Howl

Before it started, I had no enemies and no desire to get even with anyone. I was a student at Boston University, living in an outlying Cambridge neighborhood that featured very cheap rent. Other than the MBTA trains, my transportation needs were met by an old three-speed Raleigh bought fifth hand. It had been painted the previous year by a girlfriend who thought she was making the bike look psychedelic. Instead, it was almost ugly enough to make you violently ill. It was so ugly, so old and decrepit that I rarely locked it up. Nobody in their right mind wanted it, and it was so cranky that you could only successfully ride it if you knew how to jimmy the gears just right. I was amazed when it vanished.


I lived in an ethnic neighborhood with Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Portuguese spoken within the boundaries defined by railroad tracks and a river. It was the sort of place where everything got observed from windows, doors, and stoops. So how the theft of my bike occurred without notice was a mystery. After a few days, one of the elderly ladies mentioned that it had probably been Bobby who had taken it. Who was Bobby? Bobby was Bobby “Chick,” not too pleasant a kid from not too lovely a family. Bobby’s brief history was that he was implicated in most of the neighborhood thefts in the past decade. “There’s nothing to do about it now,” she said. “You don’t get things back from Bobby; you don’t want to get into a fight with Bobby.”
I could have taken this state of events if Bobby had sold my bike, but Bobby started riding the bike around the neighborhood. It was a perverse way of showing the outsider where he fit in. So I decided to get my bike back. Bobby did not exactly bother to lock my bike up. He left it leaning provocatively on a piece of broken fence at his house, and on Tuesday morning at two AM, I rode away with it. I didn’t flaunt the recovery of my property. I discretely locked it in the dark side yard where I lived. When retribution didn’t immediately arrive, I began to ride it to school again. But, I wasn’t too surprised when one Saturday morning, Bobby showed up with five of his friends and started cutting the lock off the bike. The confrontation was brief and ugly. I successfully beat Bobby back, but when his friends began making their moves, I retreated to the doorway, pulled out a massive World War I trench knife, and dared them to cross the threshold. My large grey cat started spoiling for a fight, and we must have looked curious, standing at the doorway, howling cat, and the mad young man with a knife. Bobby sneered at me, picked up a large cinder block, started bashing the bike’s gears and bending the frame. Nobody would ever ride the bike now.

A few weeks later, my landlord asked if I had plans to move soon, and with the end of the school year coming, I told him that I’d leave at the end of the semester. He looked relieved. Despite the Bobby incident, I had very much enjoyed my year in Easty, and it seemed to me that Bobby was more a hazard to the community than to me.
A few days later, my friend Bill wandered into town on one of his swings through the area. Having worn out his welcome on Beacon Hill the last visit, he needed to stay with me. A stay with me would put him in a convenient striking range of Harvard Square. On the night he arrived, we celebrated by seeing “Street Car Named Desire” at the Brattle Theatre. After enough to drink at Cronin’s, we regaled the area with renditions from the movie of Brando’s scream “Stellllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!”. Having gotten that out of our system, we decided to greet the sunrise at the all-night Hayes-Bickford’s back in Harvard Square. It was there that the revenge on Bobby Chick was formulated. As Bill listened to my story of the theft, he developed the sort of moral indignation that comes easily after two joints, a lot of beer, and a night of Brando at the flics. “What does this punk fear?” he asked me. “His mother,” I replied. The old ladies of the neighborhood all agreed the only thing Bobby Chick feared was his mother. A woman of vast appetites and terrible temper. Bill smiled.

After the long walk back home, my friend crashed on the couch.
Late in the morning, when we got up, we went looking for late breakfast. Over coffee and doughnuts, the idea of revenge was raised. Bill asked, “Wes, when do you move outta here? We wait until then.” I tried to talk him out of it, but you didn’t talk the Bill out of something he had decided to do.
That was how I came to be sitting in Bill’s car outside Bobby Chick’s house early on a Saturday morning in mid-June. “A two bag trick is not for the faint of heart Wes. It takes a certain amount of guts, and intestinal fortitude, physical agility, quickness, and a getaway car.” I thought this briefing was useless, but Bill thought I needed to know more about the stunt we were about to pull. “The so-called “bag trick” you learned in New York is easy to perform, but not as satisfying, nor as rich in revenge. The two-bag trick comes from my neighborhood in Baltimore, and tops the bag trick in every way.”
I’ll explain the bag trick. A brown paper bag full of the freshest excrement you can find gets topped off with paper, and lighter fluid—the bag gets placed in front of the revengee’s door. The revenger lights the bag. Then you ring the bell and run like the wind. Few victims can resist stomping on the bag immediately, even when their reasoning side knows it’s a big mistake. If you find a safe spot to watch this from, you see the victim flailing about, howling at the top of their lungs while wreathed in smoky plumes of pure stink. Revenge can be sweet if smelly.
The Captain’s two-bag trick is not just more of the same; it twists things around. You need an accomplice, a car, and an excellent physical layout to make the whole thing work. As the Bill told me, “It’s not for the faint of heart.” It helps to have a slightly single-minded desire to have at someone short of physical violence, and with a twist of humiliation thrown in.
Bill reminded me that ” timing is everything.” With that, he slipped out from behind the driver seat, picked up the stinking bag of fresh dog waste, and sprayed it with lighter fluid. I slid behind the driver’s seat and drove around the corner to where I knew the neighbor behind the Chick house hated the Chicks and would deliberately see nothing. This neighbor’s well-tended garden backed onto the Chicks unkempt lot at the end of a driveway. The fence was broken open and offered easy access to the back of the Chick house. I pulled up to the curb, placed the car in neutral, put on the brake, and left the car idling. I pulled out my bag of incensed dog waste, walked along the driveway through the broken fence, and went up to the Chick house.
Then I heard what I had been waiting for; the bell getting jammed in place, and the sound of loud yells from inside as someone shouted: “Bobby, get the dammed door!!” The door opened, and I heard the loud exclamation followed by shouts of shock and rage and loud foot stampings. At that moment, I pulled the matches out. Lit the bag and pounded loudly on the door with a broom handle. I waited to make sure the bag was well lit and that footsteps were now moving towards the back of the house, at a furious pace. I strolled through the back yard into the garden. There I turned and waited. Bobby threw open the door. His eyes were only on the flaming bag. He grated out a great bellow of rage as he stomps on the bag. There is a moment of silence as the Nature of what has happened dawns on him. At this moment, Bobby sees me as I complete my stroll to the street and get into my getaway car. I wave and grin. Then a great howl comes, loud enough to fill the entire square mile of the neighborhood as Bobby’s mother discovers the trail of burnt ordure that now tracks through her foyer, living room, and kitchen. “Bobbeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!”

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