Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Jackass

He was referred to, diplomatically, as the heathen even by his parents. His favorite uncle, unsmiling and to his face, called him a knuckle dragging fool. He lacked common sense, a conscience, empathy for anything alive, and most human emotions . . . except hatred, which ironically, he liked. He had no friends, though he was known, and not highly regarded, amongst fellow delinquents and degenerates.

He once reached into a neighbor boy’s fish tank, snagged and bit in half a trigger fish. His own hand was bloodied by the small aggressive fish . . . but he liked it. The mother immediately grabbed him by the ear and, none too gently, escorted him out the door. He was seven then.

From the age of 10 onward, annually at the first freeze of the winter, he’d surreptitiously put a garden hose in a neighborhood car and turn it on. Never in his immediate neighborhood, of course, so as not to be too close for suspicion, but close enough. To much ill-gotten hilarity, the car’s interior would freeze solid.

On lazy summer afternoons he regularly went to the library and quietly assaulted one row of books after another with an arsenal of wide-point indelible black markers and glue.

In his teen years he was occasionally entertained by homemade ‘Lost Cat’ signs that had been hopefully posted on telephone poles. He would call the phone number with the cheerful news that ‘[cat’s name] had been found . . . and was delicious.’

In his dangerous early adolescence he had a favorite pair of steel-toed boots. They’d been modified so that one swift hard kick to a car’s tire would yield a slow flat. When he was feeling most playful and cantankerous, it was not uncommon to see an entire block of his handy work for both tires on the starboard side of all the cars on that side of the street.

On the afternoon of his 21st birthday he was in a bar watching a ballgame. His team was losing, badly, and another patron was cheering, loudly.

“Hey, shut up, jackass,” said our inconsequential waste of flesh.

Jackass was a big man, though not a large snarling beast that would instinctively be met with a wide berth at every human interaction.  Barely taking his eyes off the television long enough to confidently stride over, jackass punched him in the face. There was an awful sound, sickening really, like a rotten cantaloupe slipping from one’s hands and landing solidly on a dirty linoleum floor. One punch rendered him unconscious on the floor, lying there amidst a floor cluttered with shards of split and discarded empty peanut husks, the offered snack of this lowest of low level tavern.

Slowly, the bleeding into his skull got the best of him and he expired. It was a good ballgame, someone eventually called an ambulance during one of the subsequent commercial breaks.

The jackass said nothing. He calmly finished his drink, ordered another, polished off a few more complimentary bowls of peanuts from the bars countertop, and waited for the police.

Jackass had been to jail before, he’d spent most of his adult life in the hole. Jail, what’d he care, not like he was living on the outside anyway. He belonged in the hole, that’s what he knew and preferred. His time on the outside was looked on as being on holiday. He’d enjoy it while he was out, but it’d inevitably end soon, and badly.

The police arrived. He finished his drink, paid his tab, left a nice tip, stuffed his pockets full of peanuts, and raised his hand toward the officers to get their attention. He would be taken away without trouble.

The ballgame was over, it didn’t matter who won, only that there was some temporary excitement.