Burn and Rave

I’ve been floated up to the geriatric psych ward and I’m not happy. When I was younger I didn’t sweat working with old people. Back then old age and death seemed impossibly far away. Now, with my fiftieth birthday in sight, the demented elderly chattering around me are a reminder that the clock is ticking.

“I’m looking for my keys,” a woman says to me, her voice quavering. “If I can’t find them I can’t go home.”

“Okay, Gertrude,” I say, taking the woman by the arm. “Let’s go look for them.” There are no keys. Gertrude is sun downing – the agitation many people with dementia and Alzheimer’s suffer when daylight fades.

“I know someone stole my keys,” Gertrude hisses. “You can’t trust the people around here.”

“Let’s keep looking.”

Gertrude and I walk up and down the dayroom, looking under every table and in every drawer. Outside the window the setting sun is flaring magnificently as it makes way for night.

“Are these your keys?” I say, pointing to a plastic knife and fork.

“You found them!” Gertrude says, clutching them to her breast. “Thank you.”

“All part of the friendly service.” I’m not above trickery.

“Now let me go home,” the old lady says.

I shake my head. “I’m sorry Gertrude. I cannot do that.”

“Let me out of here! I have to cook my husband dinner!’

Gertrude has forgotten her husband’s dead and is becoming agitated. To calm her I sit with her and hold her hand. Looking at the patient bracelet dangling from her thin wrist I see her birthdate was November 1914. Gertrude is one hundred years old. Born at the start of The Great War, she was my age when Eisenhower was President. If I reach the century mark my daughter will be fifty-five. One day she might visit me in a place like this, tricking me with fake keys.

The unit is noisy, filled with confused old people complaining about pains and indignities real and imagined. Barely rising above the din, an AARP commercial plays on the television, showing robust and impossibly good looking elderly people singing and dancing. The director of this slick commercial decided to avoid the reality of ageing clamoring angrily around me. I guess decrepitude and adult diapers put a real damper on eternal life fantasies. But let’s face it; even death is packaged with ruthless commercial efficiency. Pre-plan your funeral, buy insurance for your final expenses and, for God’s sake, die a “good death.” Don’t make a fuss.

What the hell is a good death? The patients around me must be failing in this regard. They’re not dispensing quaint tidbits of wisdom or letting go with quiet dignity. They’re pissing in their pants, tormented by failing minds and bitching about the food. They’re going out kicking and screaming.

Perhaps that’s they way it should be, not the narcotized version the media tries peddling to us. “Man is not only the victim of pain and the progressive deterioration of his body,” the Fathers of Vatican II wrote. “He is also and more deeply, tormented by the fear of final extinction…. he rebels against death.”

I’m on record saying I’m not afraid of death, but watching my daughter come out of her mother’s womb changed all that. Watching new life catching fire cast my own life into shadow. That day I realized with absolute certainty that I was going to die. And as I held Natalie for the first time the words of Dylan Thomas’ famous poem thundered in my ears.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
 
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
 
Oblivion suddenly became terrifying. And how, I thought to myself, could this new life in my arms ever, ever fade away? In my heart of hearts I knew it was impossible. The words of the church fathers I once studied took on new meaning. “But the instinctive judgment of (man’s) heart is right when he shrinks from, and rejects, the idea of a total collapse and definitive end of his own person.” On that day my gut told me Natalie would not end. I will not end. Maybe those guys in pointy hats were onto something.

Of course I have no idea what this all means. I haven’t dusted off my old breviary and started going to church. But I know if Natalie visits me when I’m a hundred I’ll probably be an old crank fighting to hold on until the end. That’s how we’re built. That’s what it means to be human. Don’t worry about dying a good death.That’s all pre-packaged bullshit. You’ll die how you die. What comes afterwards? I don’t know. There’s no law against hoping for something more.

