Monday, September 12, 2011


Walked down my suburban street, looking for suspicious activity. The government warned about possible terror threats, and I believed them. The government wouldn't lie about something so dangerous. Especially on 9/11: Year 10. That would be callous. Manipulative. Our crusade can't afford such distractions. So I kept my eyes peeled.

Most homes complied with the patriotic code. Flags at half-staff. Star spangled ribbon magnets on SUVs and minivans. One home's front door was open. I saw two young kids watching the Twin Towers burn and collapse over and over again.

Good. They probably weren't born when Freedom fell under attack, so drilling those images into their tender minds is important. When they turn 18 and join the military, they'll know what they're avenging.

Then I came to the Trouble House. I never liked this place. I don't like the way they mow their lawn. I don't like their curtains. I don't like that boat in their driveway. They never use it. It just sits there.

Maybe they're waiting for a flood. Smart move, but they'll probably let the rest of us drown. Laugh between swigs of imported beer as we claw at the boat's basin. That's the kind of people they are. I haven't met or talked to them, so I could be wrong. But I rarely am, especially when it comes to national security.

Today they tipped their hand. Drunk on imported beer, contemptuous of Year 10, they flew their flag at full-staff. Old Glory riding high for all to see. The flag flapped confidently in the breeze, top of the pole as if it was top of the world. I was tempted to blame the flag, but reason intervened.

It wasn't the flag's fault. In its heart it knows it should be at half-staff, yet it couldn't help itself. Once a flag runs up a pole, instinct takes over. It must reach the top and flap away. Like a salmon trying to spawn while being eaten by a bear groggy from a conservationist's drug dart. That's nature.

No, the owners were to blame. I marched to their front door, knees high, arms waving. Rang the doorbell. The guy opened and stared at me.


He wiped dark grease from his hands. What was he working on? It wasn't the boat. Never the boat. It was something else. Something with grease.

"Happy 9/11. May I have a word?"

He shrugged his shoulders. I guess in his world that meant yes. Or maybe it meant Get off my porch before I wipe grease on you. I gambled and bet it meant yes.

"Sir, do you know what today is?"

He smiled. "Sure. Sunday."

Oh, we were going to play that game. Okay, boat boy. Bring it.

"No sir. It's 9/11: Year 10."

"Of course. Yes. What a tragedy."

Clever. Very clever. But too clever. It's like he wanted to get caught.

"I noticed that your flag is at full-staff."

"Uh huh."

"Well, on 9/11, all flags must be at half-staff."

He seemed irked. His grease wiping intensified.

"I love my country. I love that flag. It flies at full-staff no matter what."

I braced for an attack. One thing I learned since 9/11 was to always be ready for an attack.

A moment or two passed. He was bluffing. Lucky for him. I got off my knees, pulled my shirt down from over my head and stopped sobbing.

"Look," he said, "I appreciate your concern. But this is my house. You fly your flag your way. I'll fly mine my way."

He closed the door.

I considered reporting him to Homeland Security, but they have enough potential terrorism to stop. This was strictly my move.

I pondered my alternatives. But pondering can lead to paralysis. That's another thing I learned from 9/11 -- don't think too much. At some point, action is required.

I found a chunk of broken concrete. Throw this through his front window and he'd learn that Freedom isn't free. Replacing that window would cost at least a few hundred bucks. But that lesson would be temporary. I needed to make a lasting statement.

I squeezed out most of the dump before he spotted me. Taking a shit on his boat showed that no one is safe. As he chased me down the street, I felt a surge of pride. Then I cut across the playground and jumped a fence, holding up my falling pants.

He never caught me. Destiny had something to do with it, but hiding in a drainage ditch until dark helped too.