth sardine meat hanging on jagged edges like Jaws emerging and flesh dangling between deathly spikes.
I turned my head and rolled my eyes. Some damn people should use a toothbrush though in his case none would suffice. “That’s what I heard.”
Then one of those grey boogers parked in the driveway. We had not noticed this car coming down the road. We had been busy shooting the shit. A man in casual khakis and a starched white shirt moved toward us.
“Maam, sir,” agent man addressed us coldly.
“We are evacuating everyone, please come with me now.” Flat tone hit us both with the edge of a steel blade on the throat—cold unyielding.
“But…” I was stammering.
“Hey we ain’t…” The old bastard started.
They took us.
Together in the backseat, we sat silent waiting. I watched the town disappear behind us in the rearview. I felt sternly awake and the agent’s faces appeared only stolid to me. We were locked down in a makeshift detainment area outside of town.
Weeks later, we all found out. Those funguses that the feds had been investigating were actually contaminating the soil via the trees and natural composting process of our region. No one we talked to in the government agency could tell anyone how long the contamination had been going on in our area. Apparently, our town was one of the first ones to get treatment. No one died luckily. But everyone in our town went through weeks or/and months of detoxification as the government called it.
I got home about three weeks later after the incident to find my small pothole in the road an old place with a different feel. People that were usually gregarious had changed. No one talked about the treatments. We all just had been through it. A community rape--a dirty government conspiracy.
Even the old bastard was different. I asked him one day, “Why did you cut down your yuccas?”
The old bastard simply replied, “They spiked us all do we need anymore?”
And the old bastard was right. No one and everyone would ever be the same and chaos and noise had ceased. We all had died. The government had indeed spiked us all to death with Spanish Daggers of their own accord.