Holding Gertrude’s hand I remember Dylan Thomas was also born in 1914. Maybe he’s drinking double whiskeys in Elysium right now, enthralling the Seraphim with his dramatic Welsh brogue. That’d be hilarious. Suddenly I’m glad to be among these old people, listening to them burn and rave as day draws to a close.

“Rage,” I say, silently joining their chorus. “Rage against the dying of the light.”

Mean Little Spaces

It’s five-thirty and I’ve just finished the lovely sandwich my wife made for me when Hakim sticks his head in the break room.

“Can you do me a favor?” the young nurse asks.

“Sure.”

“You know that new patient in 308?”

“He’s been in bed all day.”

“He came in at three in the morning and the night shift didn’t check his belongings. Could you do it?”

Checking a patient’s belongings is the shittiest job on a psych ward. You have to count every stitch of their clothing, log it on a belongings sheet and then place anything remotely valuable into a special envelope and drop It off with the hospital cashier. Then you have to have the patient sign a receipt – no mean feat when they’re paranoid as hell.

I groan. “Does he have a lot of shit?”

“His suitcase is locked up in the utility closet.”

“Suitcase?”

“When he got picked up he said he was going to Denver.” Hakim says. “So yeah, it’s a lot of stuff.”

“Is he a hoarder?”

“Don’t know. I haven’t seen his bag.”

Nine times out of ten patients come in with only the clothing on their backs and some form of ID. If their family can’t supply clothes the patient can do laundry on-site or wear disposable clothes made of paper. But every once in a while we get a hoarder – usually a homeless person who, despite their lack of domicile, manages to carry the contents of a small apartment in their luggage. I’m sure that’s what I’m about to face.

“I’lll take care of it,” I tell Hakim. “But if I find moldy food in his bag I’m going to get even with you.”

Hakim smiles uneasily, not sure if I’m kidding, and leaves. A few years ago I had to go through a shopping cart filled with dripping wet possessions a homeless lady brought in. I found three pounds of moldy luncheon meat wrapped in her dirty underwear. I still have nightmares about it.

Sadly, it looks like I’m in for more of the same. The man’s suitcase is old dirty and bulging at the seams. To keep it from bursting he’s wrapped the whole thing up with surgical tape that’s taken on a lovely shade of brown. A walking cane hangs from the busted handle. Inventorying all this stuff will take forever.

I drag the suitcase to an empty therapy room, close the door, and then assemble all the items I need to perform a search – lots of latex gloves, patient belongings bags, garbage can, clear plastic bags, the requisite paperwork and a pen.

The charge nurse looks at my bundle of supplies and chuckles. “This going to take long?”

“I hope not.”

My hope are dashed the moment I open the outer pocket of the suitcase. Like most street hoarders the man’s wrapped all his items in napkins, paper-towels and then triple bagged them in supermarket plastic bags tied shut. Since I can’t see what’s in them I have to take them apart one by one. This will take hours.

I’m also on high alert. Homeless people often carry weapons. I’ve found razors and knives of every description doing this job – even a bullet. Never found a gun, though. That honor went to a co-worker some years ago who dug a .32 automatic out of a sock. I go slowly though the man’s possessions, careful not to cut or stick myself on anything that might be in there. I’m very happy I got the Hepatitis vaccine.

Just as I finish logging the contents of the first pocket the group room door swings open and a dirty and very large man walks in. “Who the fuck are you and what are you doing with my stuff?” he yells.

I forgot to lock the door. Stupid. The man rushes in and grabs his suitcase. “You’re gonna steal my stuff. Get the fuck out of here.”

I calmly stand my ground. “I have to check every thing that comes in here. I will make a record of everything I find.”

“Fuck that. I’m gonna watch you do it.”

“You can’t be here as I go through it.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“Because if there’s a weapon in your bag I don’t want you to use it on me.” I don’t say that, of course, and ask the man to leave the room.

“Fuck you asshole,” the patient says, pushing me aside.

