April 27, 2006
(Note: This was written when I was 17. Why, yes, at the time I thought it was quite clever.)
There was a large nude statue in Walter Sim's front yard. It hadn't been there in the morning when Walter left to go to work, but it was there when he got back that evening. He had no idea how it had gotten there.
Walter ignored the stare of Mrs. Kowalski, his next door neighbor, as he went inside his home. Walter's son, Alan, was inside, drinking a Pepsi and watching MTV.
"There's a statue out in our front yard," said Walter.
"I know." said his son, not taking his eyes off the TV set. "Isn't it great?"
"It's terrible,"said Walter, slightly taken back. "It's nude."
"Yeah," said Alan. He took a drink from his soda. On the TV, a young woman jiggled into the camera.
"Alan," Walter said, "how did it get there?"
Alan shrugged. "This morning, some dude knocked on our door and asked me to sign a reciept for it. He put it in our front yard and left."
"This morning? Don't you go to school anymore?"
Alan shrugged again. "School was canceled today. Someone phoned in a bomb threat. Besides, there was a good movie on HBO this morning."
Walter looked out the window at the statue. He looked down on the body. It was most decidedly male.
"Alan," Walter said, "did it occur to you to ask this man why he was dropping off this statue?"
"No, not really," said Alan, "I thought maybe that mom bought it or something."
"Where is your mother?"
"She's in New York, dad. She's at that convention for romance writers. She left the number of her hotel on the fridge."
"Well, anyway," Walter said as he watched Mrs. Bodilla stop from her evening stroll to stare at the statue, "we can't keep it in the front yard. It's nude. We have to move it." He started to go outside.
Alan got up to change the station.
"Well? aren't you going to help me?"
"Dad, I can't move it now. Star Trek is on."
"As soon as it's over, I want you helping me."
Alan shrugged. Walter went into the front yard. From across the street, Mrs. Wurmbacher her peeped out of her front window. Walter smiled and waved his hand. Mrs. Wurmbacher pursed her lips disapprovingly and disappeared. Walter put his hands on his hips and tried to figure out how to deal with the statue. The statue was at least six feet tall and was made out of some sort of metal. It was too heavy for the soil to support, and the base had sunk into the earth. On the base was a signature. Walter bent to read what it said.
"What the hell is this?" A voice said from behind Walter. It was Paul Kowalski, his next door neighbor. Walter began to rise and banged his head on a part of the statue. When he realized what part or the statue he had struck, he began to redden considerably.
"Hello, Paul," said Walter.
"Trying to enrich your 1ife?" asked Paul, staring at the statue.
"No, not really. I don't know where this came from. I think my wife bought it. I'm not sure, really. I don't know."
"Your wife got this?" Paul looked it up and down, then pointed downward. "You think she's trying to say something?"
"Howdy," Neil Lawson walked up and pointed to the statue, "'What's this doing here?"
"Walt's wife is sending him subliminal messages," said Paul.
"Really?" Neil looked at the statue again. "That's some message," he said, with new respect.
Walter began to blush again. "I'm going to call my wife," he said, rather lamely.
"I'd do that," Neil said, still looking at the statue. Inside, Alan was rooting through the refrigerator.
"Where's your mother's hotel number?" Walter asked, looking frantically on the refrigerator door.
From the other side of the door, Alan slapped a hand over onto a piece of paper.
"Here," he said. "By the way, Mrs. Wurmbacher called."
Walter, who had picked up the phone, paused. "What? Why?"
"She wanted to know what the statue was doing out there."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her it wasn't doing a hell or lot, actually. She didn't think it was funny. Can I have this?"
Alan held up a wine cooler.
Walter was concentrating on dialing. "Yes." Walter stopped dialing and saw what his son had in his hands. "What are you doing?"
"You just said I can have this."
"I did not," Walter said, indignantly.
The phone was picked up in New York. "Hello, Mountebank Hotel," the woman on the other end of the phone said.
"Don't tell me what I said and what I didn't say." Walter said to his son.
"I wouldn't presume," said the woman.
"What?" Walter turned his attention to the phone. His son slipped out of the kitchen with the cooler.
"I said I wouldn't presume," the woman said again.
