The misappropriation of sidewalk funds
Having ditched out of work to take advantage of the early winter dusk, Gabriella Layfield flung yet another roll of toilet paper into her neighbors’ trees. Knee deep in snow, she flung another roll and another covering the house, trees, and yard until her massive supply was depleted.
Floyd and I sat in my car watching from the cul-de-sac.
“So, that’s your mother?” I asked.
“Normally, she’s not like this,” said Floyd pausing pensively.
Gabriella tore open a huge bag of dog food. She proceeded to spread all 50 pounds of it across every inch of the house’s driveway.
“Actually,” Floyd corrected himself resignedly. “That’s not true. She’s always exactly like this.”
Floyd and I continued to watch as Gabriella uncapped a large can of spray paint and shook it violently. In large crude letters, she painted “MOO COW MOOOOOO!!!” on the garage. Above it, she pained a gigantic cow.
Gabriella stuffed the can of spray paint into the mailbox, which read “Jones,” kicking the mailbox for good measure and leaving it tilted at an awkward angle. She flung the bags from the dog food and toilet paper into the hedges. As she backed away admiring her handiwork, Gabriella tripped over a small bush. After cartwheeling through the snow, Gabriella took her revenge on the bush strangling it from the ground and tossing it into the driveway.
“Just like this; every fucking day,” repeated Floyd.
Gabriella sprinted the ten feet back to her house and in an attempted to be inconspicuous, climbed in through the kitchen window. Her legs hung awkwardly in the air as she shimmied up into the house, then with a crash, she fell awkwardly summersaulting across her sink breaking the window and numerous dishes. The calamity dragged a huge snowy mess with her.
“Shall, we?” I asked after several moments.
“Why not?” said Floyd. I pulled the car up from the cul-de-sac into his driveway. We walked up the drive and up to the door. “Welcome to my house,” said Floyd. And I crossed into the Layfields’ world for the first time.
Floyd walked in though the foyer without knocking the snow off of his shoes not bothering to close the door. By the time we had reached the house, a loud sizzling and a billowing cloud of beef flavored smoke overwhelmed us. Floyd walked forward right in and looked sullenly at the burning meat on the stove.
“’ello Mummy,” said Floyd to his mother phasing deeper into his slight British accent.
“Close the door!” yelled Gabriella gesturing to the dust of snow blowing in through the front door that Floyd had left wide open. Gabriella conveniently ignored the mess of glass and snow on the floor and missing window behind her as she rubbed her neck wincing.
“I noticed you that you have a bit of a British accent,” I said to Floyd.
“Oh yes,” said Floyd. “We all do--except my mother; she’s as Czech as can be. I put on that American affectation for the benefit of you and your countrymen. These others can’t be bothered. My real accent comes out more when I’m at home.”
Before I could mount a follow up, I became distracted by what had now become a substantial fire on the stove. Neither Floyd nor Gabriella showed the slightest concern.
Instead, Gabriella walked very quickly around the kitchen island that housed the stove and reached out to shake my hand. “Hello dear. I am Gabriela.” I reached for her hand noticing suddenly that she was not wearing any pants. I noticed them wadded up in the corner covered, in mud and snow and dog food. Her plainly visible vagina did not seem to bother her, because she started fire hosing me with questions, “Do you go to school with Floyd? Did you grow up around here? Where are you going to college?”
She did not pause between questions so that I could answer them. She just seemed to like asking them and did not appear to want to be interrupted with responses. But suddenly, she interrupted herself, “Oh how rude of me. Would you like a glass of wine? Well you are a bit young. But that shouldn’t stop me from enjoying one.”
She hastily grabbed a still-suds-covered water glass out of the sink and filled it over the top with wine from a three-quarters empty liter of red. She took a large sip; then finally slammed a lid onto the flaming pot, finally extinguishing the fire.
Floyd grabbed me by the arm and gently pulled me away. I felt a bit rude walking away, but he said, “It’s best to just ignore her and walk away. We all do it. It’s the only way to deal with the situation. “
She kept talking, but seemed unconcerned with my increasing absence. Then right as I got to the end of the hall, the tirade let up a bit. And she said, “You must stay for dinner! I will call your mother and get permission.”
I was about to say something back, but Floyd pulled me to the stair head and said, “She’ll figure it out.”
Floyd’s room was right at the top of the stairs. As we walked in, I noticed a hole the size of a tennis ball through the door. And the knob was bent at a weird angle, though it was still functional. As we walked in, I noticed that Home Depot smell of new construction mixed with a faint smell of ammonia and herbs.
The room was an odd six-sided shape. It was like a square with two corners cut off so no furniture would fit quite correctly because none of the angles were right angles. The bed was a stack of mattresses on the floor. But the room was bright and decorated carefully with posters from early 90s computer games. In the closet were hundreds of computer game boxes stacked neatly on all of the wraparound top shelves.
