Get over it. Take a time out. Don’t go to bed angry. Take deep breaths. Don’t bear grudges.
By the time we are old enough to read, we have heard it so many ways, and in so many words – don’t retain anger. Not bad advice at all. Anger is toxic. It raises our blood pressure, speeds the aging process, and causes otherwise ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The term “going postal” was borne from the ultimate expression of anger. The news is loaded with stories of scorned lovers, disputing neighbors, disgruntled coworkers: each committing a more heinous act than the next, all in the name of anger.
Fortunately, this sage advice to choose peace has stayed with me, and I am not one to bear a grudge. Life is too short, time far too valuable to devote to an angered state. This is easier said than done of course. My lack of patience is well known to those around me. I am always in a rush to get somewhere or get something done, and the days are too short for me to accomplish all that I would like. I cut to the heart of the matter in discussions, and some are turned off by my brevity. Yet I am able to control my temper as required, and I think most people would find me agreeable enough. On most days.
I was walking the yard last week – feeling rather agreeable, listening to the river sing its song of spring; water nearing the top of the banks in a torrent of leaves and branches shed by surrounding mountains. Its murky waters spoke to me, and warned of danger ahead. I did not heed that warning, my thoughts consumed with spring projects, my back to the river as I considered a new spot for our garden shed. Once I had that location mentally mapped, I turned to the river and started to walk back across the front of the house, where I was forced to freeze in my tracks.
Son of a bitch, it’s Mr. Stick. Not just any stick, but a very special, three hundred dollar stick. The stick that injured Sola, scared us silly and kept me up at night with guilt. The stick that has us hand feeding Sola to this day, soft foods only thank you very much. One little stick, so much joy. My favorite pickup line.
The stick appeared to be frozen, but I managed to dislodge it from the snow with my boot. I dragged it across the yard, my face reddening by the step. An unfamiliar feeling washed over me, a feeling quite unlike any other I had known. After years of turning the other cheek and suppressing my anger, something in me snapped…like a stick. I was glowing hot and muttering jibberish until the gates of hell opened wide to let forth my fury, countless episodes of being Mr. Too Nice Guy fighting their way out of me in a constant stream of obscenities that would make a sailor blush. I was off the rails.
One would expect that in my rage I would have just snapped the stick and been done with it. That would not suffice. I had dedicated hours of work to pay the vet bill; lost countless hours of sleep staying up with Sola, and watched Mrs. Author spend her days stressing out over Sola’s condition. We were just putting the incident behind us when d-bag appeared at my feet.
I needed to show my appreciation for Mr. Stick. In my own time, and in my own way. Before I even made it to the house I thought it best to let him hang out in the wood pile with the big boys for a few hours, just to be sure he felt a bit inadequate.
There were still a couple of hours of daylight left when strong wind gusts whipped up and threatened to blow Mr. Stick to freedom. I secured my prisoner.
A nagging sensation told me to bring him in when darkness fell. After all, he was a conniving bastard, and was not to be trusted. I put the truck back in the garage and brought Mr. Stick in to our humble abode. The nearest vase secured him as I paced the kitchen, talking to myself. I laughed hysterically in a brief moment of clarity as it occurred to me what it was that I was doing.
I was exacting revenge. And I was liking it.
After dinner I Chris Brown’d him, my fists pumping with delicious rage. He was looking pretty rough. Not rough enough to prevent me from making him wear a hideous sweater vest, assuring him a spot on at least one worst dressed list.
It was only unnatural that he spend the night in a pair of panties, so he did. I threatened to take pictures and put them on the internet once I had him hung up in the sunporch for all to see.
I had not given proper consideration to what the outside world saw.
The sun rose as I answered complaint calls from neighborhood parents. Mrs. Author realized the error of my ways and ran for Mr. Stick.
Author: “WTF RU talking about?”
Neighbor: “Window panties freak boy. Take ’em down.”
Mrs. Author did. I was far from done.
Many years ago, when Mrs. Author and I were dating and became serious, our CD collections intermingled. I am an ardent music lover, so it took me some time to allow those little jewel boxes to hang with strangers. I flipped through her CD collection, and one particular title grabbed my attention. I quietly pushed it to the bottom of the pile, where it languished in dust and obscurity for years. I remembered that horrid musical selection as Mrs. Author pulled her underwear off Mr. Stick and handed it to me. She stormed out of the living room as I set up our friend for an extended listening session with the stereo blasting Ace of Base.
I don’t know about you, but an hour of that crap would have a shotgun looking pretty tasty to me. He endured.
Mrs. Author yelled down the hall to me. “Turn that garbage down!”
Author: “It’s your CD. I thought you would like it.”
Mrs Author: “I have no idea what you are talking about, or where that came from.”
