It wasn’t my fault.
We had a gorgeous spring day last week, so I called up a few buddies to have an impromptu celebration. I fired up the grill for the first time this year, stocked the cooler with beer, and we had a blast. I guess we were a little loud, but nothing too out of control. Just some old friends getting together and shooting the shit, while my wife Haley was out with her friends.
Around the time it started to get dark, I heard my neighbor shout: “HEY!” I whipped around and saw his crew cut head sticking up over the fence. He’d been on a few tours of duty in Afghanistan, and he was still very much a military dude. The last thing I wanted to see was him staring me right down, looking pissed off. “You motherfuckers keep it DOWN!”
“So sorry, Tucker!” I yelled, giving a good-natured wave. “We will!” Then I turned to my friends. “Alright guys,” I said. “Maybe we better go inside.”
We went in and kept drinking. It was a Saturday, and none of us had to work on Sunday. It was the first time we’d all been hanging out in the same place for years, and we wanted to make a night of it. Eventually, we ran out of beer.
There’s a convenience store right across the street from my house. “Gonna make a run,” I said, a little drunk. “Get more beer.”
I did that as my friends hung out and kept bullshitting. When I got back, we drank some more. When the wife came home, we were all plastered, and everyone got cabs home.
The next morning, at six o’fucking clock, I was dragged out of slumber by the sound of someone banging at my front door.
If I were 21, I would have been good to go, then and there. But I’m not 21. I’m 36. It felt like somebody had jammed a dagger that had a thousand other tiny daggers growing out of it straight into the center of my brain. My ears felt like they were bleeding. My tongue felt like somebody had cut it out of my mouth, soaked it in harsh chemicals all night, and then sewn it back in, without being very careful about it.
I felt like shit. But the banging persisted. I got out of bed, only half able to feel my body… and the half that I could feel felt like somebody was poking me with electric shockers. Particularly my eyeballs. They felt like they were on fire.
Somehow, I made it to the front door. I peeked out the window and saw my neighbor Tucker there, veins popping out of his neck, looking on the verge of murder.
“I know you’re in there Crenshaw!” he yelled. “Open the fucking door!”
Without thinking about it too much, I opened the door. He was standing there holding what looked like a condom filled up with urine, tied off at the top like a balloon.
“You think this is funny?” he asked.
My head wasn’t just spinning… it was on the Gravitron. “No,” I said. “But… what is it? Why are you here?”
“Don’t play dumb you motherfucker,” said Tucker. “I know you did this. Threw this in my yard.”
I was actually honestly offended. “It wasn’t me!” I said. “It was probably some asshole from across the street!”
As I mentioned, there is a store across the street. Litter and all sorts of bizarre things are constantly being blown or thrown over from the customers there into my front yard. That’s where, through the hangover haze, I guessed the piss-condom had come from. I certainly hadn’t put it there.
“You know what I did, over in Afghanistan, Crenshaw?” Tucker asked.
I shook my head.
“I specialized in projectile IEDs. Got to know the physics of it all. I know where this disgusting piece of trash came from, and it came from your porch.”
I shook my head again. “No sir,” I said. Then I started to get a little pissed off myself. “It wasn’t me, and you have no right to come here accusing me of doing something so juvenile.”
Tucker made a weird growling noise, clicked his heels together, and then spun around, keeping his back stiff as a board the whole time. Then he walked back to the sidewalk, and around the fence separating his yard from mine.
I went back to bed.
By 10AM, I was finally ready to face the world. Haley was already up and about. I still had a bad hangover, but with some Tylenol and coffee, I figured I would live.
The first thing I did was look at my phone. There was a text from my friend Steve there. Here is what it read:
“How did Tucker the Fucker like the old condo-bomb? Launched it while you were at the store. lol”
I jumped out of bed and threw on a robe. I ran through the living room, past my wife, who was reading a book.
“Rob?!” she asked. I kept running.