"Who is this?"
"I was calling the Mountebank Hotel."
"This is the Mountebank Hotel. I'm the clerk."
"Oh. Could you patch me through to Lois Sims, please?"
"Lois Sims? The romance writer? She's here?"
"I suppose so." Walter said. He peered out of the window at the front lawn. Two more men had joined Neil and Paul. They were looking at the statue.
"I love her books!" Susan the clerk said. "Have you read her latest book? It's about a woman who loves her doctor so much she allows him to perform medical experiments on her. It's called I Give You My Heart -- it's wonderful."
One or the two other men took off his baseball cap and placed it strategically on the statue. They all laughed. Walter started to sweat.
"Listen," he said, "Could you please get her? This is an emergency."
"Oh. Hold on," Walter was put on hold. Outside, the man took his hat and spun it.
"Hello?" the voice on the other end of the phone said.
"This is Mrs. Sims' secretary," The voice said, "What business do you have with Mrs. Sims?"
"I'm her husband," said Walter.
"Sure you are," said the secretary.
Through the window, Walter could see Mrs. Kowalski was talking on the phone. She made a gesture with her hands that left no doubt as to what she was talking about.
"Please," said Walter, his voice shaking slightly. "I am her husband. I need to talk to Lois. She bought a statue and I need to get it out of here."
"It's nude," Walter said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"What? So? You don't understand. It's nude."
"What of it? The human body is a beautiful piece of art. It should be glorified."
Walter peered out Into the front yard again. "That's not what my neighbors seem to think."
"Well, hold on," the secretary said, testily. Walter was put on hold again. Outside, the crowd had grown in number.
"Walter?" The voice on the other end of the phone said.
"Lois! Since when do you have a secretary?"
"I hired her at the beginning of this trip. You haven't made a good impression, by the way. She says you're a Philistine."
"Lois, we have to get rid of that statue you bought. It's positively indecent, and we've upset Mrs. Wurmbacher besides."
"Calm down, Walter. I can hear you sweating."
"I'm not sweating," he said, wiping his brow.
"First off, what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about that statue you bought."
'What statue? I didn't buy any statues, dear."
"Then what is one doing in our front yard?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. And anyway, I don't see what the problem is, even if we do have a statue in the front yard."
"Lois, it's nude."
"And what would you rather it be? In Bermuda shorts?"
"I'd rather it not be there at all. Lois, there is a crowd of people in our front yard, and they are playing with the statue. We can't have that. People will talk."
"Let them talk. What harm can one statue do?" Outside, a police cruiser drove up.
"Oh, Jesus," Walter said, hanging up on his wire and rushing outside.
Officer Leary was not impressed. "What the hell is this?" he bellowed at Walter.
"It's a statue," Walter said, a bit surprised.
Officer Leary shot Walter a searing glance. "Are you being funny, mister?"
"Not intentionally," Walter said.
"Besides which." Leary continued, ignoring Walter's reply, "What the hell is this doing in your front yard? You can't have something like this in your front yard. It's already causing a ruckus. You're disturbing the peace. I can't have that, you know. I've been on this job for thirteen years, and I've never had any problems until now." Leary seethed for a few moments and then shot another glance in Walter's direction. "Are you trying to ruin my perfect record?"
Walter wasn't able to answer this, because at that moment he was spun around by a middle-aged man who managed to look florid and enraged at the same time. He was dressed in a powder blue polyester suit. "Is this yours?" The man asked, jerking a thumb back at the statue, which was now having its picture taken by a reporter from the local paper.
Walter started to reply, "it's in my yard, yes, but --", but was stopped by the man raising a hand in a severe manner.
"I don't need to hear anymore," the man said, "I've heard enough. My name is Reverend Chuck Foster. Members of my flock call me Reverend Chuck. You can call me Reverend Foster. I received a call from one of my flock, a Mrs. Wurmbacher, who was shocked right out her bloomers by that monstrosity that's in your yard. I came to see what the fuss was all about, and I must say that when I got out of my car and saw that thing, I had to avert my eyes and pray a quick prayer. That thing is positively obscene, my boy. What are you trying to do, buy yourself a first-class ticket to Hell?"
