You're in the back seat of a taxi as it motors into the Sack.
It's early in the morning so the cul-de-sac is quiet. Small trees line the sides of the street, one for each of the modest dwellings. You observe that most homes are decently kept and seem in good repair. Discarded bicycles and a smattering of errant toys make it easy to deduce where Sack kids reside.
On the left side of the street, before the taxi enters the Sack's centre circle, your attention is abruptly taken by Burning Manor's front yard. It's dotted with a haphazard collection of lawn ornaments and other doohickeys. You wonder, and rightly so, about the madness that lies beneath this bold display of creative landscaping.
Burning Manor, however, fades from view as the taxi moves in a counter-clockwise direction through the circle. The homes are a bit larger now and most have garages. You notice the immaculate lawn and gardens at Big Doug's house. You wonder now about the madness beneath such a bold display of landscaping precision.
As the taxi maneuvers further into the circle, your attention is drawn sharply to a house with a parched yellowish lawn. The attached driveway is covered by a sand-like substance that continues onto the pavement in front of the house. The porch stairs are littered with toys and discarded tools.
Before you have time to wonder about the madness that must lie beyond the facade of this suburban home, the taxi comes to a stop. You have arrived, it seems, at your destination.
Welcome to the Sack home of the illustrious Bitterman clan.
***Today's entry reflects your agent's understanding of how the exterior of the Bitterman home became a shambles.
Over the last seven years, chaos has descended on the Bitterman home in a slow, progressive fashion. Sack residents are in unanimous agreement that it began when Maxwell, Britney Bitterman's beau, crossed its threshold for the first time.
Maxwell, of course, should be no stranger to past readers of your agent's scribblings. He has been oft-described here as a dentally challenged rounder and a wheeler and dealer in items of questionable value. On a more positive note, he has also been acknowledged as the best candle pin bowler on the Atlantic seaboard and the most outstanding interior painter east of Montreal.
Of course, the latter observations are based entirely on Maxwell's self-proclamations.
|Mr. Bitterman's patience.|
It doesn't take an economist to figure out that Mr. Bitterman, still smarting from the departure of Mrs. Bitterman from the family home (another story indeed), has become a permanent benefactor to Britney and her man, Maxwell.
My pal, Oscar continues to enjoy a driveway relationship with Mr. Bitterman. This means that the two men only interact with each other when both are entering or exiting their vehicles at the same time. Mr. Bitterman uses these conversations as a personal confessional about the trials and tribulations behind his front door. Mostly, this involves lengthy tirades about Maxwell.
According to Oscar, Mr. Bitterman commanded that Maxwell would be solely responsible for yard work, garbage removal and the elimination of the debris field of strewn toys often stretching well beyond the boundaries of the Bitterman property. The toys belong to Hekyl and Jekyl, the two eldest lads born from Maxwell's union with Britney.
|Hanging out at the Bitterman home|
Mr. Bitterman's demand was based on the idea that if Maxwell wasn't going to be gainfully employed elsewhere, he should at least have his arse in gear around the house.
***Maxwell's new responsibilities also included the quick removal of his battered 1983 Cutlass Supreme from the Bitterman driveway. Inoperable, it had been parked there for several years, waiting for a replacement thingamajig that never quite materialized.
The Cutlass Supreme, of course, has been a fixture in the Sack for some time. Big Doug says its presence has been responsible, more so than the economy, for a recent decline in Sack property values. I remain doubtful about this.
|Not the real car, but close.|
***While Maxwell can be fairly assessed as a ne'er-do-well, one couldn't say that he is not a man of his word. With Mr. Bitterman’s frustrated demands ringing in his ears, he leaped into action. He began by addressing the conundrum of the 1983 Cutlass Supreme.
Maxwell, of course, could not bear to simply tow the vehicle away. According to my other pal, Weed (the Sack's main correspondent on what's going on between Maxwell's ears), he intended to fix the vehicle. From there, he would either keep it for his own use, or peddle it for one of multiple, high-priced offers he claimed to have for its services.
Repairing the vehicle necessitated the acquisition of the illusive thingamajig, as well as some assistance from Maxwell's notorious cousin, Doug "Dougie" Duggan. Through Dougie's contacts in the underground world of bartered car parts, a somewhat new thingamajig was obtained. All that remained was the installation of it.
This is where things went downhill quickly.
***Despite the combined, self-lauded mechanical skills of both Maxwell and his cousin, Dougie, the new thingamajig failed to enliven the 1983 Cutlass Supreme. Sack residents enjoyed an entire Saturday with the tantalizing sound of an engine that coughed and sputtered before returning to its slumber. Since Dougie's services were required elsewhere, Maxwell continued the task on his own as dusk descended on the Sack.
|The guy Maxwell should've hired.|
This accounts for the sand-like substance you observed when your taxi meandered into the Sack.
