April 12, 2012

Last Thursday, my wife and I pulled up in front of my buddy Les' house. Les and I planned on taking our wives out for a evening meal. Les wanted to get an early start before his teenage grand kids (twin girls and a boy) got home from school. He was in a good mood and wanted to stay that way. Les and Mary care for them but they can be a handful at times. You know, just normal teenagers.

After a delightful meal we returned to Les' house and found (for the second time in less than a week according to Les) that their front door was wide open. I looked at the temperature display on the car. It was 46 degrees outside. Les' wife slammed the car door so hard it blew my hair back. She marched up the front walk so fast she looked like a federal agent conducting a raid.

When we got in the house, we found, to an utter lack of surprise, that the open-door policy was not the only aggravating thing going on. The sink was full of dirty dishes. There obviously wasn’t room in the sink for everything, because we found more dirty dishes on the coffee table in the living room. We found a couple of half-finished sodas on the windowsill. After stepping over the pile of backpacks and coats on the front hall floor, we saw that the trash can in the kitchen was piled so high with wrappers and leftover food that just getting it out of the trash closet would be a chore — a really unfun game of Jenga.

I know Mary is an excellent housekeeper and the condition of the house right then had her seeing red. I was waiting for the explosion.

The dog was sitting in the dining room, his back legs all scrunched up, a sign that he really, really had to go outside, or that he had just relieved himself somewhere inside and was hoping no one would ask too many questions.

Other than the dog, the house seemed deserted. Les started bellowing for the three teenage children, twin 14-year-old girls and a 16-year-old boy. It took a while to get the girls’ attention, as they were both in their rooms, plugged into headphones. It took even longer to find the grandson, who had fallen asleep under a pile of blankets and pillows on the couch. When he poked his head up, he looked around as if he’d just come out of a three-year coma.

Les lined them up and confronted them with the situation. "We were not coming home to a mess like this again," he said. With a too-practiced air, each of them shrugged and said, with completely fraudulent honesty, “It wasn’t me. Honest!”

It was like lining up wise guys after a body is found on the sidewalk — everyone had immediate amnesia. (I did my best not to smile nor laugh.) The boy even raised the teenage equivalent of the insanity defense, saying he could hardly be held responsible for any of this if he was passed out cold on the couch.

Les was particularly angry about the front door. He gave them the time-honored parental speech, handed down through the ages, about how expensive it was to heat the house, and they were letting all that heat escape out the front door. (I’m pretty sure that early cave man dads bellowed and grunted at their cave kids about how hard is to find wood for fire, how ungrateful kids leave bearskin off cave entrance, and what you think me made of, saber tooth teeth?)

Looking around, I almost had to admire the speed with which the kids messed up the house. I don’t think I could dirty that many dishes and create that much of a mess, in a whole day, let alone 2 1/2 hours after school. And now, they were putting just as much energy into their denials. Later I found out that Les decided, then and there, that if he couldn’t get justice, he’d get revenge. Revenge, as everyone knows, is a dish best served cold.

He said he's just going to wait, and wait, until they grow up, get married, and have kids of their own. It will take some preparation and patience, but some cold night in winter some 25 years from now, he’ll slip into his car and sneak over to their houses. He’ll creep across their lawns, a huge bag over his shoulder, like an evil Santa.

Then, he’ll let myself in. The first stop will be the kitchen. He’ll take every dish they have, dirty them up and pile them in their sinks. He’ll have to reserve a few for the coffee table. Then, he’ll reach into his bag, and start spreading empty candy wrappers all over the floors, roll empty soda cans in the corners, and pile a heap of junk in the kitchen trash cans so high that the slightest breath will cause a garbage avalanche. Finally, he’ll make sure that their dogs have plenty of water but not let them out.

When the angry phone calls come, he’ll just shrug.

“It wasn’t me!” he’ll say with completely fraudulent honesty. “Honest!”