Thomas Wictor

Life in a portal city

Life in a portal city

I live in a portal city. By that I mean it’s a portal to hell. My brother Tim and I are the only humans left. Everyone else has become…other.

The people across the street have four adult daughters. They’re like the Kardashians, except morbidly obese. The mother must be fused to the sofa by now. We last saw her about six years ago, when she came outside to flag down the ice-cream truck. In my portal city, “Music Box Dancer” can be heard playing up and down every street, every day, all afternoon.

For some reason I always hear just the dit, did-did-dit, dit, dit in the background instead of the main melody. It sounds like Morse code.

Six years ago the woman across the street looked like this.


I keep seeing news stories about the fire department having to tear down a wall to get a person out of the house. They’re too fat to walk or fit through the door. I’m waiting for that to happen across the street. Six years ago the woman’s stomach slapped against her shins as she shuffled forward. I wonder if after her stomach reached the ground, she put it in a little red wagon that she steers around the house.


The neighbors used to raise Rottweilers. At one point they had five. They barked all day and all night for two years. Finally we made a complaint with Animal Control. A few days later, as Tim and I were sitting behind my house, the neighbor appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly he was standing right beside us, with this expression.


Just put that smile on a much fatter head.

“Hey,” he said. “What’s the game?”

This was 2011, so I can admit this now: I’ve never come closer to murdering someone. It would’ve been the easiest thing in the world to go inside my house and get this.


He was on my property, behaving in a threatening manner. After two years of torture from his dogs, he had the nerve to come over and make trouble. That was almost the angriest I’ve been in my entire life.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“You know.” He waggled his eyebrows. “What’s the game?”

“No, I don’t know,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

“You told Animal Control about my dogs. Why didn’t you just come over and talk to me like a man?”

Well, I didn’t go over and talk to him like a man because he and I are not of the same species. I’d been through this four times before, with different neighbors, and I knew the script.

1. “Nobody else complains about the barking.”

2. “You must have extra-sensitive ears.”

3. “They always have a reason to bark.”

4. “I could complain about stuff you do, but I don’t.”

5. “What am I supposed to do about it?”

6. “You’re making them bark at you.”

My smiling neighbor went through the script. He didn’t let me finish one sentence, and he kept laughing, staring at the sky, and shaking his head. For the sake of my brother and my sick cat Syd the Second, I swallowed all my rage and apologized for contacting Animal Control. Then I shook my neighbor’s fat, hot, sweaty hand. He went home victorious.

There was no telling what he’d do if I pushed the issue, so I surrendered. He eventually got rid of his Rottweilers, and now he has two Yorkshires and a couple of macaws. He keeps them all outside, behind his house.

The Yorkshires bark all day and night, and the macaws do this.


I figured out why people have to have deafening noise going at all times. It prevents them from thinking and feeling. This is because their thoughts and feelings are horrible. They hate themselves, their spouses, their children, their friends, and their lives. Of course they themselves made the rotten decisions that created such ghastly existences, but our culture now is about divorcing consequences from actions. People are shocked when they’re held responsible for their choices.

Another set of neighbors are addicted to screaming and singing. This went on for seven hours the other day.

In 2012 a gigantic green tour bus parked in front of my house. A ten-piece mariachi band got out and went to those neighbors’ house. They had speakers eight feet tall. When the music started, my father came over, and we stood behind my house. Although the party was two doors down, the music was so loud that my father and I couldn’t hear each other even though we were only inches apart, shouting as loudly as we could.

To quote the Duke of Wellington about the Battle of Waterloo, that was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” I had to restrain my father from going to the neighbors’ house and doing some very, very bad things to them. We ended up calling the cops, and to our shock they came right out and shut down the party.

What I’d like to do someday is announce to the neighbors that to honor my Bavarian heritage on my father’s side of the family, Tim and I are going to start having weekly eight-hour parties with nothing but this kind of music at 150 decibels.

There are signs that your city is becoming a portal to hell. Take heed.

People mow their lawns at night.

Vehicles stop in the middle of the street and just sit there, idling.

Enormous skyrockets are shot off all year round.

It’s not possible to tell human from animal vocalizations.

You hear car accidents all the time.

Everybody has a roaring or screeching laugh.

Voices in the dark shout the same phrase over and over.

Police and ambulance sirens circle your block for half an hour.

And discarded toilets keep appearing everywhere.


My solution is to move to Nevada. Originally we were going to Texas, but now I have two messed-up cats who might not survive the trip, and I’ve been reading things that don’t bode well for the Lone Star State.

If Nevada doesn’t work out, we’ll try here.


The cats love birdwatching, and you can’t mow the ocean in the middle of the night. Paradise!

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