Sam In A Rage
Sam and I live in an older neighborhood with smaller houses built post WWII. Our
home is a smallish brick ranch much like all the other smallish brick ranch
houses in the neighborhood. But, it's exceptionally nicely proportioned with
flat roof lines and eyebrow windows that are in just the right place. It's in
the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie House. Well, I bet that was more than
you wanted to know, but I am an architectural historian and it just comes with
Sam and I bought our home together about four years ago. On the whole we have
been very happy with it and the neighborhood. But the houses are rather close
together, and some of our neighbors have lived in their homes since the fifties
and sixties. I'm sure that some of them aren't very happy having a gay couple
in their midst, but we have been reasonably well accepted by most and welcomed
warmly by many.
As I walked into the house this afternoon, I could hear Sam talking in the
"He's just a miserable old bastard. This is my home, well, mine and Aaron's. A
man's home is his castle, right? I should just mail him some ear plugs. I
swear, I think he just opens the window to see if he can hear anything. I bet
he has one of those old fashioned things, what are they called, you know with a
kind of scoop thing, oh yeah, an ear horn...."
About that time, Sam caught site of me leaning in the doorway with my arms
crossed and he startled. "Ummmm... I've got to go Joe, Aaron just got home.
Yeah, tonight at nine, see you then."
I didn't have to ask. Our nearest neighbor, a man in his fifties, works from
home and admittedly does seem to have exceptional hearing. His request to us
has been to keep the sound down prior to six o'clock, he doesn't mind if the
sound is up on the weekends or after six. Since Sam's working schedule is
erratic this has been an issue. Several times he has called to complain that
the music is too loud. Sam and I have disagreed on the solution to this
problem. My solution is to simply turn the music down during those hours and
close the windows on that side of the house. Sam objects to this solution and
claims that his music is meant to be played loudly. Turning it down ruins it
for him. His solution is to ignore Mr. Jenner. We went many rounds arguing
about this, and finally, I just told him flat out that we needed to agree to
disagree, but that since I have the tie breaking vote, the music needs to be
kept down. This decree did not sit well with Sam, but he had agreed to it. I
thought he had accepted it.
Sam hung up the phone and looked at me sheepishly. My expression must not have
been promising. "Hi, Aaron."
I waited for him to continue. He didn't.
"Did you have another call from Mr. Jenner today?"
Sam looked like he had something in his mouth which didn't taste good. "Yes."
"Did you have the volume above the level we agreed on?"
There was a long pause and then, "yes, I had it slightly above the level which
you insisted on."
I gave him a long measured look, letting him know that the defiance in his
answer had been noted.
"In that case, your sound system needs to stay off for the next week."
"Aaron!" He shouted in outrage.
"No, Sam. We talked about this, I know you weren't happy about it but you
agreed to abide by my decision. You didn't. Therefore, this is the penalty for
"I'd watch it if I were you, Sam."
"Because I'll get paddled? Frankly, I'd rather be."
"Sam, we're done here. If you're paddled it will be in addition to not instead
of. Now go cool off and let me get a start on dinner."
He went off for his tennis game with Joe at about 8:45. I thought it was
probably a good thing for him to do for a couple of reasons; it gave us a little
needed separation and hopefully an outlet for him to rid himself of some of his
The next evening I was late getting home. I had a meeting with the planning
commission and it went a little long. As soon as I had the door open, I was met
with an irate Sam.
"Look at this Aaron!" Sam was shaking a paper at me.
"Sam, please. Can I get in the door first? What in the world has you so
"That bastard Jenner has done it again."
"Sam, settle down. Done what?"
"The police left a notice; apparently we aren't allowed to leave the kayak
trailer in front of the house. There's some ordinance against it. It says 'a
neighbor' objected to it. No mystery there, it's that miserable old bastard
He watched me as I read the notice and then I handed it back to him. "Well, what
are we going to do?" he demanded.
I said as calmly as I could, "we're going to move the trailer to the back yard.
