Today at the local cafe, I met a young couple up for the weekend to visit parents.
"Oh, I know you," said the husband after I gave him my business card. "You live around the corner from my parents."
"Your mother and my mother used to exchange recipes," I let him know.
Then, we discussed former denizens of the 'hood who moved out decades' earlier. No doubt no longer alive.
"You had a neighbor who was the biggest blowhard. I wasn't even born back then, but my parents talked about him a few times."
"Angus Krapper?" I said and he smiled in return. "Ah, what a piece of crap that man was!" I leaned forward. "Do you wanna hear a story about him!"
The young man and his wife nodded and sat back with their cups of coffee. In my small town, my ability to wax on enthusiastically about a story is legendary.
Krapper bought the house next door to us when I was a kid. He was a self-professed millionaire, a restauranteur in midtown Manhattan.
"The man's a ham-slinger," claimed my father. "He knows shit from shinola about food."
Krapper ingratiated his way through the neighborhood which consisted of other bullshit artists. My parents didn't socialize because they didn't share the same hobbies: alcoholism and wife-swapping. The neighbor on our other side was a crusty fellow who always talked about his penis and rung a bell non-stop for years (Click here for link to blog post). He and Krapper quickly struck up a friendship because they had one enemy in common: US. For our property was wedged between the two schmucks.
A year or two after Krapper bought the place, he had his property surveyed. In total, during the 17 years he was our neighbor, he surveyed the property five times. I could've sworn the land didn't move, but what the hell.
Angus's home was a cute three-bedroom cottage which was in tip-top shape. After a year or two, he told my father, "My daughter's a genius architect. I'm allowing her to do some improvements."
"Oh boy," muttered my father.
She was a genius all right: it only took her five years to destroy the foundation of the building, subjecting the basement to weekly floods, the bathroom to hinge off the house and invite ants and other insects to enter and take over all the rooms through newly rotting state-of-the-art skylights. She painted the exterior in splotchy blue. All that was missing for the complete in ramshackle look was a broken down sofa and frig on the veranda as well as a decaying car carriage in the driveway.
My father who worked military defense demanded a resume from Angus to know which buildings she worked on in New York City. "I don't want to die early," he told us kids. We were under strict orders never to enter those buildings, let alone walk near them.
Once a year Angus invited himself over for dinner, no doubt to unearth gossip about my family to share among the neighbors. This annual event came to an end when my father let the lawn mower idle for an hour or two to get rid of excess gas, something the shithead on the other side of us did constantly for years. According to the neighbors, it was an unconscionable act which merited their disdain.
"Art," yelled Angus from the fence which divided our property; his wife behind him. My parents sidled up. "My wife and I can't socialize with you guys anymore. You really pushed the envelope with letting that lawn mower idle for hours."
Then his wife, totally inebriated, said the most unwarranted, hurtful thing to my mother, "Judy, I can't stand you. No one likes you at all."
We didn't anticipate that remark. That was sheer malice. My mother treated these ingrates with utmost kindness, feeding them on their annual forage through our pantry. When my father saw my mother reel with a pained look on her face, he barely contained his anger. Instead, he told Krapper, "Fuck off, loser. It's war."
Out of this unpleasant situation, my father taught me a very important lesson. He said, "I don't need to do a thing to retaliate. Not a thing."
"Dad, just let me burn their house down and make it look like arson. They'll get double-fucked."
"No, Maura, you'll be doing them a favor for it's a death trap anyhow. Don't worry, people like that will find a way to fuck up their lives far better than we could. There'll be a time when they'll give you the chance. And then you'll have your revenge."
Dad was right. Several years later, when I lived in Manhattan, I took a client out for a quick bite at an Irish pub right near Grand Central Station; he had to take a train to DC afterwards. We walked into this nearly empty and dingy place and guess who greeted me?
Krapper said, "Would you like to eat here?"
"Angus Krapper," I said. "You're maitre d' here?"
I watched his eyebrow shoot into his hairline. "Oh, you're Stone."
Swiftly, I turned to my client, "I had no idea this place is a dive," and we double paced outta there.
