Divided or Not, a House on Fire Cannot Stand
A guest post by Mark W. Bradley
Three months ago, I was one of those progressives who felt that preparing for a Democratic Party victory in the 2006 elections was about as practical a use of my time as, say, studying Mohican poetry, or learning to drive a Zamboni machine. The only excuse I can now offer for such careless shortsightedness is that somebody (either Karl Rove or myself) made a serious miscalculation when it came to those pesky voting machines. Nonetheless, whatever the cause of this astronomically unlikely outcome, it is now evident that an effective treatment for Neo-Conservatism (which medical science only recently identified as one of the lingering neurological symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), is finally within our grasp. But we must act quickly if we are to have any hope of curing “NC” in your lifetime.
To this end, I made a decision last Friday evening to sit down at my computer and compose a blogpost that would effectively add my cyber-voice to the growing chorus (or should I say cacophony?) of progressive pundits attempting to hold the Democrats’ congenitally cold feet to the fire. Unfortunately, just as I was in the process of composing a stunning oratorical masterpiece to be force-fed into the microphone of Senator Biden/Boxer/Feingold, I was interrupted by the sharp rapping of what sounded like at least six knuckles on my front door.
It turned out to be my ultra-reactionary neighbor who lives two doors down and across the street. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll henceforth refer to him only as “Dick C.”
“We gotta real problem on our hands here, Bradley,” he grumbled impatiently. “You need to come and have a look at this thing right away.”
“I’m in the middle of something important right now, Dick,” I told him. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“I think you better check this out now,” he demanded. “A few minutes from now, things might already be pretty well out of control…”
“Alright,” I said, as I slid my feet into a pair of house slippers, grabbed my overcoat, and headed out the door.
I followed Dick’s footsteps down the street to a rundown, semi-abandoned house on the corner.
“See that?” he queried with obvious disgust.
“You mean Mahmud’s house?” I asked. “What about it?”
“Let’s face it, that guy’s a real menace, and so’s his pile-o-shit house!” Dick’s agitation seemed to grow by the minute. “The roof’s a shambles, the place is crawling with disease-infested rats, and any day now the wiring’s bound to short out and cause a major fire that’ll probably wipe out the entire neighborhood.”
“What do you propose we do about it?” I inquired.
“Haven’t decided yet. But (*) and I just want to know you’re with us in case we need get serious about confronting this Ahmed character,” Dick replied.
“Mahmud, you mean,” I corrected him.
“Whatever,” he tossed off dismissively. The (*) Dick referred to was his brain-damaged sidekick who lived across the street from Mahmud, dressed in mustard-stained camouflage sweatpants, and regularly combed his front lawn with a combination Geiger counter and metal detector. We’ll call him “Donald R.”
“Well, I guess I couldn’t say for sure I was with you guys on anything, at least until I knew what you were planning to do,” I said, with uncharacteristic caution.
“You know, it might interest you to know we’ve already talked to a bunch of your bleeding heart buddies down the street, and they’re with us all the way on this thing,” Dick uttered confidently.
“Personally, I’d avoid doing anything rash, if I were you,” I said, as I impatiently shuffled my way back to my own house.
Around 1:30 in the morning, I was nudged from my fitful sleep by the faint squeal of approaching (but still fairly distant) sirens. As I rushed out into the frigid dry air, I became aware of a bright orange glow illuminating the night sky. Mahmud’s house appeared to be totally engulfed in thunderous, crackling flames. Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to catch a glimpse of Dick C.’s gardener (we’ll call him Jorge W.) hastily stashing a one-gallon can behind Dick’s garage. Moments later, the pair of them were standing uncomfortably beside me, noticeably out of breath.
“You know that little problem we were talking about earlier this evening?” Dick mumbled under his breath. “Well, looks like it’s a hell of a lot bigger problem now. Damn fire’s gone and spread itself all over the place. If you don’t do something to stop it soon, it’s likely to end up all the way down to your house.”
Even as he spoke these unsettling words, I realized he was probably right.
As quick as I could, I organized the rapidly awakening neighborhood into an impromptu bucket brigade. Meanwhile, my “bleeding heart” friends (I’ll call them “John K.”, “Chuck S.”, and “Joe B.”) took me aside and reminded me that the smart thing to do was to join them on the sidewalk across from the exploding cauldron of sparks and cinders, and do like they were doing - wringing their hands in distraught agony and warning others in the vicinity to stay clear of what was clearly an “unfortunate situation.”
Meanwhile, “Dick C.” and “Jorge W.” had taken it upon themselves to build an impressive firebreak around the charred and smoking remains of what had so recently been Mahmud’s house, a feat which they accomplished by painstakingly setting fire to eight of the surrounding residences. Curious onlookers who dared to inquire what the two were up to were brusquely told to “stay out of the way”, and “leave the god-damned firefighting to the professionals.”
Throwing caution to the wind, I ran back to my house, gathered up my garden hose, dragged it back over to the scene of the fire, screwed it onto the neighbor’s spigot, turned the water on, and aimed the nozzle’s stream at the building’s smoldering, teetering frame. Within a matter of seconds, the added weight of the water I was applying brought the entire structure down with a resounding crash.
Just then, the fire department arrived at last to extinguish the cataclysmic inferno. Once the smoke had finally cleared, preliminary estimates of the damage were found to be in excess of 12 million dollars (not to mention the loss of my own home). Yesterday afternoon, the fire marshal launched his formal enquiry into the cause of the fire. While each of my neighbors rendered him a slightly different version of events as they unfolded in the wee hours of Saturday morning, there was one thing they all agreed on - my hasty decision to pour water on the fire was undoubtedly the proximate cause of the building’s collapse. My attorney called me on my cell phone this morning to inform me that I have, to date, been named as a defendant in no fewer than 43 separate lawsuits. He also advised me that “Dick C.” has been seen circulating a petition that would prevent me, in perpetuity, from seeking to reside within a 25 mile radius of what is now commonly referred to as “ground zero”.
Needless to say, the momentous article I set out to write just four days ago is in a state of more or less permanent abeyance. As I’m currently residing on a public golf course, bathing in an irrigation canal, and living mostly on a diet of lizard eggs and hawthorn berries, I can’t say for sure when (if ever) I’ll have the chance to finish it…
Mark W. Bradley is a history teacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org