It will be a little inconvenient getting it out to load up, but we can deal
"That's it?" He asked outraged. "You're just going to keep on letting that jerk
ruin our lives?"
I definitely thought that was a bit strongly worded, but I really didn't want to
get into it again with him. I sighed, "Sam, can we just go eat our dinner and
then have some time enjoying each other? I'm hungry and tired and there isn't
anything we can do about this tonight."
He opened his mouth for a rebuttal, but then stopped and tried again. "Okay,
Aaron, sorry, I know you're tired. How was the meeting?"
I truly appreciated the effort that it had taken Sam to put the subject he was
so hot about to the side and to inquire about my day. Sam is, for the most
part, an exceptionally considerate partner. In fact, he is an exceptionally
considerate person. That was one reason I didn't understand his fierce objection
to occasionally lowering the volume when he played his music. If I had asked
him, I don't think he would have had a problem with it at all.
We ate dinner, but it was quiet and I'm not sure either of us enjoyed it much.
We then spent an evening alone together. That is, we were in the same room but
we were definitely not a couple.
I guess I should have seen it coming. I knew Sam was really worked up about the
neighbor problems we were having. In hindsight, Sam and I should have paid Mr.
Jenner a visit and talked things over with him. Misunderstandings occur when
there is too little real communication.
Sam's best friend, and one of his tennis buddies, is a guy named Joe. Joe is a
Brat of the first order. Believe it or not, Sam isn't. Oh, he can have his
moments, but on the Brat scale Sam would be about a two and Joe would be a nine
or a nine and a half. Joe works in a family business; a landscaping company.
They sell bags of mulch and landscaping rocks, that sort of thing, to walk-in
customers. Although, most of their work seems to be contract work.
The plan was likely concocted by Sam and Joe during some after tennis beer
drinking. I really can't imagine anyone coming up with such a plan cold sober.
Let's see, Sam had a neighbor he was angry with, and Joe had access to a truck.
And they both had a day off of work next week. That's a recipe for disaster
I think their basic idea was that if Mr. Jenner thought that we were problem
neighbors now, than he hadn't seen anything yet. And, I suppose Sam thought
too that after they were through, Mr. Jenner wouldn't complain about the little
The site I was greeted with upon arriving home the following Thursday was
nothing short of astonishing. Our home and yard was transformed. I assume that
most of what they had found were things removed from customers yards when Joe's
company had re-designed. There was a nothing short of huge satellite dish on
the roof. There was a faux wishing well in the front with a drop down bucket.
Oh, let's see, there were at least thirty pink flamingoes in various poses,
garden gnomes, several full sized deer and a large sculpture made from what
looked like old garden tools. I can't even begin to recall every item. There
were Christmas lights dripping from just about everything. The piece de
resistance was the group of gaudy beer signs, flashing neon light from several
windows. Most seemed to be on the side that faced Mr. Jenner's yard. Oh me; oh
There was a small group of neighbors grouped together on the sidewalk, pointing
and laughing. I found the 'decorators' in the kitchen drinking beer.
Sam looked at me as I walked into the kitchen. "Hey Aaron, do you want a
I gave him a wry look, and then headed for the drinks cupboard. "I think I
need something a little stronger tonight Sam." I poured my drink and then
asked, "so, what inspired you boys to decorate our yard like some kind of yard
Sam gave me a bit of a worried look. Joe knows something of the flavor of our
relationship, but nothing about the more concrete discipline aspects. I knew
Sam was worried that I was going to be angry. He needn't be.
"I ask because I think it's .....," I meanly paused and looked straight at Sam,
".....inspired by the devil probably, but still very innovative."
Joe spoke. "Oh good, Sam thought you were going to be mad." Joe winced, I
suspect because Sam had kicked him under the table.
"No, I'm not angry. Although, I do hope it all will be gone by Saturday
afternoon. I think the joke will have worn thin by then. Yes?"
"Yes, sir," Joe said. Sam gave him an incredulous look.
