By Mort Laitner
Billy Hamas was my cross to bear. He was a major thorn in my butt. Not a small prickly rose bush thorn but a butcher-knife sized agave spike.
Ever since he moved into the neighborhood, he tried to make my life miserable and sometimes he succeeded.
He placed broken Coke bottle shards on my stoop, knowing I walked barefoot to retrieve the Daily News. As I pulled three slivers of glass from the soles of my feet, I cursed him and swore revenge.
But he continued to scream filthy words at my family as they walked down the boulevard.
He continued peeing in my flower bed and uprooting my carrots.
Then on the Fourth, he shot bottle rockets at my sister—aiming for her eyes.
I warned him on many occasions, “Billy, you gotta stop messing with me. You’re pushing my buttons way too hard. I’m much bigger then you. I can break you into little pieces. I’m smarter than you’ll ever be. My switch blade is longer and sharper than your puny stiletto. Don’t mess with me or my family or you’ll end up in the hospital.”
Billy sneered his disrespect. But he dared not talk or look me in the eyes. The last time he did, I broke his nose.
Now I hiked the snaking path up this Oregon mountain, wondering if Billy was alive. I remembered the wails of the police cars as they raced toward his body. How the officers jumped out of their squad cars with guns drawn. Pivoting in all directions, looking for a perp. As one cop examined Billy’s body, the other radioed for the paramedics.
From the rooftop I heard the ambulance arrive. I dared not look to see if his head would be covered by a white sheet.
I wiped his blood off my blade and onto my blue jeans. The same pair of pants I wore as I drove across the country.
I headed up toward Rattler Butte, as Douglas firs stood at attention by my side.
I observed white mushrooms growing out of the trunks of the fallen. These dead trees reached across the forrest like witches’ fingers covered in dripping velvet moss.
As I watched as sunlight break through the tree-lined canopy, a leaf fluttered to the forest floor. In that instance, I knew that my blade had stopped the beating of Billy’s sneering heart.
My burden had been lifted. My thorn surgically removed.
- Follow Mort at Mortlaitner.com, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @LaitnerMort