Wednesday, April 12, 2006


It was early 1977, and my friend Mel was getting ready to move away.

Mel was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Sweat City in 1974, there to begin my career at the Great Corporate Salt Mine. He, like I, worked in Baytown, at a research facility set in the fringes of a monstrous oil refinery and chemical plant. He, like I, was a Jew from the Northeast, adrift in this land of Texans.

It was, in the fullness of time, Mel who pulled the strings that led to my meeting She Who Must Be Obeyed. His girlfriend had a friend who had a Cute Roommate, you see...and one thing led to another. I owe Mel big-time for the favor, and it’s a debt I will never be able to repay.

But put all this aside for the moment. Mel lived in an apartment complex in what was then considered West Houston - a hellacious commute to Baytown, in fact even more hellacious than my own. And it was the fashion, back in those days, to have Asshole Neighbors.

You may have already heard about some of the Asshole Neighbors SWMBO and I had, but Mel’s neighbors were not mere Assholes. They were Gaping Assholes. A couple of Brokeback Cowboy types, back before anyone had any idea what Brokeback meant. [To be honest, neither Mel nor I had any idea what these boys’ Sexual Proclivities were, but I just liked the sound of “Brokeback Cowboy types.”]

Mel didn’t care that these clowns would get loaded every other night and play twangy Country Music at top volume, without regard to the lateness of the hour. But what Mel did care about was their propensity for Cockeyed Parking. It’s difficult, you see, to align one’s car in a narrowish Apartment Parking Space when one is four or five sheets to the wind. And thus Mel would, as often as not, be unable to use his assigned space.

Repeated polite requests bore no fruit. More strongly-worded demands were ignored.

All of this became inconsequential to Mel when he landed a job in Washington, D.C. with the Department of Energy. Fuck the stupid cowboys, he thought. I’m outta here.

I came over to help Mel pack. As we began to clean the Miscellaneous Crap out of his freezer, what should we happen upon but ten pounds of frozen Gulf shrimp? Shrimp that had been sitting in there for months. No way to consume it - it was probably too old to eat anyway, one of those impulse purchases from one of the ubiquitous vendors parked alongside I-10.

An evil gleam lit Mel’s eyes...and I knew at once what Fateful Purpose those shrimp would serve.

We thawed them out in Mel’s sink and hauled them out to the parking lot. Sure enough, the Ambiguously Gay Redneck Duo had pulled their car into their space in the usual sloppy fashion, blocking Mel out. Again.

We popped the hubcaps off the four wheels - the Cowboys were no doubt in their Nightly Stupor by now - and packed each one with several pounds of dripping, soggy raw shrimp, while my visiting brother (“The Other Elisson”) kept an eye out for passersby.

There were a few pounds of shrimp left, and that’s when Mel realized that the Bumpkin Geniuses generally left their car unlocked with the keys in the ignition. [Stupid? Sure, but at least it made it easier to find the keys when trying to drive while lit.] And thus it was that the remaining shrimp ended up shoved underneath the front seat of the car, where it would not be noticed for a day or two...and possibly not discovered for several days after that.

Mel wasn’t a total bastard. Instead of simply starting the car and locking the keys inside with the engine running, he locked the car and flung the keys up onto the roof of the carport.

We never found out the results of our Merry Prank. Mel moved away, and I had no desire or reason to return to the scene of the crime. I suspect that the Cowboy Clowns had to sell that car...for scrap value...after boiling it first.

Yes, indeedy: Revenge is a dish best served with Cocktail Sauce.

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