Saturday, September 19, 2020

Arson - A Mental Twitch


    The seedling of my world view was nourished by a combination of visionary cynicism and abject poverty.  

    My first place away from home was a decrepit mobile home precariously nestled on the edge of a four feet deep drainage ditch that was home to group of anti-social raccoons and muskrats. 

    I subsisted on beans and rice, store brand coffee and hand rolled cigarettes.  There are only so many ways to prepare red beans and rice.  To this day I still can't look at a plate of beans and rice without a feel of revulsion.  Don't even mention Ramen noodles or Rice-a-Roni.

    Oh, and there was port.  Cheap, sweet, dark, wonderful port.  I drank it on ice and told myself it was grape juice.  It never contradicted me.  It kept me warm in the Winter and drunk in the Summer.  At the time I thought we were friends.

     Behind the trailer park there was a wooded area and a field of scrub grass that had once been considered an abandoned lot.  We were all fair game to the field mice that nightly invaded our dubious shelters.  Every morning I would see tiny scratches, claw marks, in the bacon grease that had congealed in the iron skillet on top of the tiny gas stove.     

    For some reason, though I ate poorly myself, I felt I could afford to feed a cat.  I named him Henry (after Henry Miller) and he was a pathetic mouser.  He tried to make friends with them. We have domesticated our cats too much perhaps.  Their natural instincts have been dulled toward anything that doesn't look like a toy.

    And there were cockroaches.  Not your run-of-the-mill standard American cockroaches.  These were the Asian variety.  Huge.  I had heard stories of large roaches in Texas but they paled in comparison.  There was a group of  seven Laotian exchange students that lived in the trailer next to me. I assumed the roaches had clandestinely come over with them.  Perhaps they were looking for a better life, to colonize new territory. I may have been judgmental, but eventually the cockroaches decided they needed more space and moved into my hovel while I was asleep.

    They weren't anything I had ever encountered before.  They were huge, larger than the aforementioned mice. They had wings. Large, functioning wings.  My cat was even afraid of them.  The field mice moved out almost the next day.  Mice, as you may well know, are very non-confrontational.

    This left me with a bit of a dilemma.  I could spray for the roaches and hope for the best.  But then the mice, seeing the coast was clear, might be emboldened to move back in.  I sat on the couch smoking a cigarette, trying to decide what to do.  A cockroach crawled onto my hand and tried to knock the cigarette from between my fingers.  My choice was suddenly clear.

     I put Henry in his crate and placed the crate and as many belongings as I could in the back seat of my car.  I pulled away and parked the car down the street.  I walked back and torched the trailer.  I sat on the hood of the car and watched it burn.  It wasn't long before I heard the sirens.  Nosy neighbors. Didn't they know I was doing them a favor?

    Weeks later I got a letter from my former landlord thanking me for burning the trailer down.  Decrepit as it was, he had it insured to the teeth.  He offered me a new place, another trailer, promising it didn't have cockroaches or mice.  With a discount on the rent, I felt I couldn't refuse.

It was fortunate that Henry enjoyed hunting centipedes...

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