Short Story: The Street In Front Of My House

house.JPGThis is the street in front of my house. That’s my wood fence. My gravel driveway. One time I was out jogging and a pickup truck drove by and the old man behind the wheel yelled “Get your fat ass off the road!”

It was the middle of the day and I was almost back to my house after running three miles. And I wasn’t fat–at all. The loud yell startled me. Cars always drive around. Some wave. Some give you a thumbs up for exercising.

The truck turned and drove up the street across from mine, a cul-de-sac. That meant the old man was one of my neighbors.

I was really surprised that one of my neighbors would yell that at me. I had run on the streets miles and miles every day, for years.

Worse, this guy had probably driven by me a few times. What have I done to make him yell at me? Look at the picture. There are no sidewalks. I can’t really run the grass because there really isn’t any of that either. But more importantly, in Florida, pedestrians have the right of way 100% of the time. But that’s my logical brain talking. It didn’t stick around long.

But like I said I was almost back to my house. I was all sweaty and everything else, my running shorts my running shoes my T-shirt drenched with sweat. But I was so pissed that he did that. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. That he thought I was a stranger and that he was such an asshole he would tell a stranger to get off the road.

To what? To not inconvenience his big black truck?

I got to my house walked straight to the drawer where I keep my car keys, pulled them out and walk right back out to my car. I got in and fired up the engine, probably squealed the wheels pulling out of the garage, and drove right over to his house.

The whole time, I’m thinking asshole, asshole, asshole.

That’s the thing. This was my neighbor. This was somebody who lives basically across the street from me calling me names. No. No way.

I think I slammed on the brakes pulling into his driveway to make a screech but it didn’t make any noise. I threw open the car door and stormed up the walk. I walked up to the door and rang the bell. His truck was in the driveway so I knew I had the right place.

And I hesitated for a microsecond before I rang the bell, but I thought, you know what? I’m already here. I’m gonna confront this asshole.

I pushed the button and heard the doorbell chime.

In those few seconds, I remember my heart was pounding. Really thumping in my chest and throat. Not from running anymore, it was pounding way harder from pure adrenaline. And my thoughts were like, I shouldn’t be doing this. What am I doing? What if he–an old man, basically, gray haired and maybe 50 or 60 years old, but not anything close to frail—comes out kicks my ass? Because I can’t really punch an old man, can I?

I was flinging my hands like I was trying to get water off them. Sweat was dripping off my forehead. I was kind of stepping from one foot to the other, still in my soaked running gear. And I was breathing hard, but I decided since I’d been running that was okay.

And my chest was pounding. Pounding. I could feel it in my ears, and my brain was buzzing a little.

He opened the door and for a half an instant, he was surprised. Like he didn’t know why a sweaty runner was at his door. But his face went from confused to certain, quickly. I put my thumb in my chest and then pointed at him and I said “You wanna tell me to get my fat ass off the road now? Now that you’re not in you big black truck? I’m your neighbor, I’m not afraid of you. I’m not afraid of you!”

He was hot and he was aggressive. He said something about do you know how dangerous it is to run on these streets. I said don’t you try to fucking lecture me about road hazard when you’re the only hazard I ran into out there. I run every day. You don’t do that to your neighbors!

I remember his wife, standing behind him in the living room, hand to her mouth. She was scared. Afraid of what I would do? Or afraid of what he would do?

I also remember this. After me yelling at him in front of his wife, and basically letting him know it wasn’t just a never-to-be-seen-again-stranger he’d been a jerk to but somebody who now knew where he lived and wasn’t afraid to come to his house and confront him… well… that was the extent of my plan. Confront him. He was supposed to apologize or something. I was supposed to win.

But he had enough and turned the tables on me. “What are you gonna do about it?”

I wish I’d had a great answer. I didn’t. I was kind of surprised he said that. But at that point the tables were turned. The asshole was the asshole again. And I realized there were two assholes. One who said something stupid and one who showed up at the other’s house. If he wasn’t way, way, way older than me, maybe something bad would have happened.

What are you gonna do about it?

I gave him an answer. The only thing I could think of. “I don’t know. Maybe call the sheriff.”

I’m sure he sneered at that. I apologized to his wife. “I’m sorry ma’am. I’m sorry you have to live with an asshole like this guy.”

In my heart, I was certain he secretly beat her.

Ten minutes later, I had a great answer. A tough guy answer. Let’s find out. Do it again. I drove to your house this time. What the fuck do you think I’ll do next time?

Either way, I knew I would be leaving without throwing a punch or receiving a punch. I was pretty sure about that. I didn’t really win but I didn’t lose–and I made him uncomfortable in his own house. I think. I hope.

But in those moments, it was not all adrenaline. On the road after he drove past me, I wasn’t out of control. In the house, in the car, at the door, there was no uncontrollable rage.

It was a completely controllable decision that I decided to go ahead and just go a little beyond myself that day. It was an intense, heart-poundingly clear focus happening in slow motion. When you do that, you’re scared. Definitely scared. But you’ve decided not today. Not fucking today.

Doesn’t matter that I think this is a mistake. I’m doing it because not doing it is worse.