I take a deep breath. I’m not going mano y mano with this guy. He’s very big and has got a mass of crude tattoos and scars. He’s been in the shit. He’s a street warrior. I hail a passing orderly and tell her to bring help.

The man grabs a pack of smokes out of his bag and tries to light them. Surprising myself I snatch the lighter out of his hand.

“Don’t touch me asshole,” he says.

“You can’t smoke in here,” I say. Actually I don’t care about his cigarettes. I’m worried about the lighter. Patients can and do start fires.

The man responds by snatching up his cane. Considering the confines of the room he’ll probably try and poke me in the gut instead of swinging. So I grab it.

“Give me the cane,” I say. “When you get a doctor’s order you can have it.”

The patient’s face flushes red and his body tenses. He’s going to go for it.

I’ve been trained how to defend myself against violent patients. Using a variety of holds, the object is to get the patient on the ground as safely as possible and wait for the calvary to arrive. But “therapeutic jujitsu” isn’t going to work here. The man’s too close, too big and I’m in a confined space. I’m in danger. Then the cold part of my brain tells me to deliver an elbow strike into the hinge of the man’s jaw.

I let the thought flicker in and out of my mind. Instead of breaking the patient’s jaw I hold up my free hand.

“Play it cool, brother,” I say. “I don’t want to tangle with you. I will not mess up your stuff.”

The man relents and lets go of the cane. Just then two security guards arrive.

“Any of you guys touch me and I’ll fuck you up,” the patient says, looking very scared.

The younger security guard is built like a light heavyweight and snorts. He’s not worried. The older guard, who’s even bigger, just shakes his head. “We’re just here to help you.”

“The guards at the other hospital beat me up!” the patient yells. “I have nothing to lose. Bring it.”

“No one’s going to beat you up,” I say. “We also don’t want you attacking us.”

“I just want to be left alone,” the patient says. “Let me out of here.”

Hakim arrives holding a hypodermic. “What’s that for?” the patient asks.

“Something to help you relax,” Hakim says.

“Fuck that.”

“You said you have nothing to lose,” I say. “What did you mean by that?”

“I got nothing,” the man says, his voice breaking. “My dog died five months ago.”

“What kind of dog?”

“A Jack Russell.”

“How old was he?”

“Eight.”

“You lost him to soon,” I say. “I have dogs. When my oldest one was sick I thought I’d have to put him down. I cried for hours.”

“So you know what it’s like, kinda.”

“Anyone who loves dogs isn’t all bad.”

“No. They aren’t.”

“Let us give you the shot,” I say. “You’ll feel better. Take a break from what’s eating you.”

The patient acquiesces and Hakim administers the shot. Within minutes the man is out cold. I go back to checking his stuff.

After two hours, in addition to clothes, food and a million pens, I find two knifes, a utility razor, screwdriver and two hundred Fentanyl patches that I could sell for a fortune on the street. No wonder the patient was so worried about his stuff.

When I get home I put my clothes in the hamper and take a long shower. Then I fix myself a dirty martini on the rocks and flop down on the couch. My wife comes out of the bedroom holding Natalie. She’s asleep.

“Sssshh,” my wife says and puts the baby in her crib. Then she tiptoes over and plants a kiss on my lips.

“How was your day?” she says. I tell her.

“Would you have hit that man?” she asks.

“If I had too,” I say. “I’m very glad I didn’t though.”

“But it bothers you that you thought about it.” My wife knows me very well.

“Yes.”

“You’ve never hit a patient,” she says. “Ever. You always manage to talk them down.”

“Not always.”

“True. But when you do put your hands on people you’re not brutal. You’re not violent.”

I nod. The martini is starting to have it’s effect.

“You got hurt recently,” my wife says. “Remember?”

Two weeks ago a guy went nuts and tried throwing a chair. I intercepted him and slapped him into a hold. But I didn’t roll him to the ground as per the manual because he had a preexisting head injury and I didn’t want to hurt him any further. As a result he managed to get a shot in and I ended up in the ER and out of work for five days.

