2002-03-03 - 6:07 p.m.

I truly believe that one of the main contributing factors in my cynicism towards life and my lack of faith in peoples ability to do anything correctly comes from being plagued by an idiot neighbor when I was a child. His name was Michael. He and his brother moved into the house across the street when I was about eight. My Mother was infatuated with him. I would often find her glued to his fence carrying on in a truly shameful way as he worked on his garden. He fancied himself to be quite the outdoorsy type. He often wore a straw hat and overalls and liked to stick a long piece of field grass in his mouth. After knowing him I am surprised that he didn’t somehow pick a poisonous piece of grass on which to chew. The man was a jackass. Not only did his garden that he tended with vigilance hardly bear even a green bean, but he screwed up everything he touched in such a horrifying way that I can’t believe after having his presence in my life for eight years I didn’t bury myself in a hole and wait for death.

It was a sweltering Michigan day the first time I witnessed the idiot in action. My Mother had taken my brother and me by the hand and led us to Michael’s house, he was going to watch us for the day. In order to prove that he could entertain children, and I suspect he also wanted to prove his manhood and his “intelligence” to my simpering Mother, he had plunked himself on the ground and was picking at a bees nest. They were swarming him.

“Michael! What are you doing? You’ll get stung,” my Mother shouted while trying to position her body into a more flattering pose.

“Oh, don’t worry, this is the only species of bee that can’t sting,” he smugly answered.

“Children, did you know that?” the Mother asks while her eyelashes are creating enough wind from their fluttering to power our entire house.

“See? I’ll show you, I’ll pick a couple of them up and they won’t sting me,” his chest size is increasing by the minute.

He plucks a few bees from the ground and places them in his hands, and as he looks up to gloat his face turns deathly white and then bright red and he smashes his palm to the ground killing the bees.

“Oh, I guess I got confused, that is the species of bee that can sting repeatedly,” he says with a little ashamed smile attached under his sweating upper lip.

The man couldn’t even make hot chocolate correctly. He would scald the milk so badly that you had to pull a long string of mucous like material from your mouth every time you took a sip. Once I had the pleasure of having to eat his homemade French fries. Not only did he use fifteen gallons of oil in making the fries, and didn’t blot or drain any of it off, he also was very low on ketchup so he mixed it with vinegar. I’ve heard tell that vinegar and ketchup is very good together, it’s possible though that you aren’t supposed to use apple cider vinegar when making this concoction.

I think his most glorious moment though would have to be my Mothers 35th birthday. I left with him that day in his powder blue pickup truck. We were going to pick up his present to her and to get her a cake. Michael decided to get the cake first. That done we clambered back into the truck after placing the cake in the back. Then we drove for many miles until we came to a farm in the middle of no where.

“What are you getting her Michael?” I asked.

“You’ll find out, it’s something she has been wanting for a long time.” he told me.

While he was talking with the farmers I though long and hard about the things my Mother had wanted. And then it came to me. Yes! She had been wanting a pot bellied pig! That’s what we were getting her!

When he came back to the truck with a large box whose sides were being forcefully nudged I jumped out with excitement!

“Let me see the pig!” I exclaimed.

Inside the box was the pinkest little piglet you will ever see. As she would seem every time I saw her for the next couple years, she was smiling. She was a gleeful little pig. I couldn’t wait to put her in my bed and sleep next to her at night like I had with all the baby goats we had. (which is another story itself, maybe next time)

So I thought Michael had finally gotten something right. That is, until we arrived back at my house and I tried to lift the cake from the back. It seems that Michael had gotten an ice cream cake and that cake had been sitting in the back of a pickup under blaring May sun for at least two hours. Fortunately the box was strong and very little ice cream actually leaked out. So I carried it into the house and placed it on the counter while rolling my eyes in consternation. Then he told my Mother to close her eyes. He lifted the piglet from her box and placed her in my Mothers arms. You could see the smile forming on her lips already. Her eyes opened and she looked at the pig.

“A potbellied pig!” she was squealing in quite a piggy like fashion.

“Potbellied pig....what? She’s a pig pig,” Michael with his ever present puffing chest said.

“A pig pig? You mean, a PIG?” my Mother was already lighting the fire in her eyes.

Yes, Michael had gotten her a pig. A sow. And we named her Porkchops, and we loved her. She wasn’t a potbellied pig but you couldn’t ask for a better pet then Porkchops. She would lay in the sun with my Mother in the afternoons and when she got bored laying prone next to my Mother she would run around the yard chasing me. That day, her first in our home she got to eat the melted ice cream cake from the box. Her smile was permanently fastened to her little snout from then on. She grew, how she grew, into a wonderfully fat and happy pig. It was a very sad day in my family when she ran away. We looked for her for weeks. Every now and then we would get reports from people telling us they had seen a giant pig walking across the road. I can only hope Porkchops still has her smile on her face...she was the only mistake Michael ever made that was perfectly right.


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