I made it to the front door and threw it open… just in time to see Tucker “accidently” back his car into our trash bin. I watched as three bags of trash flew through the air and exploded upon impact with our muddy yard. Overhead, the crows were already circling. Then Tucker tore rubber out of there, and sped off down the road.
Okay, I thought, surveying the mess strewn all over my yard, which included a chicken carcass, used Maxi Pads, and bits of broken glass. Fair enough, Tucker. I guess that’s fair enough.
I wish I had left it at that. I really do. But later, when I was out cleaning up, I really started to feel the rage boil. It wasn’t my fault that Steve had thrown that condom over into Tucker’s yard. I hadn’t known anything about it until after Tucker had come to my door at six o’clock in the fucking morning! And when I had found out about it, I was on my way to apologize in person, first thing! And what was my reward?
I plucked a slimy eggshell off the ground and put it into the new bag.
Then my phone buzzed. I wiped my hand on my pants and checked it. Another text from Steve:
“Look man, really sorry about causing trouble with your neighbor. Hopefully he didn’t get too pissed. Lemme make it up to you by buying a couple rounds. If you’re as hungover as me, you’ll need them.”
It was true. Despite the Tylenol and the extra sleep, I still had a nasty hangover. I’d even puked once, picking up all of that wet stinking trash.
I agreed to have a drink or two out.
By midnight, we were wasted.
“Can’t believe that crazy jerkoff knocked all that trash into your yard,” said Steve. “The only reason I did the condom thing in the first place was because he was such a dick about us having a good time. Sergeant Pain or whatever the hell, you know? Who does this asshole think he is anyway?”
If I’d been sober, my answer might have been: “Well, he put his life on the line in the name of our country. I may not agree with the war, but he doesn’t deserve to come back to some drunk idiots being loud and hurling a condom into his backyard.”
But I wasn’t sober. So this is what I said instead: “Yeah, fuck that guy!”
“You got a cat?” asked Steve.
“Sure. Two of them.”
“Good. And here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take the bag where you put all the catshit and lumps of pissy litter… we’re gonna take that bag, and we’re gonna chuck it at old Fucker’s front door. A little catshit bomb for him to wake up to, you know?”
And that’s exactly what we did.
The next day, I laid low. Haley was pissed, but I called in sick to work and went back to sleep.
No more drinking, I told myself, as I was drifting back off. No more drinking.
I woke up at noon, feeling clear-headed for the first time in two days… and the realization of what Steve and I had done hit me like… well, like a bag of catshit to the face.
I threw some pants on, and ran outside. Tucker didn’t have a job, and I was hoping that he was still at home, so that I could apologize, in earnest, for acting so horribly.
Tucker was at home, and answered the door a moment after I rang the bell. He was smiling. I don’t think I’d ever seen Tucker smile before that.
“Have some fun last night, did we, Crenshaw?” he asked in a good-natured tone.
“Yeah… about that… listen, man, I’m really, really sorry. That was over the line. No excuses.”
Tucker went on smiling. “We did let things get a bit out of hand, didn’t we? A SNAFU. But on my list of things getting out of hand, Crenshaw, it doesn’t even rank. So let’s just put it behind us, huh? What do you say?”
He offered his hand and I took it. As we were shaking, it felt like he was crushing me. But, I figured, that’s just how these macho guys are. He kept smiling.
“Let me make it up to you,” I said.
“There’s no need Crenshaw. We’re good.”
“Really,” he said, still smiling.
And for about a week, I really did let myself believe that we were good.
But all that time, Tucker was filling my garden shed with every bit of garbage in the entire neighborhood.
Today was another fine day. The sun was shining, the birds were pulling worms up out of the ground. The kind of day where you think about things growing and thriving, instead of going cold and dying. Haley and I decided that we would lay the groundwork for our garden.
That’s when I saw it. Rather, that’s when I smelled it. It hit me when I was about ten feet away. The stench of thousands of different things rotting and oozing. I gagged. Then I heard the buzz of the flies. I smelled it, then I heard it, then I saw it through the window… then I puked.