“You got hurt so the patient wouldn’t,” my wife says. “Not everyone would do that.”

“I guess so.”

Annie kisses me again and goes to bed. She knows I have to be alone. I fix myself a second drink. I want to be in the bag. That’s a rare thing for me these days.

I watch television and let the vodka work its magic. When I finish my drink I look at the ice cubes and think about that cold part of my brain. It’s always been there. Ruthless. Calculating. An icy bastard. Today he peeked out of my unconcious and looked around.

Then I remember a line Lawrence Block once wrote. It’s something I tell new staff when they’re wrestling with the violent urges the patients sometimes incite within us.

‘Everyone has mean little spaces inside of themselves. It’s the ones who are not aware of them who fly off the handle.”

Quite drunk, I go to bed.

Zombies and Tacos

If you’ve ever waited tables, at some point in your nocturnal life, you’ve had a “waiter dream.” These nightmares usually share common thematic elements; you’ve got a hundred customers who all hate you, the restaurant’s layout is bizarrely different, the menu’s a hundred pages, written in Cyrillic and you’re perpetually in the weeds. Often it’s just your brain clearing out the myriad of details ricocheting in your brain after a bad shift. (“Man, I forgot to bring that soda to table twelve!”) Sometimes its your subconscious telling you to get out of the biz.

Six years after hanging up my apron, I occasionally have these dreams. They usually mean I’ve forgotten to do something in my waking life, but last night I had a very different dream. A dream from the customer’s perspective

My wife and I are eating at The Four Seasons in Manhattan when I spy Phillip Johnson sitting at his regular table in the Pool Room.

“Isn’t Phillip Johnson dead?” I say.

“For a long time,” my wife says.

“They must miss him. They hired a lookalike to take his place.”

As my wife peruses the menu I look around the Pool Room. I took a date here twenty years ago and man, the place has changed. Designed by Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, it used to be coolly elegant space with large windows, trees, subdued lighting and that iconic “pool.” Now it looks like a low rent Hofbräuhaus with sawdust on the floor. Shrugging, I look at the menu and spy something outrageous.

“Look at this!” I say. “Beluga Caviar Tacos for 7800 dollars!”

“That’s insane,” my wife says.

The waiter comes to our table and we order $300 worth of stuff. An expensive lunch to be sure, but we’re treating ourselves. To my surprise the entrees come out first. Annoyed, I ask the waiter what happened.

“You wanted your entrees first,” he snaps.

“No we didn’t.”

“Yes,” he says, showing me his dupe pad. “Before you get the Beluga Tacos.”

To my utter horror I see “Tacos! KaChing!” written on his pad and “$7800” circled in heavy black marker.

“We didn’t want those tacos!” I almost scream.

“Yes you did,” the waiter says. “I heard you talking about them when I walked over.”

My wife bursts into tears. “We’re going to have to dip into the house fund to pay for this!”

“Go to the kitchen and tell then we don’t want those tacos,” I say.

“It’s too late. You’ll have to pay for them.”

“Get me the manager!”

The manager, a middle-aged lady wearing a yellow Century 21 jacket, runs up to our table. “Is there a problem, sir?”

“You bet there’s a problem!” I say. “I didn’t order $7800 worth of anything!”

“You’re on the hook for it,” the manager says. “Too bad.”

As my wife sobs hysterically I try comforting her. “There’s no way we’re paying for this.” I say. “They’ll try arresting us for theft of service but since we didn’t eat the food the charges won’t stick. And they’ll have to spend more than $7800 to cover their legal costs.”

“Please come with me, sir,” the manager says. “The GM wants to talk with you.”

My wife and I walk to the back of the house and we’re soon locked in a small windowless room with three people; the nattily dressed GM, a chain smoking old lady, and a 6’5 bald bruiser wearing an ill fitting double breasted suit with a sinister bulge under his left armpit.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the GM says. “You owe us $7800. Will that be cash or credit?”