"What?" Joe asked him. "He kinda reminds me of my dad." And then his head
swiveled fast towards me and he looked at me wide eyed. "Except, I don't mean
you're old like my dad or anything...." he trailed off.
Sam nodded at him, straight faced, and leaning back on two legs of his chair
said, "Smooth, Joseph, really smooth."
And then Sam looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and nodded, "yes, Aaron, it
will be gone by Saturday afternoon."
Several neighbors, including Mr. Jenner, called to ask what the heck was going
on over here. I assured them it was just a little prank and would be cleaned up
by the weekend. I made dinner while Joe and Sam went back outside and played
with the neighborhood kids who were drawn to our yard as though it were a
beacon. I unplugged the beer signs, but other than that we just left
everything. I had thought that having to clean it up would be a bit of a
consequence, since it did represent a fair amount of work.
I once again had underestimated the ingenuity of Joe and Sam. They found a way
around that by hanging price tags on everything and putting up yard sale signs.
I have to hand it to them, ninety percent of the junk was gone by noon, and the
rest fit easily into the back of a pickup truck. I have little doubt that for
years to come we will be reminded of the day as we see bad yard art spread
throughout the neighborhood on a regular basis.
There was still something niggling at me. Sunday evening I asked Sam if we
"Surrrrrre, Aaaaaron." He strung the words out a little, as though he was a
little nervous. We both sat down on the couch.
"Sam, what I'm trying to understand is why does Mr. Jenner get such a big
reaction out of you?" I looked at him seriously. "I know you like your music
loud, but you don't actually listen to it at home during working hours very
much. If I had asked you to play it a little lower, would you have minded?"
"Ummm, no I don't think that I would have. But Mr. Jenner isn't you; he's a
neighbor." The way he said neighbor was peculiar, there seemed to be a bit of
loathing in it. Which isn't something I would think that Sam even knew how to
do. It simply isn't a part of his character.
A thought occurred to me. "Sam, have you ever had any problems before with a
neighbor? I don't mean here necessarily, but maybe sometime...... ". I trailed
off because Sam was sitting very still, his face had gone a bit pale, and he was
sort of looking at the wall like his mind was somewhere else.
"Well, I don't know if it's related. I don't THINK it's related, but ...."
Whatever it was, he didn't seem to want to say it.
Sam looked at me. "It's just when I was a freshman at college, I went into a
gay club. I had a fake ID. I had never been there before, and I wasn't out much
at all. Nobody at home knew I was gay. I saw a neighbor of my parents there.
We didn't speak, I wasn't even sure that he had seen me..... but a couple of
days later I got a call from my mom. She hadn't believed him when he had told
her, but, I guess she thought she'd ask anyway. Well, .... I told her it was
true that I had been there. She sort of took a few minutes to absorb all the
implications of that. And ..
... well it was pretty bad."
"Was she angry?" I asked softly.
"No, it was more like she was hurt. She was mostly hurt that I hadn't told her I
was gay. She hardly even knew this guy. ..... I was going to tell them, but I
wanted to do it my own way; and when I could be there, not over the damn
telephone." Sam's eyes filled with tears from the memory.
We sat in silence for a few minutes and then he asked, "Do you think that's a
part of this whole thing with Mr. Jenner?"
"I don't know Sam, but I did wonder if you had any bad experiences with
neighbors. Most things don't get such a reaction out of you as this did."
We sat there awhile longer; I put my hand over his and hung on.
After a bit, Sam turned to me with the corners of his mouth twitching and a
twinkle in his eye. "You know Aaron, you ARE a dead ringer for Joe's dad. I
never realized that before ....."
Now this was pure provocation, Joe's dad had a large beer-belly and had lost
most of his hair, besides being about fifteen years older than I am.
"You think so, do you?" I said in mock outrage. Sam started giggling.
"Well, I think you need a bit of correction for that observation Mr. Sawyer.
And I think it is my duty to provide that correction in the form of a
"You'll have to catch me first!" And he was off, and I was on the chase. And
it felt great.