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Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: FTSD: Ben Franklin's Revenge
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From: (Rollin Thomas)
Lines: 120
Date: 2 Dec 2000 03:29:42 GMT
X-Trace: 975727799 (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

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 - -
   "Promoting the ideals of a fully mechanized society since 1979."