I shake my head at it now. I’m not afraid of you! Like I was broadcasting just how afraid I was.

But when I think of a moment when I felt I had to act, that if I didn’t, he owned me. I’d never be safe on my own street again… No, I’d be safe. Crime wouldn’t go up. But I wouldn’t be comfortable. And on your own street you should be comfortable. I had a wife I wanted to respect me. And even if she didn’t know, I’d know. She was married to a guy who would be bullied on his own street.

I didn’t like how that made me feel, that I could, as an adult, be made to feel that way.

I had to act.

 

26 thoughts on “Short Story: The Street In Front Of My House

  1. I understand. Completely. There are times when your rage takes over and you want to do something about it. But you must be fore-armed to confront your foe. Think up all the scenarios that could possible occur and weigh the responses (both verbal and physical – know your own strengths.. if you are not likely to win that fight, make sure your intellect is up to it). It is not always a physical fight, but also a mind game..
    Here is an example, I am quickly assuming this.. so feel free to disabuse me of the notion…
    If he was quite taller than you, you might be worried about that at first sight. I assume he was… If he was, then you made the first mistake of standing below his level. Try this as a mind-sport next time, speak from a position of height.. like you are speaking from above him.. it makes quite a difference. Trust me. It does.

    Second, intrude into his space from that height. For example, push your hands into his “comfort space” but make sure your fingers are not pointed at him. Like you are asking to be heard. Or, if you prefer to shake hands, make sure your hand is on top, if his hand is on top, put your other hand on top of that. But make sure your hand is on the top.

    Third, if he makes a comment like he just did, where you have no answers, then the best thing is to smirk, while you think how best to reply, as if you are the superior one. Then calmly say this with a beatific smile (I assure you, nothing irks a bully more than a calm smile), “I am sure you are upset, but let us talk some other time.. I can certainly do a lot, but this is not the right time or place to do it.. Forgive me for catching you at a bad time. I wish I had caught you at a time when you were a little more rested or comfortable”.
    This can get anyone’s goat and works for all situations.

    Fourth, if you want to make an issue of it, then don’t say anything. Don’t threaten him. Don’t tell him what you are going to do. Don’t say that you have so and so friends or help from powerful quarters. Just sniff, look down upon him. Walk away slowly.

    You can never do anything much if you give up, if you are lost for words.. (How ironic!!) … but the best way is to speak calmly, to say the worst things with a straight face, maybe even with a polite smile. Never stand on his porch if he is taller than you and speak to him from a position lower than he.. never point a finger (it could easily end up as a brawl)… and when you do speak, make sure you enunciate every word slowly and coolly. Intruding into his comfort space is a risk… but only if you are able to speak faster than his tiny brain can figure out what you are doing. Intimidation can be useful only if you can prove that it was not physical… use the mind-game.. push into his comfort zone. Stand closer to him.. speak up from that zone…

    Anyway, lots of things to say… but I am as infuriated as you are… this is not a loss/defeat… don;t sit fuming.. the next time, destroy him.. with words…. be prepared 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Good for you! You were justified in confronting him. Sometimes doing nothing after an event makes you angrier, but angrier with yourself, for not confronting an issue.

    A few years back I had an employer who screamed down the phone at me for something that was nothing to do with me. I’m very passive and not great with confrontation. After she slammed the phone down on me, I was visibly shocked and upset – but that turned to anger – at myself – for allowing someone to speak that way to me. I rang her back and politely and calmly told her she was out of line and had acted unprofessionally. As a consequence I left that employment but felt I couldn’t work for her anymore. It was a job I enjoyed but I’m glad I spoke out and would have felt bad about myself if I hadn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Did you encounter him on the road after that? Did he respond any different? Is he still an asshole? I think you did the right thing by going to his door and pointing out you are his neighbor, not some stranger he can yell at.
    ‘Not fucking today’
    Brilliant.
    You deserve a hearty pat on the back for not allowing yourself to be bullied on your turf. And another for jogging…period.
    I’m proud of you!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Funny, another one of my friends asked me that. It’s been many years, but I never thought about it until she asked. The answer is, no. He never said a word to me ever again, never bothered me again after that. He’d pass me on the road here and there over the years and he’d give me plenty of room. My friend said I won because he didn’t bother me. I guess. I didn’t think about it much afterwards, wasn’t looking over my shoulder when I ran. If I won, I did it when I decided to stand up. It didn’t matter too much what happened after that.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Dan,
    Wow I know what you mean about an unwarranted attack by a person that doesn’t even know you. In my case it was by a car full of rowdy, drunk football fans in Sydney, one of which stuck his head out the window and yelled an unflattering name to me as I was walking my dog. I can’t say the exact words but the first word started with F and the other with B. Doesn’t take too much imagination to fill in the blanks. I wish I could have confronted them but they drove away. That’s why I liked this story because you didn’t let the person get away with bad behavior. Hopefully he never bothered you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not just in the UK then.
      If it’s any constellation in my experience and observations one of the following would probably have happened:
      1. The one with the big mouth, who’s only good at yelling when safe with others in a car, gets a thumping one night, when he’s recognised by a fellow or the fellow of a woman he tried that on.
      2. At some stage in the year the same crew and their car have an argument with a tree or a big truck and lose.
      3. As is common with crowds of drunks, one doesn’t like what that one did and they start an argument then a cat-fight in the car which ends up with the whole lot sprawled out and brawling with each other somewhere, attracting the police.
      4. As witnessed on one instance, the loud shout drew the attention of a nearby and previously casual occupants of a police patrol vehicle who ceased to be causal and shot off in pursuit.

