Hostages, and Dating in the Suburbs:
Welcome to My World
by Sherry Gray
Today was the last straw. I am under attack by the lawn police.
Masquerading as a homeowner’s association, these nazis patrol the streets of my well-manicured concentration camp like killer whales circling a wounded seal, playing gleefully with their intended target before consuming their prey in one nasty toothful gulp.
They demand that I pay through the nose for the privilege of having my home scrutinized and my box papered with all manner of letters.
I bought a HUD home. Everything is wrong with it. Everything. This entire development was built out of corrugated cardboard and wallpaper paste, smack on top of a swamp. My house sat empty for 18 months, decaying, while the HOA did squat. Evidently it was not as vitally important that a home sit in the neighborhood with the gate sagging and the lawn non-existent as it is for me to turn my basketball hoop to face my house.
One of my neighbors got drunk and took himself hostage with a steak knife. I am not making this up. He locked himself in the bedroom and called the police, telling them he had a knife and wasn’t afraid to use it (anybody remember Richard Pryor in Blazing Saddles?) When I arrived home, there was a paddy wagon, an EMT vehicle, and two police cars down the street. His wife was outside chewing her nails.
Half an hour later, there were seventeen (I counted) assorted police vehicles. They called out the entire SWAT team to deal with this loser. They blocked off the street for hours. Domino’s had a record day in Lake Mary, we all picnicked on the lawn, waiting for something to happen. Oddly, the news did not show up, but one of my neighbors filmed the whole standoff, just in case the National Enquirer was interested.
I was worried about his kids; there was no sign of them. The police would not allow us down there (in case of gunfire) and an hour passed before someone showed up who knew that the kids were not in the house, but around the corner with a friend.
So, here we are, on the lawn, wondering if he’s got a knife to his son’s throat, the guy across the street filming the whole mess, and yet another SWAT guy pulls up. He has to park in my driveway, there simply isn’t any other room. He’s very serious as he straps on this bandolito gunbelt and pulls a grenade launcher or something out of his Range Rover. He’s wearing one of those black shirts with POLICE stenciled on the back. I tell him that as far as I know, yes, the guy’s a loon, and no, he doesn’t have a gun... as far as I know. His trunk was full of assorted weapons it looked like a scene from a Schwarzenegger movie.
A ex-neighbor pulls up, drawn by all the excitement. She’s single and fairly attractive, and immediately begins a blatant come-on to the SWAT guy shouldering the bazooka. “I love a man in uniform,” she bats fetchingly.
I wonder if John got that on tape. I smack her. “Down girl,” I say, “the man has a gun.”
“I know,” she replies, “I can see the bulge.”
I can see where this is going, so I say, “Well, he is kinda cute.” Before the standoff ends, she has collected four phone numbers and lined up two dates. That girl really knows how to work a crowd.
So now the SWAT team has all arrived, the pizza is here, and Katie is making the rounds. Most of the neighborhood has turned out for the festivities. Someone has popped popcorn for the kids and there is a pool going on what time he will give himself up. We all know it’s a cry for attention, and unless the cops shoot him accidentally, he’ll just give up. The last time he got drunk he decided to walk to New York. Hell, I’d have given him a ride.
There are SWAT guys on the roof of his immediate neighbor. Snipers. There are SWAT guys in the yard behind his. There are SWAT guys in the bushes in his front yard, on both sides. A steak knife is a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. There are SWAT guys on his porch, about six of them, in full riot gear, complete with those crowd control shields and bulletproof vests. They storm the front door. It’s not locked. Two minutes later, he walks out cuffed, and Frank wins the pool.
His wife rushes to the police station to bail him out. Imagine. He’s on disability anyway, doesn’t work and still gets a check. I’d leave him there and ask if they can keep him longer. He’s home the next day.
My HOA is planning to sue me. I don’t pay my dues. I won’t move the basketball hoop. I painted my house GASP pink and white. They say I am bringing down the property values.
Copyright © 2006 by Sherry Smith Gray