The shed behind our house was packed wall-to-wall with rancid garbage. I saw shadows scampering over it all. I didn’t know if they were rats or raccoons or what. I saw rotting apples and coffee grinds and used tissues and shit-filled diapers and mushy gray material and left-over chili and bones and the offcuts of raw meat and used condoms filled with something other than urine and empty packages of ketchup and ants, crawling all over it and… yes… they were rats… there was a dead one there, on top of it all. Green mold, yellow mold, black mold, brown mold. A rainbow of mold.
I puked once again and thought about what to do next.
Go to the police? It had to be a crime to stuff garbage into your neighbor’s shed. But wasn’t it also a crime to throw a bag of catshit at your neighbor’s door? Did I really want to involve the police?
As I stood there, trying to form a plan, or at least a useful thought, I heard a low growl coming from inside the shed. I took a step back.
There’s probably a rabid raccoon in there, I thought. Then the door started to rattle. I don’t think that’s a raccoon!
I took another step back, and then the shrieking started. It sounded like a pterodactyl. I mean, nobody’s ever actually heard one of those, but we all know what they are supposed to sound like, right? I guess from movies? Just this terrible screeching that makes your eardrums quiver in pain.
The door stopped rattling. It started banging. I took several steps back on legs that were shaking uncontrollably and were now also briefly warm and fully wet with urine as the door splintered apart.
Standing there in front of me was a creature that I could not comprehend. It was green and black and wet, and still screeching horribly, though I could see no mouth. It was all of the bits of garbage, congealed, stewed together, formed into a shape that was roughly human, with two legs, two arms, a head that was jerking uncontrollably, and even, I noted, a garbage penis composed of crumpled newspaper and what I assumed was mustard.
It had a pepperoni slice for one eye, and a bottle cap for the other. Its hair was a mixture of some kind of actual hair, like from people or pet hair picked up by a vacuum, and strands of spaghetti. One of its fingers was an empty toilet paper roll, and another looked like a toothpick.
It lurched towards me, still shrieking.
I turned to run. As I did so, I saw two people looking at me. First was my wife, standing in the open doorway of the side entrance to our house, totally in shock… and second was Tucker, peering out from his second floor, holding back the curtains, frowning. Then the curtain closed and I couldn’t see him.
The creature took a squishy step towards me, reaching out a hand that had a large syringe as one of its fingers. I ran.
I looked behind me to see the monster lurch unsteadily, but definitely, in my direction. I made it to my side door, shoved Haley inside, and slammed the door shut behind me.
“What the fuck is that?!” asked Haley.
“I don’t know!” I said. “Some kind of trash monster! I think we should call the police!”
Then we heard a loud bang, rising above and then silencing the shrieking. I looked out the window to see Tucker out there, with a large gun pointed at the trash monster.
The creature had a bullet hole in the middle of its monstrous head. I watched in horrified amazement as it plucked a watermelon rind covered in ants from its elbow and stuck it into the hole, plugging it up. The thing took a step toward Tucker, who fired off another round in response.
The bullet hit its target, but didn’t slow it down. Tucker fired again, and again, before finally retreating a bit. But he wasn’t fast enough. The trash monster was upon him, in a way that is difficult to describe, for several reasons.
The creature’s arm stretched out like bubble gum (and indeed appeared to be at least partially composed of such.) It kept stretching and stretching, looping around Tucker’s neck, choking him. Then the other hand produced a plastic bag, apparently from somewhere inside the creature’s back. It placed the bag over Tucker’s head and tied it off with the arm that was still stretching and wrapping around his neck.
Tucker kicked and struggled, but not for long. He slumped to the ground, obviously dead, as the creature turned its attention towards my house.
I called 911.
As soon as I was off the phone, the monster collapsed into a pile of inanimate garbage.
Now the police are headed here, and I have a dead body and a pile of garbage in my yard.
I don’t know what to do.