      An unsubstantiated tale I heard of the in the USA, was of a bunch of college jocks who tried that on a young woman, who by the time they’d slowly cruised away revelling in their own ‘wit’ had calmly drawn her hand gun and took out a wing mirror…probably a urban myth type thing but fun all the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had something similar happen to me recently. I was driving to pick up my son. It’s a pain in the butt street where you come off the highway into your own lane but then have only 100 yards to get over into the left turn lane. It’s tight. This mini van going straight sped up until she was right next to me, then maintained her speed, so I couldn’t get over. Fine. I flipped her off. And made sure she saw me, because I knew her. She thought she was just exercising a little power to a complete stranger, but she had to see me at pick up every week because her son was in class with mine. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha.
    A few years ago I was forced into living in a motel, for an entire summer, with all five kids.
    It was a nice motel. A huge holiday Inn. It had this huge restrauant on the main floor that stretched out around a corner toward a bar area.
    My oldest child was eleven and my youngest was just under two, and refused to sit. At all.
    So here we are sitting around a circle table, the two year old screaming from a high chair twisting every which way. The four year old crying over his toast. The girls fighting over the last glass of damn orange juice.
    The only other patron in the entire restrauant, odd as that seems, was a large older man who sort of resembled a trucker and for some reason decided to sit five tables away from us.
    I assume we were aggravating him becasue he decided to take it upon himself to yell across the room. “Hey lady why don’t you pick up your kid so he’ll shut up.”
    I stood up and headed toward him, hooped up on pure adrenalin. What was this fuck tards problem? Really. Who in there right mind would harass a frazzled mother dealing with five small children all alone in a restrauant?
    I crusied toward him, not even thinking. “I’m comming over to address you personally.” I didn’t want to tell back at him. It seemed rude.I was planning to tell him that due the copious amount of children I had, I knew that picking the child up would not keep him quiet. That he would continue to scream, and would fight to get off my knee and no doubt be at the guys table, picking through his eggs. “I have five kids here…” Was all I got out.
    He looked me up and down. “You should have stopped at four.”
    I don’t remember thinking at all after that. “You stupid fat son of a bitch. No wonder you are sitting at this table alone.” I turned and walked back to my own table.
    He got up and left, without waiting for his food.
    I ended up leaving the waitress a twenty dollar tip because I felt bad.

    My husband shit a brick when I told him. All freaked out about what this huge man could have done to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I loved that he stood up for himself. The old guy in the black truck is obviously just an angry, unfit sort of bully, trying out his mouth muscles. A lot of people feel threatened by someone who has the determination and fitness to run up the road every day. No one owns the road, but everyone has the right to use it, whether it be running, walking, or driving your vehicle. I’m happy that he stood up for his rights, his street, and his health. The old guy was rude and obnoxious. He probably yells his frustrations at anyone who he encounters. A coward and a bully, I feel sorry for his wife.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You did the right thing.
    Hanging on the anger and not having got your say can nag at you for years.
    He strikes me as a typical bitter old fool. As Brenda said he probably yells at anyone.
    Two predictions for him:
    (a) Stroke.
    (b) He meets an even older and more bitter fool who gets the drop on him.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Its funny, I used to read stories where authors would talk about hearts beating so loudly . . . I never really understood it. Or, maybe I did and I just forgot. When I went to the Writers’ Guild social after entering a short story contest and they announced the winner, I knew exactly what all the fuss about thunderous heart pounding was about. Oh, my heart was loud. I could actually feel it clicking in my chest.
    This story was great! I was right there with you. Let me know if you need the hellions to toilet paper his house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, where this story came from was, a friend was working on a story and a young man who is a very nonconfrontational character, had to basically jump on stage and confront the antagonist in front of a room full of people. So you have the confrontation but you also have an audience. And in the story the main character just kind of did it, but I was thinking we needed to add some emotion there (fear, dread, anticipation) because it is definitely outside his comfort zone.

      In order to really paint in some of the emotion, I try to think about when I have been in a situation where I had to confront somebody (or maybe didn’t have to but just did). And as we get older we tend to forget how may be scared or full of adrenaline or not knowing what was going to happen we were at the time. So this had actually happened and I thought, you know, what let me lay this out, how this happened, then she’ll see from the protagonists view what the steps were. Not like she wouldn’t’ve known anyway but here’s an actual example of something similar to what happens in her story. Obviously there were some differences but you you take that framework and you say OK here’s what I need to drop in, some of these different steps. Once I wrote it, I thought it would be interesting to put it on the blog and see what kind of reaction it got from people. They are assuming it’s a true story – it is, but they could’ve just as easily assumed it was a flash fiction piece that I just wrote to express fear of confrontation.

      Like

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