That evening, I phoned my father. "Dad, I gotta check out his so-called restaurant, you know, the one which made his fortune."
For a decade or so, we never bothered to verify Angus' story for we had a life. But now, I couldn't resist.
Dad said, "It's called Angus. Real creative, right?"
I looked in the yellow pages. "The only Angus at the address he said is a candy store. I gotta check this out."
"Take pics," advised my father.
The following day, I went to Angus' candy store. It was a tiny store next to the Police Academy, filthy, cobwebby and pretty much decrepit. I peeked inside to see his wife who fit the same description passed out cold on top of the cash register.
My father enjoyed the pictures.
A week later, my childhood friend had an art gallery opening in Germantown. He invited ALL the neighbors except my parents.
"Should I go?" I asked my father.
"Go," he instructed. "You never know what may occur."
I brought a fellow who I dated on and off, Peter. We spent the afternoon walking around Manhattan prior to going to the gallery.
"Peter, I don't have the stomach to deal with these assholes," I told him. "Actually, I'm hungry. Can we stop off and get something to eat in this deli?" The deli was across the street from the gallery.
It was tiny and quite nice. I went to the meat counter and the man turned around, yelling, "Next!"
It was Angus Krapper. I couldn't believe that Dad was right on more than one count - the guy was a ham slicer! This time, Angus' eyebrow shot through his skull. "Stone, what the hell're you doing here?"
"Attending the art gallery opening across the street," and grabbed Peter to shove him out of the deli.
"I thought you're hungry," he said.
"I lost my appetite," I said while pushing him up the narrow flight to the gallery. Impatient, I yelled, "Hurry!"
Once inside, I spotted other neighbors surrounding my childhood friend and his family.
To no one in particular, I announced in a loud voice, "Guess who I spotted slicing ham in a deli?"
"Who," responded the syphilitic excuse of a woman, the mother of my childhood friend.
"The deli across the street."
As one, everyone scurried out of the gallery except for Peter and my childhood friend who rolled his eyes.
"Gee, thanks, Maura," he said. "You really made my first gallery opening a success."
"Trust me, this'll be one event they'll never forget!" I reassured him. "I'm sure they'll never stop talking about this!"
The three of us left the gallery and returned to the deli which was packed. Inside, Angus came up to me, put one arm around my shoulder and the other around my childhood friend's. "What do you think of this place?"
"Nice," responded my childhood friend.
"Do you think I should purchase it?" Angus asked in sotto voce.
"You mean with all your millions made from the candy store next door to the Police Academy?" I said in a loud voice for all the neighbors to hear.
Before he could respond, the deli owner ran out, "Angus! What the hell are you doing there! Get back behind the counter and cut some meat!"
That was the first nail in Angus' coffin: social ostracism. From that moment, none of the neighbors spoke to him.
But things got better.
Being a social outcast wasn't in Angus' game plan. Frustrated, he and his alkie wife decided to move to California where their genius architect daughter relocated. Hopefully, for the sake of the citizens there, she was no longer involved in that field.
Several weeks later, my father received a strange letter from our Mayor:
"Dear Mr. Stone:
It has come to our attention that your neighbor, Angus Krapper, has accidentally paid a third of your property taxes for 17 years. He would like to sell his place and would appreciate reimbursement of his monies. It would be a nice gesture on your part."
The first words emerging from my father's mouth were, "Holy shit!"
My mother said, "Well, that explains why he surveyed the property five times in seventeen years. The guy KNEW he paid our property taxes."
"And thought by virtue of paying our property taxes, he could take possession of a third of our land and sell it out from under us without our knowledge," Dad added.
He promptly wrote back to the Town Mayor, "Kindly extend to Mr. Krapper our appreciation of paying a third of our property taxes for seventeen years. According to the law, we're under no legal entitlement for reimbursement nor is he entitled to ownership of our land."
The following day, Dad saw Angus and cracked up. Of course, I told my childhood friend the story, who, in turn, told all the other neighbors. When Krapper sold his property, he did so with his tail between his legs.
The young couple seated in front of me thanked me for the story. Which initiated quite a few more.
In due time, my dear Readers, in due time!
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