I stepped over to sit on a plastic rocking video game chair, and as I moved my foot, I bumped a gallon jug of what looked like lemonade. I looked around and saw several more jugs and bottles all filled with yellow liquid. There was even a capped liter water bottle of the stuff peaking out of the laundry hamper.
I paused for a second then tapped the bottle with my foot asking, “So I take it you like lemonade?”
Floyd laughed his quiet sadistic little chuckle, “Those are my piss jars.”
“These are full of piss?” I asked.
“Well you see,” explained Floyd. “I can’t stand to get out of bed in the middle of the night, but sometimes I have to piss. So I just keep a few piss jars around to solve the problem. My brother does essentially the same thing, but he just sticks his cock out the window and has at it. My father is constantly yelling at him for the havoc it reeks on the plants and paint on that side of the house. I avoid the arguments by just using jars. And when I pour them out the window, I am much more careful not to hit the house or the bushes down below.”
“Wait. You still pour them out the window?” I asked.
“Well, I can’t always be bothered to carry them to the bathroom. The less time I spend holding a jug of urine the better,” clarified Floyd.
I pondered Floyd’s system for a moment until the silence was interrupted by a scream from downstairs, “You’re doing this shit again you ruddy bitch!?”
“What was that?” I asked.
“Oh. My dad is just home,” said Floyd.
We walked down the stairs and down the hall into the kitchen. There stood Gabriella, who had at some point put her pants back on and a tall but slim white haired man in his early 70s fuming in a threadbare Burberry trench coat. He wore a look of utter disgust and his face was turning a beet red.
“So you’re saying that you’ve called animal control again on our own bloody dog?” demanded Zander. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“It is a wolf! You know that,” yelled Gabriella.
“It is not a damned wolf!” yelled Zander. “It is a Malamute! There is a difference. You were at the breeder when we bought it. You picked the damn thing out for Christ sakes.”
“Well it just seemed like a wolf to me,” said Gabriella. “You know that the animal control people were very quick to come when I told them we had a wolf in the house.”
“I just can’t believe you’ve done this again,” moaned Zander. “Now I’ll have to go back down to the pound and get the damn thing. I’ll be paying $300 in fines and administrative fees. Can’t I get a moment’s rest in this life?”
“You did not even ask about my neck,” said Gabriella. “I may have broken it.”
“Let me guess,” said Zander gesturing to the mess of snow-covered glass in the kitchen. “You injured it breaking my windows.”
“No,” said Gabriella. “I cannot be blamed for that. I tripped while jogging for my robust health. The sidewalk is in terrible repair. You know, I believe that horrible man from the homeowners association took the sidewalk money and spent it on a prostitute.”
“First off,” said Zander. “You do not jog ever. Second, if you are mad enough to run in this icy mess, you deserve what you get. Let’s just eat, shall we?”
With this, Zander turned walk to the table and first took notice of me. “Oh. Hello. You must be Floyd’s friend. Well please do join us for dinner. Perhaps if we are lucky, it will be edible.”
As we sat, Gabriella quickly drained a second bottle of wine while Zander spoke extensively about classical composers, “You must listen to Brahms. But just don’t get too attached to your expectations. Has Floyd showed you the hi-fi? We do have a wonderful set up. It’s the only decent feature of this hovel.”
Hurting for attention, a sloppy Gabriella interjected, “I cannot believe that just because that terrible homeowner man needs to pay for sex, I have to suffer. He just spent all of our sidewalk money on sluts.”
“No one wants to hear this nonsense!” yelled Zander.
“Well Floyd is not your son!” screamed Gabriella going right for the jugular.
“Not again,” whispered Floyd dejectedly to himself.
“Can you not see that we have a guest?” asked Zander in a rage. Then to me he said,
“Sorry, it occurs to me that you might not be used to this sort of thing.”
“Well, I am just saying that Floyd’s true father is that Marquis,” stated Gabriella in a drunk reverie. “He is a noble man infusing Floyd with his blue blood.”
“Christ,” said Zander. “You shag one pathetic French sod, and I am the one who never has to hear the end of it. How is this fair? Enough.”
And with that, he abruptly left storming upstairs. Floyd tugged at my sleeve indicating to me that it was time for us to depart as well. As we hit the stairs I could hear Gabriella continuing the argument by herself. This yelling was muted to a murmur by an overwhelming wave of electrified classical music from Zander’s hi-fi.
Floyd and I ducked discretely back into his room, and Floyd smiled, “Quite the show eh?”
“Sorry to hear about the whole bastard thing,” I said awkwardly embarrassed for Floyd.
“Oh. That,” said Floyd chuckling. “Don’t be. My mother always brings that up when she is mad. Last year my father got her a bottle of Russian vodka as a spite gift for Christmas. She hates all things Russian because she grew up behind the Iron Curtain. But she loves to drink. She became furious and drank the whole bottle. She spent the whole day rolling around on the floor and screaming about my blue blood.”