“We didn’t even eat the fucking tacos!” I shout.

The GM shakes his head. “Once we enter an item into the POS system the terms are non-negotiable.”  Great. I’m dealing with the restaurant version of ISIS.

“Okay,” I say. “I hate saying this, but do you know who I am?”

“You look vaguely familiar.”

“I write the Waiter Rant blog,” I say. “My book was a New York Times Bestseller and I’ve been on Oprah and the Today Show. I have Frank Bruni’s phone number on speed dial! Do not mess with me!”

“Well,” the old lady cackles. “Doesn’t that you make feel powerful.”

“Listen toots, even if I was rich I’d never order a $7800 dish.”

“Of course you would,” the old lady says, waving smoke out her face. “That’s what rich people do.”

“Actually,” the GM says. “This does change things.”

“What?” the harridan says. “Make him pay like all the others!”

“We can’t afford the bad publicity,” the GM says. “Mr. Johnson wouldn’t like it.”

“Phillip Johnson is dead,” I say.

“Oh sir,” the GM says. “This is the Four Seasons. We simply reanimated him.”

“You guys are nuts,” I say, putting on my coat. “Here’s the deal. We don’t pay and I keep my mouth shut.”

“That’s fair,” the GM says. Then he turns to the bruiser in the bad suit and says, “But I feel sorry for you. You don’t get to play today.” The bruiser looks pissed.

“What does he do?” I ask fearfully.

“Sir, you do not want to know.”

I wake up to find my wife playing on her iPhone. When I tell her about the dream she laughs. “Those are expensive tacos.”

“I know what the dream was about,” I say, heaving myself out of bed.

“What?”

“The car.”

A few days ago my car refused to budge when I depressed the gas pedal. After I had it towed to the service station I was consumed with worry, thinking I had a multi-thousand dollar repair on my hands. Luckily my mechanic is honest and diagnosed a ruptured hose and low transmission fluid. It only cost three hundred dollars to fix.

“We were lucky,” my wife says. “I thought we’d have to dip into the house fund to pay it.”

“And my mind turned a transmission job into Beluga Tacos.”

“Did you really say you had Frank Bruni’s number on speed dial?”

“Honey, it was just dream. Besides, Frank’s not the food critic for The Times anymore.” Just to be a wiseass I grab my phone and show her Bruni’s number on my contact list. He interviewed me a few years ago and I saved the number. I doubt it still works.

“Well,” my wife says, smirking. “Doesn’t that make you feel powerful?”

“Your husband just saved us $7800,” I say. “Show some respect.”

All the characters in this dream are fictional. Phillip Johnson is not a zombie employed by The Four Seasons. The restaurant has not been remodeled to look like a German beer hall. The last time I checked Beluga Caviar Tacos weren’t on their menu. But I wouldn’t put it past them.

Halloween Isn’t What It Used To Be

Having a baby has made 2014 a year of firsts so, when Halloween rolls around, my wife and I get into gear.

After dressing Natalie up as Snow White we run over to an arts and crafts store, hit up Target for candy and go home to decorate our front porch. “If you don’t have any Halloween decorations,” my wife warns. “People won’t know you’re giving out candy.”

My wife is very creative and, with a minimum of supplies, casts a large spider’s web over our front porch – complete with with spiders made of yellow and black ribbon. Add a few pumpkins and voila! A house ready for trick or treaters.

When I was a waiter I wasted Halloween serving costumed Yuppies so I make it a point to hand out candy to the kids every year. Knowing children will hit the streets the moment school lets out, I fix a cup of coffee, leash Buster to the railing, and sit outside with a large stainless steel bowl full of candy. My wife will join me but she’s busy changing Natalie. Because two sets of grandparents have to see my daughter’s outfit in pristine condition, diaper duty has taken on the tension of a bomb disposal scene from The Hurt Locker.  One slip and it’s all over. Damn those white tights that came with Snow White’s costume. Yellow or brown would have been better.