I could feel her blushing from the next room. We were eighties children after all, guilty of supporting some interesting musical movements. I just don’t see anything like Cameo making a dollar today, but I digress.
I noticed Mr. Stick running down the hall, away from the truly torturous music pumping from the speakers. The dogs stopped him in his tracks.
Truffles: “Where you headed Woody?”
Sola: “You’re momma’s so skinny, Nigel wouldn’t do her.”
Nigel: “Hehe, yeah….hey wait a minute!”
I snatched Mr. Stick from the jaws of death. We had all had enough nineties music torture, so I found a better way to help him pass the time. I selected an uninterrupted showing of Hope Floats – the cinematic equivalent of waterboarding. Even the tagline is vomitous: When life fell apart, love fell into place. I don’t know if you’ve witnessed this gem first hand, but if you do it will remind you of another item that floats. It’s a double flusher.
While he squirmed and tried to close his stupid little googly eyes I filed a small claims court suit against him for three hundred dollars, plus an additional thirty five bucks for the filing fees. I shoved the paperwork in the mailbox, raised the flag, and returned to the living room to find Mr. Stick catatonic on the carpet. I was starting to wear on him.
It was time to catch the news, so I let Mr. Stick clear his sinuses hanging at the bottom of the hamper while we settled in for the evening.
I was distracted from the sportscast when I heard him stirring, the hamper smacking the wall as he tried to jump out. I decided it best to tuck, or should I say clamp him in for the evening. I introduced him to our woodstove, latched the door, and turned off the basement lights. He remained silent until 1 A.M., when I woke him by turning all the lights on high and giving a very convincing reading of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathon Edwards. He was speechless.
When I woke the following morning I noticed a slight change. I felt better. The sun shone a bit brighter. I was calming. But not too soon. Sola had made only one request throughout this bizarre process. She had whispered it to me during the Ace of Base debacle. I gladly honored her wishes.
“Make him run around the yard with a stick in his mouth,” she’d implored. I was powerless to deny her. He ran all day, and was tripped frequently by a certain Labrador Retriever.
When I was certain he was too tired to run I introduced him to the resident woodchuck and let them become acquainted while I collected myself.
At this point I felt that we had made our peace, had taken our pound of flesh (or bark, really), and manged to put the entire Mr. Stick chapter behind us as a family. All that was left was the actual disposal of said Stick. I considered Craigslist…
Something told me I was not likely to find a taker so I canned the ad. I was pondering possibilities when the answer came to me from the television that evening. I knocked over the coffee table running for the phone. My hands trembled as I dialed, excitement overtaking me.
Lady on the other end: “America’s Most Wanted, how may I assist you?”
Author: “That bank robbery you were just talking about in New Hampshire. I saw the suspect.”
Lady on the other end: “Ok. Could you tell me where you saw this person and offer a description?”
Author: “You bet. He’s in the side yard with Chuck. He’s a short skinny little bugger with dirty grey hair and googly eyes and he likes Ace of Base and he wears panties when the mood strikes him and he stabbed my dog in the throat!”
Lady on the other end: “Well, your description does not remotely match the picture of the three hundred pound suspect with brown hair. But Ace of Base is a serious matter. I’ll send an officer right away.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Stick had recovered, and he’d made a run for it. The police caught up to him a few miles down the road as he attempted to make a phone call from a convenience store payphone.
I don’t know how he pulled it off, but within twenty four hours he was released on his own recognizance. When I heard the news I jumped in the car and flew to the police station. I managed to catch Mr. Stick just as he ran out the back door of the holding tank. He nearly made it to the woods, and I shudder to think what might have become of me had I been a few seconds later. I would not have stood a chance had I encountered him among his own kind.
Mr. Stick secured in the trunk, I found a twisty stretch of road and dug in to the accelerator, invoking the punch of the turbo charger and sending him flying with each turn of the steering wheel. Ryan Adams serenaded us from the CD changer as I turned in to our road, the long climb up the mountain complete, wheels kicking up dirt in my crazy wake.
So he drank like a river when their wedding bells rang
Watched from the steeple as the choir girls sang.
There it was. My final answer.
Our story ends where it began, our visit with Mr. Stick drawing to a close as we crossed the yard yet again, my boots crunching through the last frozen remnants of snow. I made haste to outrun the sunset as the events of the previous week replayed in my head. I had met a new side of me, and was more than a little frightened. I had alienated my neighbors, played horrendous movies, and I was pretty sure I had a splinter. I swore I’d never let myself get to this place again as the river sang a new song: no longer a harbinger of unfortunate things to come, but instead a messenger of hope – reminding me of the limitless happiness that exists – for one who is able to put aside grievances, to let the past be, to just let go.