During this tirade, a young man with long hair and glasses had walked up. Now he laughed.
Reverend Chuck turned around and squinted at the young man. "What's so funny, son?" he asked.
"You are," said the young man. "I mean, listen to yourself. So this man put a statue in his front yard. Why should he care if some old maid from across the street gets her girdle in a bunch because or it? 'a first-class ticket to Hell', indeed."
Reverend Chuck raised a finger. "Watch what you say, boy. Don't you go defending this corruption or morality, now. You might find yourself in that great toaster in the sky."
"Bah," said the young man. "I hardly believe I'm going to get toasted for defending this statue, even if there is a Hell. What's wrong with the statue, anyway?"
"It's obscene," said Reverend Chuck, indignantly.
"It's trashy," said Officer Leary, also indignantly.
"It's in my yard," said Walter, miserably.
"And anyway," Reverend Chuck concluded, "This man is endangering his soul and the souls of others with that thing. It's a travesty of art."
"Hardly," the young man said, mildly. "I think that those terrible stained-windows you have in your church are a real travesty. How much did you pay for those things, anyway?"
"That's none or your business," Reverend Chuck said hotly. He turned to Officer Leary. "Officer, I will not stand here and be maligned by this man."
"You could leave," the young man said.
"You could all leave," Walter said hopefully.
"Well, what do you want me to do?" Asked Officer Leary to Reverend Chuck.
"I want you to arrest him," Reverend Chuck said.
The young man laughed again. "On what charge? 'Annoying self-righteous bastions of morality'? Gee, I don't think they have that one on the books, Reverend Chuck." The small crowd of people who had been drawn to the argument made small giggling noises to themselves.
Reverend Chuck fumed for a moment and wheeled around and stuck a finger in Walter's face. "You are causing me a lot of trouble," Reverend Chuck said.
"Me?" Walter squeaked.
"Yes, you. Because of your indecent statue, I have to stand here and take this abuse and be ridiculed. You must think you're pretty smart, eh?"
"I didn't want to cause any trouble," said Walter.
"Well, you just got yourself some trouble, mister. I'm leaving now, but I'll be back with some help, and we're going to do something about that statue of yours." He jabbed his finger in Walter's chest and stormed off.
The young man heard all this and drew up to Walter. "He's going to do something about that statue, eh? Well, we'll just see about that. I've got a few friends of my own, pal. Don't you worry about a thing." He patted Walter's shoulder and tromped off.
Officer Leary, who had been standing directly behind Walter all this time, put his hands on his hips. "Well, this is just dandy. Thirteen years, and I never had any troubles. Thirteen years. And now this."
Walter turned around. "Look," he said. "I'm sorry I broke your streak."
"No, you just think you're sorry now," Officer Leary said hitching up his pants as he walked past Walter, "but it ain't nothing compared to how sorry you're going to be." He walked off.
Walter grabbed his head. "Headache. Asprin. Tylenol. Valium." He ran into his home as three cars screeched off.
Inside, Alan was on the phone and had both the stereo and the TV on at full volume. The cooler bottle was cradled in his hand.
"Alan, where is the aspirin?" Walter screamed over the noise of the stereo and TV.
"It's above the sink in the kitchen," Alan said, "but the cap is childproof, so you better give it to me to open for you."
"I don't understand all of what's going on," Walter yelled at his son, as he went for the aspirin. "I left this house this morning, and everything was fine. I come back, and there's this statue in my yard, and now my life is a shambles."
"Hey, dad, keep it down, please? I'm on the phone."
Walter got the aspirin and walked back in the family room. "If I could only figure out where the damn thing came from...." He stopped. "Wait!"
"Christ," Alan muttered, "Dad! Please! I'm talking to Cindy!"
"Alan! That receipt! Where is it?"
"I said --" Walter started to yell, then thought better of it and turned off the TV and the stereo.
"Hey!" Alan moaned, "CHiPs was on!"
"Alan," Walter asked in a lower volume, "what did you do with that receipt?"
"I threw it away," Alan said.
"You threw it away?"
"I mean, what am I going to do with a receipt for a statue?"
