Sunday, October 21, 2012


My parents asked me to look after the dog once.

I was 20, and living elsewhere, and they were going away for a four-day weekend. The dog was an idiot, and I truly believed that it might need someone to keep it from getting its head stuck in its own bowl and flailing around the house until it caught fire.

My mother explained that my siblings couldn't be trusted to find matching socks if you stapled them together, and certainly couldn't look after a living thing. Though they were seventeen and sixteen this seemed an uncharacteristic criticism from her.  

Just in the evenings, she begged. She knew them best, and I didn't want to argue with her earnest look. I waited my whole life for a sincere relationship with my parents, so I didn't question her.

I didn't say "Don't you mean 'Please guard the house against your other children, who have no doubt already invited the world to party there unrestrainedly'?"
Instead, I got ready to "look after the dog" by inviting two of my craziest, closest and least avoidable friends to hang out on the first evening the parents would be away:

Ed and Doug

I promised them pizza, but they would have come for nothing but the entertainment. One had a fetish for "skronking scrotebags" and the other had always wanted to know if it was as fulfilling as the other always claimed. Why this seemed a better idea than just going out to bars as usual with them to dance to unending mixes of You Spin Me Round with apathetic girls is a mystery to me now.

I blame this guy for how rarely I got laid in the 80's.
I have always had particular trouble shirking duty. 

It was a Friday evening so they got into their brand-new 1985 Honda Accord, with low-profile rims and tires, turned the radar detector on, wound down the windows, hung their elbows out the side, and cranked the Miami Vice Simulcast on the FM radio as they burned out of their rented suburban digs at 70mph.

Jan Hammer-hyped, when they arrived at 9:30pm with a screech and strode from their vehicle they wore silver sport jackets with the sleeves rolled up, over pink t-shirts and linen pants, with mirrored aviator shades, although it was dark already. They were carrying two aluminum baseball bats, hair moussed to perfection, and grinning like fiends.
By then it wasn't a moment too soon; the party had just begun to fill the house. The jean-jacket long-haired rockers and hood-rats were suddenly less comfortable sneering at me in my own home. Order was restored, as couples were ejected from bedrooms and corralled in a common area. My siblings were thanking us, and my friends were happy being assholes. The balance was perfect.


No contest.

Pizza was ordered, and we watched the last of Miami Vice in the master bedroom. When we emerged somehow there were double the number of kids in the house. It was standing room only and some of them were now very, very drunk. Just poking them with the bats wasn't going to be enough any more. The sound of Iron Maiden was getting louder in the living room. It was only a matter of time before the headbanging began.

My sibs were out of sight, but somehow I tracked them down. The bottles of Crown Royal,  Kahlua, Drambuie, Armagnac, Crème de menthe, Cointreau, Curaçao, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Galliano, Sambuca, Drambuie, Disaronno, Frangelico, Glayva, Advocaat, Campari, Malibu, and Metaxa being passed around led me to the den, where my brother was standing with one foot hooked into my father's Vintage Jazz LP library, and the other on one of his girlfriends' shoulders as he handed down every bottle he could find to his friends.

The Family Jewels

Thousands of dollars of liqueur and whisky were being drunk by kids who were mostly used to beer and huffing model glue from a bag, although they wouldn't touch the Chartreuse. But they were not sitting quietly any more, they were swaying upright, and some of them had clenched fists.

They were looking sideways at my friends, who stood impassive. However I knew them will enough to see that they were finally doing the math, and that while Ed was doing a constant head-count, Doug was counting nothing but exits.

I should explain that our house was a suburban centrepiece; one of the first in our subdivisions, built in the early 1970's when my Dad was flush and full of ambition. He designed it around an open courtyard with an architect who became famous for this kind of thing. Later it was copied in many ways by the neighbouring builders. By this time it was still one of a kind, and half-filled in some areas with antique crystal decanters, ivory and silver ornaments, Persian rugs, and prints by high-profile local Native artists, as well as a couple by Dali, Picasso, and Chagall. I was their only kid to not appreciate how all this entitled them to be assholes to everyone with less.

I still am.

The house and contents are what had really been on my parents minds, when they had said "dog". The dog could have exploded but as long as everything else was unaffected neither of them would have blinked.

There was no way of keeping an eye on it all. There never had been.

The sound of my sister screeching drew us back out into the courtyard. She had set up every crystal candle-holder on the pebbled cement and lit as many candles as I had ever seen. People were stumbling through them, and I saw one guy slapping out the flames on another guy's frayed jeans, only to be elbowed in the face. Stop kicking everything! my sister was shouting, and ran up to me declaring that she didn't know any of these people.

At this point the doorbell rang. The pizza had arrived.
When I pushed my way through the crowd to reach the wrought-iron gates there was no pizza.