A gaggle of children walk past. They see me but, to my surprise, keep going. As their parents bring up the rear I say, “Hey, we have candy over here.” The adults don’t even look at me and push their brood around the block. I’m pissed. Do I have a sign that says, “Child molester” hanging around my neck? I’ve lived in this neighborhood for eleven years.

Annie joins me. “Natalie is conked out,” she says. “I want her to sleep before your parents arrive.”

I tell my wife about the paranoid parents. “I’m glad you’re here now. Maybe having a woman here will lower their anxiety.” Then another group of children walk right past us, their parents ignoring my offer of sweets.

“What the hell?” I almost shout. “What’s wrong with these people?’

“Calm down,” Annie says. “”These parents are probably sticking to the homes of people they know. Nowadays it’s all about safe trick or treating.”

“So what do they think we’re doing?”  I sputter. “Putting Drano in the Snickers Bars? On the hunt for kiddie kidneys? We’re not on any sexual offender lists.”

My wife shakes her head. “You’re getting too worked up over this. When Natalie gets older we’ll know more parents and they’ll come around to our house.”

“That’s horseshit.”

The idea of “safe” trick or treating pisses me off. After working the locals once or twice, my brother and I would walk for miles until until we bagged enough candy to last us past Easter. Everybody gave out candy on Halloween back then – even the barefoot hippie pot-smoking weirdoes with the long hair and beads.

“What can I say?” Annie says. “People are worried about their kids getting poisoned.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “We had that when I was little. They told us sickos put razor blades in apples and rat poison in the candy. Do you know there had never been a documented case of that happening? Not once.”

“So you’ve told me, many times.”

“If someone was stupid enough to do that,” I say. “Parents would burn the house down with the guy in it. Cops would probably stand by and say, ‘We didn’t see anything.”

My wife shoots me a dirty look. “Chill out, now.”

Eventually some normal parents come by with their children and help themselves to our candy. That makes me feel better, but not by much. Halloween isn’t the holiday of my childhood. Less and less children come around every year. Being a dad this time around makes the contrast more poignant.

“It’s a shame when you think about it,” my wife says as the children walk away.  “This is a time for people to get to know their neighbors. A chance for little kids to interact with adults they usually don’t have.”

I say nothing. Parents have been cocooning their kids from every possible form of risk for years. Wonder why young people are having such a hard time today? Most of it has to do with economics, but helicopter parents haven’t helped. Last month a schoolboy asked me for directions to his house as I was walking my dogs. The child lived four blocks from where we were standing! Shocked, I asked why he didn’t know where his own house was.

“My mom drives me everywhere,” he said. That’s messed up.

I’m not afraid of raising a child, I’m afraid of other parents. Dealing with over-protective nitwits will test my patience. I’ll be that contrarian father at P.T.A meetings. I’ll be the voice saying, “That’s nonsense!” Teachers will groan when they hear my name. Oh. That guy. For Natalie’s sake I’ll have to bite my tongue for the next eighteen years. I don’t know how I’ll manage.

My parents arrive and we walk Natalie around the block to get a few token treats.  Most of the houses aren’t giving out candy and I notice the costumed children we’re tailing aren’t from my town. Not unusual. The city across the river isn’t the greatest. I notice one of the visiting fathers has a flashlight. So do I. The greatest danger to kids isn’t poisoned candy; it’s the automotive dolts and drunk drivers. As the sky darkens I pray everyone gets home safely.

When we get home we discover Natalie has peed though her outfit and discard it. As far as she’s concerned it’s just another day. In a few more years I hope Halloween will be as exciting for her as it was for me, but it won’t be the same. The old days are long gone. But no matter how much I grouse about change, I’ll have to make Halloween a nice day for my little girl.

