Swans Commentary » swans.com September 10, 2007  



Preemptive Retreat


by Peter Byrne





(Swans - September 10, 2007)  

He:  There'll be no peace unless I hit them hard.

She:  Did those kids dis you again?

He:  They're preparing mayhem behind that fence.

She:  Rigging up longer peashooters?

He:  I think I saw a slingshot. Do the Geneva Conventions allow those?

She:  If they only flick out bits of garbage.

He:  Only? Today it's rotten tomatoes but if they're not stopped what will it be tomorrow?

She:  Watermelon rinds, if the heat wave continues.

He:  As longtime resident in what's the finest middle-range property in the street, it falls to me to strike a blow for the common good.

She:  I'd think about group decision-making. Consult your allies on the block.

He:  They won't lift their butts off their front porch except to turn the other cheek. I'd have firepower zero with that coalition of neutrals. I'm not going to shut those kids up with a frozen-smile Peace Corps.

She:  The neighbors might be pushed to sign a petition. Give them a good scare with your bungalow-of-evil speech and shove a ballpoint at them. You want to isolate the rogue family.

He:  None of that no-cojones guff for me. It's the neighbors' moment of truth. Either they're with me or, you know, not.

She:  I thought your powwow with the kids' papa last week stabilized the conflict.

He:  That ape thinks cooperation's something a doctor does with a scalpel. I don't think he understands English.

She:  Then it's a case for international arbitration. Go see the alderman of our ward.

He:  And be unmanned by red tape? That municipal shrink always comes up with the same advice: Give the other guy a bear hug and join a therapy group.

She:  I thought the anger-management officer was helpful when they fined you for parking in the disabled slot.

He:  Helpful! Her level playing field's for mountaineers. She wouldn't even look at my trick knee. As if there aren't part-time invalids who only limp in heavy dew.

She:  You could go for sanctions.

He:  Sure, I could go over there and knock the crap out of the kids.

She:  Think dirty tricks. Fake some figures on how they're bringing property values down, write an anonymous letter to the truant officer, drop hints about a marijuana plantation in their chicken coop.

He:  I told you what those kids called me.

She:  Well, you are overweight.

He:  What's that got to do with it? "Friggin' fathead," they said. Me, with my M-sized White Sox cap.

She:  What did their old man say about that?

He:  He said he never listens to what his kids say. He practically accused me of eavesdropping. Can you imagine? I was minding my own business and going after them with the garden rake.

She:  So he speaks English then?

He:  No, he shouts it. Bad eyesight, too. He kept calling me a mother.

She:  Containment's your best bet for foulmouthed kids.

He:  I think so too. Their wooden fence would burn like tinder. I'll get it blazing on four sides and put a lid on the oven.

She:  Don't talk crazy. We wouldn't have a demographic chance. The mariachi serenaders would put you on sleeping pills.

He:  The shock of one awful lunge of my power mower into their bikes and they'll sue for peace. Mission, you know, crowned with flowers.

She:  You'll have an insurrection on your hands. They'll paint misspelled insults on our garage.

He:  So I'll paint them over with patriotic stuff: Uncle Sam Wants YOU Out.

She:  And when they put glue in your keyhole and slice up your tires?

He:  The little bastards have to fight fair. There are rules of decency in war.

She:  Skip containment then and switch to an anti-surge strategy: You go in and out of our back door and never walk past their house.

He:  Me cut and run? Why I'd lose all credibility in the neighborhood. He's a wimp, they'd say. We'll go change our oil in his driveway. Bring your Great Dane to dump on his lawn. Let's go take a leak on his barbecue.

She:  If that big dark guy is the kids' dad, I'd certainly opt for conflict resolution.

He:  Never. Do I look risk-adverse? I'm a front-door man.

She:  I was behind him at the supermarket payout. He's got a skull and crossbones tattooed on each arm.

He:  Primitive nonsense. Voodoo.

She:  Could be, but look out for deterioration in the global security environment. There's a lot of muscle under the tattoos.

He:  I'll zap him with technology. He's never been stared at by night-vision goggles.

She:  I'd advise disengagement. Not everyone has an exit strategy in his own backyard. Use it. The hell with benchmarks. Keep out of the way and wait for cooler weather. This isn't the decade for action.

He:  And what happens when the kids get their muscles tattooed as well?

She:  Do we want to be paying hospital bills and telling lies to lawyers?

He:  Sometimes I wonder if you are with me or against me?

She:  Methinks our destinies are entwined like the pooch and his tapeworm.

He:  I'm sure the muscle dad wouldn't hit a woman or stomp her pet.

She:  Huh-huh. You want to negotiate.

He:  Just amble over to their place with the pooch. There must be a female amongst that crowd. Tell her your husband used to love kids but his nerves have snapped.

She:  And then?

He:  Well, you know how superstitious they are. They have a thing about not killing people. Tell them a ruckus in the street could end my earthly days. Ask them pointblank if they want me to snuff it.

She:  Shall I mention your trick knee?

He:  Let's call it a war wound. But you can tell them that deep down I'm a pacifist.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art13/pbyrne45.html
Published September 10, 2007