***The tortured grass at the Bitterman home was the consequence of an attempt to fertilize the lawn. In short, on the weekend following the aborted vehicle repair, Maxwell burned the living crap out of it.
For some Sack residents, fertilizing one's lawn involves the use of a material approved under the old town’s strict, yet loosely-enforced environmental bylaw. Others, confused by the law, elect to let nature simply take its course. A few people couldn’t be bothered either way.
Maxwell, however, came up with his own unique approach to this complex issue of lawn maintenance.
Through his network of nefarious "cousins", Maxwell obtained a fertilizer that some believe originated in Chernobyl. Following the policy that "more is always better", he spread copious amounts of the stuff across the otherwise healthy front lawn of the Bitterman home.
By the following day, the front lawn of the Bitterman home resembled a drought-stricken prairie scene.
***Persistence is a good quality in the measure of any man. No one can say that Maxwell is lacking in this area. He continued in his role as the caretaker of the Bitterman property.
Since Mr. Bitterman had decried the mess of Hekyl and Jekyl's toys, Maxwell took it upon himself to address the issue on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this did not involve instructing his boys to pick up after themselves. Instead, Sack residents have been amused by a new evening ritual. Around dusk, Maxwell roams the Bitterman yard and surrounding lawns, as well as the Sack's centre circle. He collects his son's playthings and, drawing upon his ample skill as a champion candle pin bowler, tosses them onto the porch stairs. When his nightly task is complete, the porch stairs appear ready for a hastily arranged rummage sale, rather than an entry into the Bitterman homestead.
In the morning, Hekyl and Jekyl simply play their way out of the house.
Of course, the children's toys are not the only items on the porch stairs of the Bitterman home. As a result of Maxwell's unique, "use and drop" approach when using tools and other hardware, Hekyl and Jekyl quickly claimed the implements as toys. Oscar reports that 6 year-old Jekyl was found in the Sack's centre circle, trying to use a cordless drill on a defenseless tree. Weed tells me that he was forced to disarm the younger Hekyl from a ball peen hammer. Apparently, the boy was in the midst of sculpting one of the ornamental rocks in the circle.
|Sack trees before the winds arrived.|
Maxwell has since made a small dent in the collection of toys and tools on the front steps. Hekyl and Jekyl refuse to venture outside when there's a chill in the air. This likely accounts for more toys going in, rather than out of the house.
Many of the tools have disappeared. Apparently, Big Doug told Maxwell he'd kick his arse if he saw any power tools lying around, especially if Hekyl and Jekyl decided to use them next door on his property.
Mr. Bitterman blew another gasket after Maxwell's lawn fertilizing escapade. Sack observers privately wonder about how many gaskets the man has left. He ordered Maxwell to repair the mess. This involved the complete removal of the damaged sod, a truckload of top soil and a load of replacement sod. To avert the chance that Maxwell might arrange for the needed materials from a wayward cousin, Mr. Bitterman was forced to purchase these items himself.
Maxwell got off to a slow start in providing the labour for this task. It took him several weeks to remove the burnt lawn. A further week passed with a small mountain of top soil in the yard. Hekyl and Jekyl delighted in this. They spent the entire week digging and spreading the soil everywhere except where it was required. After a rainstorm turned the soil into a mud pile, Maxwell was finally forced to remove the pickle from his posterior.
By the first of October, the new lawn was finally installed. Apparently, Mr. Bitterman forcefully reminded Maxwell that it doesn't need to be fertilized this year.
The massive oil slick on the Bitterman driveway was another matter.
The kitty litter used to absorb the goop was shoveled into garbage bags and then taken away by the old town's waste management brigade. The remaining mess was sprayed with a garden hose. Presumably, it eventually found its way into the sewer. Maxwell completed these tasks under the watchful eye of Mr. Bitterman.
Sack environmentalists remain appalled.
A large, circular dark stain remains on the Bitterman driveway. It's easy to see now that Maxwell's 1983 Cutlass Supreme is gone. He arranged for it to be towed away after the repair fiasco. Apparently, on the day after the oil spill, Mr. Bitterman had implied that either Maxwell or the vehicle would need to leave his property before darkness fell.
Maxwell tells Weed that the wrecking yard (where, naturally, one of his cousins is employed) is simply holding the vehicle for him until better times descend upon him. He has no doubt that his treasured car will grace the old town's streets once again.
|Hope springs eternal.|
Nevertheless, when the sun shines in just the right direction, it's possible to observe a rainbow sheen on the surface the Bitterman driveway. Perhaps this is also a symbol of hope and a reminder about the inevitability of positive change.