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Yes, it's true. I admit that we've always known about the weirdness in our family. But in our own defense I'd have to say that we keep it pretty well hidden--except for. . .well, except for when it comes to Uncle Sal.

Uncle Sal is a member of the mercantile class. He's very smart and knows everything there is to know about economics. I think the thing that confuses people most about Uncle is that he's got so much money. He really tries to do the right thing as a man of great wealth, but he doesn't always carry himself as others sometimes expect him to, which I guess is another way of saying he's kind of a sloppy dresser. There's that, and of course the big wart on the end of his nose.

But you know, I don't think it's right to judge a person on how they look. Besides, Uncle lives in the nicest house on his street--and the biggest. He keeps the yard neat and clean, plus there's a nice big Dutch windmill on his lawn that he likes to climb, which he doesn't do so much any more since the day he fell off and broke his back.

Yet whatever else people might say about him, Uncle Sal is a wonderful family man, and yes, he's very big on family values. We all got used to it though, hearing him preach over it day after day. . .until it got so bad for a while there with his sixth wife that we had to beg him to stop.

Then came the day that changed our lives forever--September 10, 2001. Uncle had decided to unwind and go on vacation. He packed Auntie, all the kid cousins and their Collie pup into the big Navigator and drove happily away. What he hadn't realize was that in all the excitement he'd forgotten to close the upstairs windows and lock the front door to the house. This was truly unfortunate, because the next day while lounging on the beach, Uncle Sal got a call from the neighbors telling him that the house had been ransacked.

Well of course he came rushing back home, screaming and yelling.

"Who did this?" he roared. "It was those damn Churchgoers down at the other end of the street, wasn't it?"

"Well dear, you did forget. . ."

"Don't tell me what I forgot! Someone's going to pay for this, and I don't really care who it is! I'm mad as hell and. . ."

And the rest is history. Uncle flew down the street in an unbridled rage, shaking his fist and making ready to kick the first stray dog that crossed his path.

"Johnson.! Get your butt out here!" Uncle bellowed as he parked himself in front of the next biggest house in the neighborhood.

"Look, Sal. . ."

"Don't look Sal me!" he exploded further with his cheeks puffing out and his beady eyes roving the scene. "Round up the rest of the neighbors! We're going after these s.o.b.'s!"

"How. . .? If I might ask. What do you plan on doing?"

"We're going to start dumping all our garbage on those scalawags’ lawns, so start saving up!"

"Sal, that won't do any good. They'll just start dumping their garbage on our lawns."

"No they won't. We'll be keeping them so busy cleaning up garbage, they won't have time to come up here and bother us ever again!"

And so on a level known only to a select few, something called the "Battle against Fear and Intimidation" was born.

"Well, if you say so, but this better work, Sal, because if it doesn't. . ."

"Johnson, do I look that stupid? Of course it'll work. Now start getting the word out. You take the south side of the street and I'll take our side. Okay, let's move it!

Uncle Sal's plan did seem to be going pretty well at first.

"You see, Johnson?" Uncle said with a sneer. "We're teaching those Churchgoers a lesson they'll never forget. You just leave everything to me. . ."

But sadly, it was then that Uncle got reckless.

". . .including," Uncle went on with a flourish, "some unfinished business with that miserable Wretch Across the Tracks, who also needs attending to."

"Sal, don't you think. . .?"

"Johnson, you doubted me once, and I'm warning you. Don't ever do it again."

So while Uncle Sal and his neighbors turned their attention--and their garbage--to the Wretch Across the Tracks, the Churchgoers had begun growing houseplants indoors where Uncle couldn't see them. These plants were soon fetching thousands of dollars on the black market, thus helping the Churchgoers build up a powerful war chest.

Then too, Uncle and his Neighborhood Coalition may have forgotten--not that they weren't reminded several times--that the Wretch for many years had been holding together a fragile coalition of his own. So in driving the Wretch out of town, Uncle Sal created an abhorrent power vacuum, making the area across the tracks a worse neighborhood and a greater threat to Uncle Sal and his neighbors than it had ever been before.

"Look, Sal. . ."

"Wha-a-a-at? Okay, Johnson," Uncle said after his normal color had started to return--some four and a half years later. "Since day one you've been on the edge of your seat trying to tell me something. What is it, for crying out loud? If you got something to say, go ahead. . .get it off your chest."

"Look, Sal," said his exasperated neighbor while wiping splashes of sour milk from his face, "Next time, just try locking up the house before you leave, okay?"


------
Fritzwilliam


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