Thomas Wictor

The Golden State!

The Golden State!

If by “golden” you mean “overrun with self-obsessed hogs,” then I agree with you.

Tomorrow the garbage is picked up. I have to put out my garbage cans. Every Wednesday night, my neighbor parks his enormous, stygian, rumbling, three-mile-per-gallon, penis-substitute truck exactly in the center of the space between my driveway and Tim’s.

This means I have to put my garbage cans in my own driveway.

If I have to go out between now and the morning, I have to move the garbage cans. One time I put the cans right behind his truck, but the garbage men didn’t empty them. If a can is too close to a vehicle, the garbage truck passes it by.

My neighbor only does this on Wednesday night. We have lots of bad blood between us. He has two incessantly barking dogs that he refuses to silence. When Tim and I confronted him, he had a litany of evasions.

“They always have a reason to bark.”

“Everybody has barking dogs. Why are you picking on me?

“You’re the only ones it bothers.”

“You have extra-sensitive ears.”

“What do you want me to do about it?”

What do we want you to do about it? Well, we want you to put your dogs in a washing machine, toss in two thirty-pound dumbbells, climb in, and have your father turn it on.

We tried everything: We asked them nicely, we asked them sternly, we complained to Animal Control, we complained to the city, and we had a lawyer send them a letter. Finally, my mother hobbled up with her cane to talk to them, since she’d known the penis-truck owner’s grandfather.

Nothing. The dogs were to be allowed to bark as much as they wanted. I couldn’t understand how people could tolerate loudly barking dogs in their own yard, but then I figured out a few things:

1. The owners are insensate and not quite human.

2. The dogs express all the pent-up hostility that the owners feel about being total losers.

3. The dogs draw attention to the owners.

4. Everyone else has barking dogs, so the owners have to join the club, or else some fat, underemployed, dimwitted stranger might not like them.

Tim and I gave up. I turned my radio louder, and Tim wore noise-canceling headphones in his own house.

After I moved out of Tim’s house and into my own—which is next door to Tim’s—someone rang my doorbell one night. I went to the door and asked, “Who is it?”

“Me,” a deep voice replied.

Ah. Of course. “Who’s ‘me’?” I asked.

He identified himself as the penis-truck owner. We call him “Mimgrim” because he’s so mush-mouthed that we usually can’t understand him.

I opened the door, and there was Mimgrim, all six feet, four inches and three hundred pounds of him. He was as wide as the doorway.

“Did you try to poison my dogs?” he asked.

Great. Just…great. If he charged me, there’d be nothing I could do. I’d need an elephant gun to stop him.

“What are you talking about, _______?” I asked.

“Someone threw about fifty chocolate bars over the fence into my yard. The dogs were in the house all day, so they didn’t eat them. I saw them when I came home from work. Was it you?”

“No, it wasn’t me.”

“Was it Tim?”

“No, it wasn’t Tim. We don’t kill dogs. Just think about it for a second. After all the fighting we did over your dogs, do you really think we’d try to poison them? Who’d be the first people you’d blame?”

Mimgrim just stood there.

I had to give him the answer. “You’d blame us. Where were the chocolate bars?”

“Over by the fence.”

“So if Tim did it, he would’ve had to throw them all the way across your yard to the other side. Besides, you won! When was the last time we complained about your dogs? It was over a year ago. We live with barking dogs all day now. Tim wears noise-canceling headphones in his own house, and I kept the radio on. We’ve seen you take your guns to the shooting range. Do you really think we’d try to kill your dogs and risk getting killed ourselves? Seriously?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Good. I swear to you that it wasn’t us. We readjusted our lives around you. Whoever did it was someone who can’t deal with barking dogs. Tim and I have learned to live with it.”


He left, and I went over to Mom’s to tell her that Mimgrim thought we’d tried to kill his dogs. She sighed and limped up the street to talk to the family. When she came back, she said she’d convinced them that it wasn’t us.

I know for a fact that it wasn’t Tim, and it wasn’t me. Someone else had reached his or her limit and decided to administer a little vigilante justice. The two dogs still bark all day, but now I’m in my own house and Tim is in Mom and Dad’s house. The noise doesn’t get to us anymore. As soon as possible, we’re going to demolish Tim’s house and rebuild it due to flood damage.

The contractor says it’ll take four months. That means four solid months of construction noise for Mimgrim and his dogs to endure. My heart goes out to them, especially since the dogs are so high strung. The daily mail delivery makes them hysterical. Wonder what front end loaders, jackhammers, and bulldozers will do?

There’s no danger of Mimgrim reading this, because he can’t read. And even if he does read it, so what? Tim and I are leaving the Golden State as soon as we can. Wherever we end up, the main criterion will be no barking dogs. Mimgrim is right: Almost every house on the street has barking dogs. That makes it okay, then.

If I had one wish, it would be that all assaultive behavior be turned upon the assaulter but magnified tenfold. If you tried to mug someone, your yourself would be slammed to the cement at 500 miles per hour. If you stole, everything you owned—including your clothes, home, and dental fillings—would immediately disappear.

And if your dogs barked without stopping, you’d hear it at 130 decibels wherever you went. You’d also get hurricane-strength winds of dog breath in your face.

You know what sounds really great? A dog barking underwater.

I could listen to that all day, though I’m guessing that an individual dog wouldn’t be able to make that noise for more than a few seconds. We’d need hundreds if not thousands of dogs in order to get a full day’s worth of underwater barking.

Crowdsourcing. Who’s with me?

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