"Trash," Walter muttered and wandered into the kitchen. Alan turned the TV on again. A few seconds later he heard the trash can being emptied.
"I have come to the conclusion," Alan said to Cindy, his girlfriend, "that I was adopted. My dad is too lame for me to be genetically related to him."
Walter shambled into the living room again, clutching a colored slip of paper and wearing a banana peel on his shoe. "This explains everything!" he said to his son, who was not impressed. "Look! That statue was supposed to be delivered to 1338 North Elm street, and we live on 1338 South Elm! And the owner of that thing is Burgess Townshed!"
'That's great, dad," Alan muttered, sarcastically.
"Burgess Townshed is nothing like Walter Sims, Alan. Didn't you even bother to look at this thing before you signed for it?"
"I was busy. 'Wheel of Fortune' was on."
Walter noticed the banana peel, took it off his shoe. "Alan, tell Cindy you'll call her back. I have to use the phone."
"Dad, I can't! 'M.A.S.H.' comes on in ten minutes, and I can't miss that."
Walter blinked. "'M.A.S.H.' is more important than your girlfriend?"
"We all have our priorities," Alan said, quite seriously.
A large brick smashed through the window and lodged itself into the TV set. There was a note wrapped around it. Alan fished it out.
"What does it say?" asked Walter.
"It says, 'You godless communist pervert. You have one hour to get rid of that sin against society before we burn down your house. May you rot in hellfire and brimstone forever. Have a nice day.'"
Walter grabbed his head again, found he was still holding the bottle of aspirin, and tried to get the cap off. It didn't work.
"Do you want me to get that, dad?"
"No," Walter said, hitching in his breath, "I am quite capable." He put the bottle on the table, took the phone from his son, and slammed the phone down on the bottle. He fished out four tablets from the debris and ate them. He then handed the phone back to his son. "Now, Alan, I want you to say goodbye to Cindy."
Alan started to open his mouth, but Walter put up his hand. "No, no, don't argue with me. Because if I hear one word of protest -- one! -- I'm going to take that receiver and shove it so far down your throat that the only thing Cindy is going to hear is your small intestine."
Alan stared at his dad for a second. Then he spoke into the phone. "Cindy, I have to get off the phone. It's become hazardous to my health." He put the receiver down.
"It's all yours, dad. Can I have the car keys?"
Walter had grabbed the phone and was dialing for information. "What do you need the car keys for?"
"I want to go over to Bob's. Their TV set is still working." A large rock sailed through the window, smashing all the glass that wasn't already broken. Walter tossed the keys to Alan, who promptly disappeared.
Walter got through to information and got Burgess Townshed's number. As he was writing it down, he looked out of what remained of his window. The crowd had grown to about two hundred, separated into two separate camps, which were looking distrustfully at each other. The statue looked straight ahead impassively, the seeds of a recently thrown tomato dripping down its face.
Walter dialed Townsheds' number.
"Townshed Residence," the answering voice said, tonelessly.
"Yes," said Walter. "Is this Burgess Townshed?"'
"It most certainly is not," the voice said, "I am his butler, Chester."
"His butler?" Walter said, taken aback.
"Yes, his butler. His manservant. His gentleman's gentleman."
"What does one do to afford a butler?"
"In Mr. Townships' case, not a damned thing. He inherited his money. I was part of the package, like the silverware and the Mercedes."
"Well," said Walter, who didn't know quite what to make of Chester, "could I speak to Mr. Townshed ?"
"You can do anything you want," Chester said.
"Oh, good," Walter said, and waited for Townshed to answer the phone. About three minutes passed in silence before Walter realized something was wrong. "Hello?" he said.
"Hello," said Chester, tonelessly.
"I thought you were going to go get Mr. Townshed," Walter said.
"I never said anything of the sort."
"But you said I could talk to Mr. Townshed."
"That I did."
"Go get him."
"I thought you just said I could talk to him."
"Well, you can. You can do anything you want, really."
"I can't talk to Mr. Townshed, it seems."
"You most certainly can. But you may not."
"There is," Chester said with a distinct snotty air, "a bit of difference between 'can' and 'may'."
Walter counted to ten before answering. "You left me hanging for three minutes over that?"
