In its life, the little brick building had been a railroad property, an office for a lumberyard, and now served as my combination residence and carving studio. It perched above the Boston and Maine railroad tracks, and at night one was serenaded by the music of trains being switched and moved. It was preferable to keep the bedroom window closed at night if the company was staying over. The overnight stay was repeated only by those who were sound sleepers.
Alongside was a garden. It had been a weed patch, but I began carrying bags of soil in for a garden. Then, one day a tow truck driver arrived towing a dump truck full of loam. The loam had to be dumped to repair the truck, and I got gifted with a deep loam garden site. With full sun all day, the garden became productive. With the entire surrounding area industrial, the little garden attracted much attention from the truckers, who always came over to see what was growing. Strawberries and blueberries did not last too long.
All this was almost idyllic except for the resident of the basement.
I rented the main floor, but below me was the office for a noisy little trucking company. Loud because they only had one volume for talking – screaming. Above my cat Clancy (AKA the Grey Menace) would be snoring away when Vlad would start yelling at his drivers, clients, or anyone passing by. When Clancy slept, it was the deep sleep of those without any guilt, no matter how many people he had assaulted and bled for their O negative blood or how many mice he had slaughtered in the night. But when the volume from the basement rose, he’d leap up. Looking around, he was confident the house was under attack, but it was only Vlad screaming at one of his putative girlfriends.
Finally, one day Vlad took things too far. He crushed the catnip plants while stealing a few tomatoes. The Menace’s principal source of drugged bliss was now smashed stems. OK, while the Menace inspected the entire garden every morning, the luxuriant foliage of the catnip plants received the most attention. One did not steal his toys, roast beef, or beddy. And once certainly did not take his drug of choice.
I got deputized to speak with Vlad. I tried to explain that the garden was not his. The Tomatoes were mine, and please leave the catnip alone. But, unfortunately, politeness was wasted on Vlad. He did not have the wit to understand that I was being courteous. Then he attempted to kick the Menace, and a fight erupted. I might have lost this, but the Menace raked Vlad’s ankle, distracting him long enough for a wild punch to intersect his jaw. Then we were pulled apart. But Vlad just couldn’t let it go,” I’ll kill that f’n cat of yours, you little prick!”
That was where it might have stayed, but Vlad was not well regarded. He parked his trucks willy nilly and made life difficult for the other truckers and drivers. The tow truck drivers considered the garden special and the Gray Menace, a rough and tough mascot who bled them regularly in hand wrestling matches that left them blooded. As a result, Vlad found his trucks blocked each morning. People no longer offered small, collegial gestures of help. The Gray Menace, for his part, left his catch of rats at the door regularly and took to peeing on the door. Not being a perfect boss, Vlad had always had trouble retaining help. This conflict did not help, and drivers began to find other less problematic employment.
Vlad decided to call the police and have citations issued. However, it did not work out as planned. When the police arrived, a screaming match erupted in which Vlad did not distinguish himself, accusing the cops of taking bribes. As a result, he alienated the very people he wanted to help him.
The Menace was right out there buddying up to the police ( he always liked police). Vlad decided that the cat was distracting attention from his issues and again tried to kick the cat. The Menace lept to the attack and took more than a few drops of O negative blood. The outcome was citations; for animal cruelty and assault. As the police left, the Menace escorted them to their car, rubbing against their legs the entire way.
Things were quiet after that. Vlad kept his temper in check and his voice at a reasonable level. The Menace still peed and left gifts, but all Vlad could do was mutter beneath his breath and look at the scar healing nicely on his hand. He was a marked man.