My parents are hungry so we go out for dinner. Before we leave I place the candy on my stoop so the kids can help themselves. When we get back two hours later the candy is all gone. So is the bowl.

“They took the fucking bowl!” I say, forgetting my mother is right next to me.

“That’s the bowl I use when baking,’’ Annie says.

“I don’t mind the candy being gone, I’d have just eaten it. But the bowl? Unbelievable.”

Halloween isn’t what it used to be.

Mischief Night

I’m on the checkout line in the supermarket when a teenaged boy comes up to me with an extra large carton of eggs.

“Excuse me, sir.” he says. “Could you buy these eggs for me?”

My shopping cart is loaded with stuff. “You have one thing.” I say. “You can go ahead of me.”

“Could you buy them for me instead?” he says, offering me a ten dollar bill.

“Why can’t you buy them yourself?”

“Uh,” the boy says. “Because tomorrow night is Mischief Night and they might not sell them to me.”

Realization dawns on me. “No way,” I say. “You want to do the deed you’ve got to take your chances.”

The boy waves the money in front of me. “You can keep the change.”

“Kid,” I say. “I’d be more understanding if you wanted me to buy you beer. But the answer would still be no.” I should be glad they didn’t ask me to buy them porn.

The boy is about fifteen, has braces, pimples and is wearing some kind of school uniform. Behind him his partner in crime is looking at me like I’m an clueless old man. He’s not far off the mark. I completely forgot tomorrow was Mischief Night.

Cabbage Night. Goosey Night. Mischief Night. Whatever you call it, I’m against it. My parents kept me locked up tight on the night of October 30th – forbidding me to participate in any youthful hooliganism. I never wanted to anyway. When I was small I left my Big Wheel in the driveway that night and awoke to find it buried in a mountain of shaving cream. I also watched my neighbors cleaning eggs off their cars, getting toilet paper out of trees and scraping the scorched remains of burned dogshit off their stairs. Not my idea of fun.

The next night I finish work at eleven o’clock and my wife picks me up. My car’s in the shop and I’m without wheels for a few days. As we drive home and see bands of kids wandering the streets I’m suddenly glad my car is behind a chain link fence. Maybe the owner of the shop has a German Shepherd on patrol. Or even even better, a retired Secret Service Belgian Malinois attack dog. Grrrr.

When we get home I change Natalie, give her a bottle and put her to bed. By the time the milk is half done she’s zonked out. Then I take the dogs outside, give old Buster his evening meds, tuck my wife in and grab my computer, Jim Beam on the rocks, a cigar, and head outside.

As I puff and surf the web, several police cars coast past. The cops in my town take a dim view of Mischief Night. They’ll have to be more vigilant. We passed a toilet papered house on the way home.

Listening to music, I tab through the days news stories and sip my bourbon. Then I realize I have a can of dog crap in front of my house. A few years ago I bought a miniature garbage can to hold all the poopy bags my two dogs produce. Unfair to leave it in the regular garbage and gross out my town’s sanitation engineers, don’t you think? But when I pick it up I realize it’s empty. My wife, fearing the poop could be used against us, is way ahead of me.

It’s a nice night. Not too cold, not too warm and bourbon’s making me feel no pain. Shifting in my seat, I feel my military grade Surefire flashlight jab me through my coat pocket. If any vandals come calling they’ll be greeted with a 500 lumen blast of eye searing light. That’ll teach ‘em. My cell phone is also with me; ready to call the local constabulary if any kid tries egging my wife’s car. Yeah, I’m turning into a cranky old dude.

Twenty minutes later, a trio of young boys walks past my house. Illuminated by my porch light they can see me and I can see them. Giggling to themselves they walk by and I give then a friendly wave. I see you little bastards. 

Then an evil thought hits me. Why don’t I call out, “Hey kids! Is this Mischief Night or The Purge? I get the dates mixed up!” That would send them running.

I’d probably end up only getting probation.