There were thirty dead-eyed bald kids, in purple mac jackets, each about six feet tall. They were led by a little kid, exactly like them. It was a scene from The Wanderers, but I swear to you I stood right in the middle of it. I waved at Doug to clear people back from the gateway. Ed stood next to me, and I noticed him tucking the bat out of site for the moment. Which meant it might be used very soon.

Won't you be my neighbours?

"Let us innnnnnn ..." Mini-baldy whined, staring wall-eyed at us through the ironwork. The rest of the horde said nothing, not even blinking. Now if anyone inside even saw anyone outside my parents would be coming home to a crater.

"We've already called the cops. This party's over. Everyone's going home." The gate was heavy, but ornamental. It was held together by a fat padlock, which was stronger than the hinges, which were just pegs. Half of them could have lifted them out in a second. Or all of them could have pushed them in against us in the same second.

The kid tilted his head, awkwardly."But ... we heard there was a parrrrrtyyyy ... come onnnnn! ... just for a minnnnnute?" this kid's voice would put your teeth on edge, and it still creeps me out to remember. The Walking Dead hold no fear for me now.

Behind him we saw the pizza guy drive up. "Ed, would you explain to these guys about the party being over, please, for a few minutes? I'll be back." I walked back through the courtyard past my sister, who had passed out among the melted wax and crystal shards, snuck a u-turn, and made my way back out front, through the garage.

There I opened the garage door only enough to peer under it and wave over the pizza guy, who was standing very nervously right behind thirty Baldies, who somehow had not noticed or smelled him. I handed him a wad of cash around the side and slid the pizzas under the door as quietly as I could, almost in full view of the gang. I managed to shut the door and lock it.

That was about as brave as I have ever been, not saying "fuck the pizza, fuck the delivery guy, I prefer to live". I'm not proud of how I spent that resolve. I went right in and called the cops, and busted us all.

The police were very prompt and polite, and we cleared the house of guests in no time, including my brother and sister, who were both passed out. I was sure that wherever they ended up they would be with friends, or at least like-minded strangers. The three of us sat down with all the pizza and rewound that night's tape of Miami Vice and just relaxed to the posturing of Don Johnson and that other guy. Later I turned in and slept well.

The next day my brother and sister showed up, looking like they'd slept in a dumpster, and I put them to work cleaning up. My brother swore he had been watering down the liqueurs for months anyway so we topped them up from the sink and back on the shelf they went. The house was tidied up, and there was no breakage aside from the crystal, which some of us voted leave to my sister to explain.

The dog was missing. My brother said it had been running in circles like it was drunk that night, and sure enough, its bowl smelled like Kahlua. A thorough search of the house turned it up. At the end of a thin trail of vomit that crossed a small Persian rug, in the farthest bathroom, under the darkest cabinet lay the dog, moaning and shaking in total misery. How it had gotten locked into my parents' en suite was a mystery, but if we had missed that mess then things would have been very different.

I love most dogs, and cats, for that matter, but that dog was the last of several truly unlovable creatures my family adopted and ruined. It was some kind of pug-mini-pin cross, which meant it was like a fat whippet with skin about two sizes too small. It's eyes bugged out and it couldn't close its mouth. It looked and acted like the stupidest, most irritating mistake that ever survived, but that morning it held on to its first coherent thought.


It hated us all, the way only the dangerously hungover could learn to. We cleaned up the puke and turned the stained rug around under a bed-table and put the dog in its bed. Mission accomplished, and the only casualty was the crystal. I stuck around long enough to see that my sister took that blame and went home.

They never quite knew the scope of what had happened, but I did not have to duck any further requests to house-sit after that.


  1. Awesome post!

    It sounds like you saved the place from going up in flames.

  2.  I'm not sure what would have happened. My brother and sister got away with a LOT, generally.

  3. Happily, I never had to worry my ass through a party taking place in my parents' home.  I'd been to more than a couple parties that blew up catastrophically, and so on those rare occasions when I had the house, I made sure I didn't tell anyone it was available.

  4. Speaking of which, this post reminded me of a party I went to that wound up with the host driving a car through the side of his garage.  I thought I'd written about it, but apparently not.  So now I've got at least one post idea that doesn't involve me watching lame 70's TV.  Thanks!

  5. I am glad to give a bit back. Your crazy-ass posts have reminded me of a few things I would never have thought of. Most are in draft right now.

    I look forward to reading it.

  6. My parents NEVER left us alone at the house. Apparently, they didn't trust us. We had no choice but to go to our friends nice houses with expensive/fragile artifacts. On a side note, Whippets are kind of hideous. 

  7. They hadn't left them alone there ever before, I think. Because the house was standing. Whippets can be freaky looking, although most dogs look like experiments to me anyway. 

  8. This is a pretty crazy story.