Message-ID: <email@example.com> Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: FTSD: Ben Franklin's Revenge X-Newsreader: NN version 6.5.5 (NOV) From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rollin Thomas) Lines: 120 Date: 2 Dec 2000 03:29:42 GMT X-Complaints-To: email@example.com X-Trace: news.ou.edu 975727799 22.214.171.124 (Fri, 01 Dec 2000 21:29:59 CST) NNTP-Posting-Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000 21:29:59 CST Organization: The University of Oklahoma A sagging foulmouthed pick-pocket orthodontist my parents took me to ran his office like a bloody sweat shop: two rows of chairs cradling patients attended by young apprentices. He insulted them openly, called them names when parents were not around on consultation. Usually our parents relaxed in the sterilized waiting room. Listening to Sergio and Burt, they sipped their martinis and read ``People.'' Meanwhile, behind the sealed door, the slaves forced their advanced machinery into my open mouth. On one visit, the dentist drove one of his students to tears while tightening my braces. He grit his teeth and threaded wires through brackets, digging his shoe into my side for leverage. Another time, a student of his begged permission to sell his own hair in order to get money for food. Certainly the strictness and precision of the orthodontist's science I perceived as the exact antithesis of the ways of Benjamin Franklin. Unlike his namesake, this favorite neighbor of mine was well known for his unparalleled sloth. He held no real job since his wife began to work at the aerospace conglomerate. To our parents he was a pariah. The neighborhood children, however, looked to him like some misshapen hybrid of Martin Luther King Jr. and Oblomov (had we known who he was at the time). We often spent hours at his house waiting for our parents to come home. Mr. Franklin had both an Atari and an Intellivision, all the more enticing for its rarity and unusual hand controls. Mr. Franklin also owned guns and illegal fireworks which we launched over the cornfields after harvest. To us, Mr. Franklin's sloth was the opposite of shameful; it was luminous. I recall pondering Mr. Franklin's descent from civilization into the orders of the middle primates while on a visit to the orthodontist. It began simply with his dish habits. Mr. Franklin consistently failed to rinse his dishes, and eventually his wife gave up prodding him and let them pile to the ceiling. Rather than resolve the situation by washing just some of them, he went to the store and bought a year's supply of paper plates. When he finally took the trouble to hose off the plates on the back porch, it was in order to sell them, since they were finally obsolete. When he did this, Mrs. Franklin went to her mother's house in Columbus and we never saw her again. In contrast to finding Mr. Franklin depressed and suicidal, we found him instead ebullient, even basking in her absence. Quickly his home deteriorated into a scene of chaos. Potato chip wrappers, frozen dinner boxes, unreturned videotapes littered his floor. After four weeks the homeowner association of our neighborhood, headed by my mother, formally intervened. They had become concerned about the condition of his lawn, which had never been well kept at any rate even when Mrs. Franklin would force her husband outside. She refused to unlock the door until he finished mowing it. Even then, Mr. Franklin mowed only swaths visible from the windows in order to minimize his toil. Now, with a month gone without mowing, Mr. Franklin's lawn resembled a transplanted section of African scrub. Tufts of overgrown grass were separated from one another by parched, cracked brown dirt. They left his home, satisfied that he would take care of it at once. Yet he failed to do so and the City came, mowed his lawn and nailed a bill in the amount of $100 on his door. Mr. Franklin promptly paid without complaint; the average lawn care service in town would have done the job for about $20. Five weeks at such a price without mowing was the same as far as he was concerned. The City returned twice more at intervals of five weeks, doubling the price. After the third time, Mr. Franklin took his car to the local greenhouse. There he bought lawn balls, gnomes, racially inappropriate figures of lantern boys, fierce wooden cutouts of ladies' rear ends in polka-dot skirts and a constellation of Japanese lanterns. He unloaded them at intervals in his yard, in order to make passage of a mower through the obstacle course virtually impossible. At the fifteenth week, he set an inflatable pool on his front porch for his pasty white feet, filled it and sat on a lawn chair with two six packs of Tab to drink. He waited patiently for the mowers to show up. When they came, they surveyed his lawn and finally came to ask him if they could move his ornamentation to compete the job. He refused and they tried to mow, but they ended up surrendering and they left. Mom and her entourage went to Mr. Franklin and complained loudly about him. He listened quietly and told them he would behave. The next day, a mixing truck arrived and poured a thick layer of concrete over his yard, covering the thick tufts of crab grass, his luminous lawn balls, unrepentant gnomes, indignant and racially inappropriate lantern boys, embarrassed hindquarters of wooden cutout ladies and his small Japanese lanterns. When mom arrived home from work, the concrete had been smoothed. A Zen garden, highlighted by lawn ornamentation was what she saw. This time, she stayed away from Mr. Franklin's house, muttering a conjecture that his electric bill for the air conditioning would take care of the problem. In a sense she was right. A week later, Mr. Franklin had installed an array of six air conditioners, massive and humming, right in the center of his front lawn. In the night, my father and some neighbors cut the power to the air conditioners. The next day, Mr. Franklin had them reconnected and then installed baseball park lights on his roof which, when started up, made an impressive series of sounds. Some say he even took to sitting on his porch all night, feet in the pool, drinking can after can of Tab with a cradled in his arms. Finally, humiliated, my mother went and begged Mr. Franklin to let things go back to how they used to be, to remove the concrete and they'd never bother him about it again. He agreed to take care of it, again, but the next day he was constructing a dike around his house. When complete, he filled it with water, making his the only house in the neighborhood with a moat. This sent my mother into her room, where she smoked cigarette after cigarette, pausing only to throw a Stouffer's spaghetti into the microwave for us. Soon after, Mr. Franklin evaporated on a midnight. He left his house for us to deal with. Eventually the bank took possession of the house and its contents, including a basement stacked floor to ceiling with unopened mail-order pornography and a library of credit card bills all addressed to his wife. -- Rollin C. Thomas - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nhn.ou.edu/~thomas "Promoting the ideals of a fully mechanized society since 1979."