"Yes. I was assuming you knew what you were talking about. I was wrong."
Walter was in daze. "I don't believe this is happening," he muttered to himself.
"It's not my fault you can't speak your own language," Chester said.
"Look, Chester," Walter said, his voice low. "I have to speak to Mr. Townshed. I have something of his."
"I have already told you that he is busy."
"What is he doing?"
"That is none of your business, but if you most know, he is in the process of being entertained by a Miss Wanda Teton."
"Entertained?" Walter said.
"Well, I'm sure he's having fun," Chester said. "And I'm sure that if he were talking to you, he wouldn't be having as much fun. I'm talking to you, and I'm having no fun at all."
"I'm not having fun, either, and it's all Townshed's fault," Walter said, exasperatedly. "A statue he ordered has ended up at my house and it's causing me to be very stressful."
"What's so stressful about a statue?"
"The statue itself is not causing me stress. The fact that the statue has caused the destruction of my living room by irate neighbors is causing me stress. The fact that a contingent of evangelists wants to burn down my home is causing me stress. You, Chester, are causing me much stress. Stress is no good for me, Chester. I used to have low blood pressure. flight about now, if my pulse were any higher, blood would be shooting out my fingertips. I have an Excedrin headache. My stomach is so constricted that if I weren't male, I would be worried that I was going into labor. My son is suffering withdrawal symptoms because our TV was smashed. In short, Chester, I am stressed. Now, I beg of you, please let me speak to Mr. Townshed."
Chester seemed to consider. "I might be able to get you a few moments. But don't count on it."
Chester set the phone down.
Outside his house, Walter heard a metallic clang. He looked up. A man from the group on the left was striking the statue with a baseball bat. The statue was not injured, but the bat splintered and a large chunk struck a woman who was standing with the group on the right. She clutched her forehead, where she was struck, and collapsed to the ground. A man close to her, presumably her husband, launched himself at the bat wielder. Several of the bat wielder's friends came to his rescue, and several of the husband's friends came to give their support. A riot had started in Walter Sim's front yard.
"Hello." The man on the other end of the phone sounded rather too relaxed.
"All my life."
"Listen. I have something or yours that I want you to come get."
"Wait. Who is this?"
"You don't know me. My name is Walter Sims. I live at 1336 South Elm. Someone delivery man got confused and dropped off a statue you bought at my house. I want you to come pick it up. Please."
"Well, I can't do that right now."
"Why not?" Walter asked, a little bit hysterically. Outside the sounds of fighting became more intense.
"I'm busy right at the moment. I'm having an executive meeting with a client, and we're discussing the possibility of mountain explorations."
Walter, who knew full well what he meant, held several nasty comments in check. "Townshed," he said, "listen. Tell me what you hear." Walter stuck his phone's receiver out of what remained of his window. After a few moments, he brought it back in again.
"Now tell me," Walter asked, "what did you hear?"
"A lot of yelling and screaming."
"What does a lot of yelling and screaming mean to you?"
"You're having a very successful party."
"I'm having a riot."
"Really?" Townsheds' voice perked up. "I might drop by after all."
"Idiot," Walter said. "I'm having a REAL riot, damn it! And it's because of your damn statue!"
"Don't be silly. Why would people get into such an uproar over a statue?"
Outside, someone started to smash car windows.
"I can think of at least one good reason," Walter said, "And I think you can probably guess what that reason is."
"What, that it's nude?"
"It's not just nude," Walter said, trying to preserve his sense of morals. "It's very nude."
"Yes, that." A car alarm went off in the night.
"Well," said Burgess, "I sympathize with you, but I can't get out there right now. I have a very busy schedule."
"What am I supposed to do?" Walter yelled. "I've got two hundred people outside! What am I supposed to with them?"
"I don't know," Townshed said, testily, "Why don't you invite them in and give them some Ritz crackers or something? To be perfectly honest with you, it really doesn't matter to me."
This is absolutely incredible," Walter said. "My front yard is turning into Beirut and the only person who can help me is more interested in fondling a woman named after a mountain range."
Townshed didn't hear this. "It all seems really silly to me," said Townshed. "I mean, can't those people appreciate art?"
