The Joy of Semi-Licit Destruction

As I was walking to get a sandwich for lunch, I saw a cracked-open lighter lying on the sidewalk – the long kind, like you use for a barbecue or fireplace. I wondered why someone would have done that, and a block later was still enveloped in my own fantasies of somehow saving the day (maybe it’s cold or something?), despite people’s fretful cautions, by using a jackknife (but which one?!) to incise my party’s last lighter at both ends, get the butane out with minimal spillage, and get the life-saving fire started…

My reverie was interrupted by the sight of a small, low cloud of smoke on a sidestreet. It was coming from an apartment building’s knee-high keep-off-the-grass hedgerow; it looked like the mulch was smoldering somewhat vigorously. A guy, of grad student age and mien, was alternating between desultorily poking at the smokier spots with his foot and looking at his cell phone.

Desi (approaching): Is everything all right?
Guy: Uh, this seems to be kind of on fire.
Desi: Yeah, looka that, that one bush is actually burning! Well, with the mulch (starting to edge the smoldering mulch onto the sidewalk with a shoe corner) the smolder travels underneath, you see, (stepping into hedge to kick more lustily and effectively) you gotta get the whole layer away. (Really ripping into it now – almost no mulch remains – kicking the burning bush to knock the burning parts off)
Old Lady Walking By: That’s beautiful.
Desi: Huh?
Old Lady: (nods head toward flowerbed further back in yard)
Desi: Oh, aren’t they lovely? I don’t work here though – we just noticed this mulch was smoldering, so we were getting it onto the concrete.
Old Lady (walking off): Well, you’ve done a good deed, young man!

The Guy left after a bit too, and I cleaned up the last little bits. After watching the remains of the mulchbed for a minute or two for any other signs of smoke, I decided to go a half-block further, order my sandwich, and check again for smoke when I’d placed the order. Just at that moment, I heard sirens in the distance. Fearing cops, I started to walk away at a normal pace, trying not to look back or fixate too much on the horizon.

The sirens passed me – they belonged to a firetruck – and I could hear them turn the corner and stop where I had been standing. At this point, I began to regret fleeing the scene, on the theory that I might be able to tell them something useful. So I went back.

Desi: That mulch was just burning.
Surly Boston Fireman: That’s what we’re here for.
Desi: I sort of kicked it onto the sidewalk.
S.B.F.: (nods coldly)
Desi: (nods and walks away)

Fifteen minutes later, sandwich in hand, I walked back by. The firemen were still there, drinking coffee and keeping an eye on the mulch.

11 Responses to “The Joy of Semi-Licit Destruction”

  1. cromulent Says:

    Nicely done.

  2. Ezra Cooper Says:

    “Not fixating too much on the horizon” sounds like the kind of trick you and I both must’ve picked up & put into our bag of skillz known as “How Not To Get Jumped.” I think the same technique applies for avoiding hoods as well as cops.

  3. Ezra Cooper Says:

    Also, mulchwatching seems a soothing pastime.

  4. Desultor Says:

    I never noticed that – it’s the same technique! And a very similar feeling of potential victimization. There is a subtle difference, though, as I walk straight past either one. I think that with cops I try to feel myself as a citizen about his productive business, too busy and caught-up to worry about them. With thugs, I guess I try to ramp up the stoicism. Not to make a show of not giving a fuck, but truly not to give a fuck.

  5. Tityrus Plex Says:

    Ummm…you work in computers. You’re white. You live in motherfucking Cambridge, MA, where the only “ethnics” are trucked in on scholarship by the local university, or where they clean the dormrooms of the same university. THE COPS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU!!! GET OVER YOURSELF!!!

  6. Tityrus Plex Says:

    In fact, any crime a whiteboy like yo’self could get up to would only grease the wheels of the court machinery…pay for the bailiffs that would be standing guard over the pipe-hittin’ niggaz in courtrooms downstairs, the real killaz, the ones that can’t cop a plea to marijuana possession or whatever other crime you jack off to in yo’ head. Even when you break the laws, you a “productive” citizen, douchebag! Embrace your small cock and your soulless white bourgeois probationary existence!!!

  7. Desultor Says:

    I may know my advantages better than even you do. And you understand perfectly well why I hate intercourse with cops.

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