For Want of a Nail

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“Never smarten up a chump. And I don’t know how you were raised, but revenge is good. The object is to level the playing field until it tilts completely over into your lap.” Welcome Linden Fraley III

Evening and a slight chill was in the air. Ed lounged on his front porch cadging a smoke because Maxine wouldn’t allow him to stink up the air inside their home. In his opinion, she took an overly zealous stance on the issue now that the renovation of their Victorian was complete. On the other hand, Ed enjoyed standing at the front entry way admiring all he had accomplished, gazing out at his neighborhood which had turned into a gentrified destination that had been written up by every upscale magazine on the West Coast and a number in the East. He patted himself on the back. Boy, did I buy at the right time.

Ed surveyed his property down to the sidewalk where his eyes landed on the acacia tree, his black acacia, planted at the foot of the drive. One thing about Victorians, he thought, they didn’t provide much of a front yard. He was proud of that acacia, a tangible expression of his ability to take charge and direct events toward the outcome he wanted. A take charge kind of guy, that’s what I am. Several years ago he submitted plans to the city and paid a contractor to install a garage and run a driveway, because that’s another thing Victorians lacked: off street parking.

The plans called for the acacia to remain. But when he saw the work in progress, Ed decided he did not like the angle of approach to the driveway, so he slipped the city building inspector a hundred dollar bill to offset the curb cut by five feet. Ed got his way.

Absently, without giving it much consideration at all, Ed pulled out his cell phone and punched the memory speed dial. It rang twice before it was answered. “Department of Parking and Traffic, officer Jones.”

“Yes, I have a vehicle blocking my driveway. I wonder if you would send someone to ticket and have it towed?”

“Certainly sir. What is the exact address?” Ed gave his name and phone number in case they needed to contact him.

Although his SUV was not hemmed in and he could easily have driven around the sedan, nor did he have to go anywhere, the offending vehicle was three feet inside Ed’s curb cut. He had to teach the sedan driver a lesson, even if the car was not actually blocking his driveway.

The acacia was 70 feet tall and its circumference so large that Ed could not wrap his arms around the trunk. The tree epitomized his strength and he did not want it cut down even if its roots upraised several squares of sidewalk in addition to making a direct approach to the driveway impossible.

After Ed moved the curb cut, he painted the sloping cement wings red on either side where curb and pavement joined. For good measure, he stenciled the words “Driveway Entrance” on the pavement in the street with white letters on a red background and saw to it that anyone who parked there was immediately removed.

Satisfied with himself and the cigarette finished, Ed decided to go inside rather than wait for the traffic cop to arrive. It often took them nearly an hour to get there and frequently the scofflaw was able to get away. It irritated Ed when that happened. He had made similar calls many times over the years and considered himself a one-man community activist, a philanthropist earning money in fines and violations for the city’s all too empty coffers.

Little more than an hour later someone rang his doorbell.

Ed flipped the light switch and peered through the front window. He saw a slightly built, middle aged man in blue jeans and green polo shirt standing on his porch. Ed’s brilliantly red Irish setter named Honey wagged her tail and leaped out to lap at the hand of the stranger when the front door opened.
“Can I help you?”

“Well, yeah. I parked out front a couple hours ago. Went to a movie. Did you have a car towed from out front tonight by chance?”

“A black car? Yah. You were half way in my driveway.”

“Well, no, I, uh, well, do you have a number for me to call? I mean, I don’t know who to call to get my car back.”

“Hell no, I don’t have a number. The police. Call the police. They’ll tell you where your car is.”
The man pulled a piece of paper, a receipt it looked like, from one pocket and a silver Cross pen from the other. He glanced up at the address on the transom, began to write. “And what’s your name?”

Ed was dumbfounded by this brazen behavior. But, in the face of this bold inquiry, he parked in my goddam driveway fer crissakes, Ed smirked and laughed as he responded, so it came out slurred, sounded like he said, “Head.”

“How do you spell that? H – E?”

“E – D. Ed. Just Ed.”

“Last name?”

Ed could not believe this guy’s gall, but he answered and the man spelled it out as well. It didn’t matter anyway, Ed had already given his name to the police dispatcher. “Look,” he said, “I don’t have time to fuck around with you,” and he pulled Honey back by the collar and slammed the door. The stranger left.

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