"In suburbia? That's a contradiction in terms."
"What do you want me to do, anyway?"
"I want you to come and pick the damn thing up before my house is razed to the ground! Is that too much to ask for? It is your statue in the first place."
"I'll tell you what, Mr. Simp-"
"- I'll come to your house first thing in the morning and get the statue."
"By morning I'm not going to have a house!" Walter shouted, exasperatedly. "There's a riot going on outside my home!"
"Well then," said Townshed in a reasonable tone of voice, "that's all the more reason why I shouldn't go out there to your house right now. I don't want to get killed."
"Neither do I."
"That's your problem. Look, why don't you just put the thing in the garage, or something?"
"Oh, and how do you suggest I do that? The thing weighs a ton."
"Again, that's your problem." Townshed was distracted at the other end of the phone for a few seconds before he came on again. "Mr. Simp-"
"Sims." Walter said through his teeth.
"-- This has been a perfectly lovely chat, but I really must be going. I have business to attend to,"'
"Wait!" Walter yelled into the phone. "You can't just hang up on me like that --"
"Yes I can," Townshed said, and hung up.
Another brick smashed through the window shards, landing in Walter's potted plant. Outside, the statue was pelted with eggs and people were pelted with fists.
Still holding on to the phone, Walter cracked. "I have had enough." he said simply, slamming the receiver down. He walked outside and entered the melee.
Someone had decided to bring along his shotgun, and was presently waving it this way and that. He took no notice of Walter's advancing form, and therefore was surprised when Walter came up and grabbed it away from him. "Give me that," Walter said, freeing it with a yank.
"Hey!' The man said. "Give that back!"
"Take it," Walter said. The man thought better of that.
This whole exchange went unnoticed by the crowd, who were too busy fighting each other to notice the shotgun in their midst. What did get their attention was the shot that Walter fired out of the right barrel into the sky. The crowd was shocked silent.
"Now that I have your attention," Walter said, "I would like to know what gives you the right to use my front yard as a battlefield."
"I'll answer that." From the middle of the crowd, Reverend Chuck came forward, his blue polyester suit ripped and torn in several places. "That statue of yours is straight from Hell. It is endangering the souls of the faithful."
From in the crowd there was a derisive snort. Reverend Chuck wheeled around. "I know who did that!"
"So what?" The young man with long hair came forward. "You really make me sick with your attitude of righteousness. How can some metal in the shape of a man endanger a soul?"
"I don't have to answer that," The reverend said.
Walter cut them off short. "So the fact that there is a stute in the front of my yard gives you the right to fight in it?"
"Well," the Reverend Chuck said, "lf it were just a statue, it would be okay, I suppose."
"Oh." Walter said. "So what are you trying to say?"
"Well... .er," The reverend stammered, "That is...."
The young man crossed his arms and grinned. "Yes, Reverend Chuck, what IS the problem with this statue?"
"You know perfectly well what is wrong with it!" The reverend bellowed. "And I'll be damned if I am going to be coerced by you to say what that is! It's indecent," he ended, lamely. The crowd started to mumble. The young man broke out into an outright smile.
Walter pointed at the statue with the barrel of the shotgun and moved the muzzle down the body, stopping at a point below the waist.
"Am I correct in assuming that this is what has caused all my troubles?" He asked. The Reverend Chuck, blushing wildly, nodded silently.
"Fine," Walter said, and with the left barrel he blew the part off.
Utter silence. Walter tossed the shotgun aside.
"There," he said. "The problem has been solved. This statue has been castrated. Emasculated. Made safe for suburbia. There is nothing about it now to cause a commotion or a riot. It is merely a slightly damaged statue, nothing more or less.
"And since there no longer is a problem" Wailer said, voice rising, "Would you all be so kind as to GET THE HELL OUT OF MY YARD!!!!
For a few moments more the crowd stared at the ruined statue. Then they started leaving, outer edges first , moving towards the center until Walter was standing alone, finally, in his yard. Slowly, the energy he had drained out of him. He looked around.
It occurred to him that was probably going have to replant his yard. Not mention a new window! So many little things to catch upon....
Posted by john at April 27, 2006 10:40 AM