“Does it embarrass you?” I asked.
“Not at all,” said Floyd. “I’m quite proud of it actually. She apparently had an affair with some disgraced French Duke whose family had been too poor to have their heads chopped off in the revolution. It derailed their wedding for over a year and caused me to be born out of wedlock. I take great pride in being a rare double-bastard.”
“What was with your mother destroying that house?” I asked.
“She has some problem with the neighbors,” explained Floyd. “It is not the worst thing she has done by far. Anyway, it’s nothing to worry about. It probably won’t get back to her.”
An overwhelming pounding sounded once again from the front of the Layfields’ house. Floyd and I sat in the front room trying to enjoy the movie Lost Highway. We attempted to dispense with the pounding the way most distractions were dealt with in the Layfield house: we ignored it.
Floyd was so fixated on the film that he genuinely did not seem to notice the noise. I did my best to mimic him as the pounding intensified. I got the distinct impression that someone was now kicking the Layfields’ front door. But it was not my house; so I did my best to ignore it.
I suspected that the doorbell would have also been ringing quite vigorously had it been connected.
As we were sitting only a few feet from the front door, I couldn’t help but turn my head to see who was out there. Floyd did not bother. A middle-aged woman and man peered back at me through the door-side window. The man tried to catch my eye, but I turned back to Floyd.
“I think those people really want to talk to someone in your house,” I said to Floyd.
“Just ignore them and they will go away,” said Floyd. “We can’t be encouraging this sort of behavior.”
Ignoring the people outside while within easy grasp of the door just seemed to enrage the situation. The couple pounded harder and harder.
Five minutes into the ruckus, Floyd had not even looked at the door. As he turned the sound up on the movie for the fourth time, I asked him, “Don’t you want to look to see who it is? Maybe you know them.”
“I’m sure I know them,” said Floyd. “That’s precisely why it’s best to ignore this situation. Otherwise it might come to a head.”
I turned to watch the couple again as the pounding grew more intense. The woman’s husband attempted to briefly restrain her as she screamed “Fucker!” at me through the closed window.
“Trust me,” said Floyd. “Opening that door would be a mistake.”
It not being my house, I was in no position to argue.
“Maybe you should just look out the window,” I said.
“Fine,” said Floyd. “If it will placate you.”
He casually turned to the window wincing as he made eye contact with the furious woman, “Fuck! It’s that Jones cow!” screamed Floyd. “This is the worst possible scenario. See what you’ve done.”
He turned back to the TV increasing the volume again, which led Mrs. Jones to start kicking the door again.
“See,” said Floyd. “It’s only enraged her.”
“Who is she?” I asked.
“My mother’s enemy,” said Floyd matter-of-factly.
“Your mother has an enemy like that?” I asked.
“Sure,” said Floyd. “We all do. But hers is the worst.”
“What do you mean you all do?” I inquired.
“My father has a man down the street whom he cannot stand,” said Floyd. “I greatly dislike the neighbors across the way. And don’t even get started on my brother.”
“Why are you at odds with these people?” I asked.
“Neighborly reasons,” said Floyd. “This one is the worst. And quite frankly, I have no idea what instigated it. My mother and this woman cannot see eye to eye at all. Why do you think mummy is always toilet papering Jones’s house?”
“This is the woman whose house your mom toilet papered?” I said. “Wait? She’s done this more than once?”
“Yep,” said Floyd. “It’s really become a pretty regular occurrence. This time was pretty bad though. My mother claims it is because that Jones woman feeds her children dog food. Go figure.”
“Really?” I said.
Floyd’s eyes did not leave the TV screen.
Finally, Zander came storming down the stairs scotch in hand and looked into the den at us: “What the hell are you doing slamming around in here like that? It’s interrupting my Ravel.”
Floyd finally glanced up at him and just said, “Joneses.”
Zander looked at him puzzled, “What the hell do you…” when brutal pounding interrupted him. He turned to look out the window to see Mrs. Jones pounding now on the glass furious that we were all standing there not acknowledging her.
Zander began to snicker slightly and with a smile said, “Gabriella’s in for it this time. Get ready for the show.” Turned and opened the door with the words, “I’ll get her for you.” Then he darted off to go find his wife.
The Joneses awkwardly stood five feet away from us in the foyer watching us enjoy our movie. I felt a terrible sense of awkwardness. But Floyd truly didn’t seem to notice. I think after seventeen years in this environment, he was immune to such situations.
Gabriella burst into the room eager for a fight and yelled, “What is it you think you are doing here you devil. I will not have you corrupting my children.”
Zander rushed into the room with a smile and a refreshed glass of scotch waiting to see the fireworks.
“That bitch is beyond belief!” Exploded Mrs. Jones. “Wasn’t it bad enough that you egg my house and covered my trees with toilet paper.”
Her husband grabbed her in restraint to keep her from strangling Gabriella.