It began with just a few mildly inconvenient things. Bob would park slightly over my driveway, so I would rake some of the leaves in my yard over into his. I would get some of his mail and not return it, so he would blare music at one in the morning. I couldn’t tell you who started it, but neither of us cared. In our eyes we were right, and the other had to pay. So we kept going back and forth like this for years, slowly increasing the severity of the ‘punishments’ we were inflicting. More than a couple of times my partner told me to just suck it up and stop worrying about it, but I never listened. I’m sure his partner told him the exact same thing. Yet we never listened, and so it came to pass that on a cold winter’s day I was shoveling snow off my driveway and directly onto his.
When I began, I was able to simply throw every scoop the short distance over to his driveway, but I quickly grew tired. Instead I began bracing the handle of the shovel against my leg, and walking it over to carefully lay the snow to rest. By the time Bob emerged from his house a small wall between his driveway and the road had begun to form.
“What the hell are you doing?” He bellowed. Then awkwardly ran through the snow to greet me, shovel in hand. Despite the cold, his cheeks were bright red. It seemed his anger was the only thing protecting him against the cold.
“Well Bob, I got a knock at the door from the cops yesterday night. They said someone had reported screaming coming from my house. Any idea who could have reported me?”
“How dare you accuse me of doing anything of the sort! And even if I did, it would have been for good reason. Who knows what happens in that hovel of yours.” He slammed his shovel into the snow to emphasize his last point.
“Well” I said calmly as I walked a shovel load over to his driveway. “If you don’t mind, I really need to get back to it.” I tipped the shovel out, and patted the snow down for good measure. He picked up his shovel and walked over to the wall I had made and dug into it. With a fling it was back on my driveway.
That throw began a flurry of snow flying back and forth between the driveways. It wasn’t long until we both realised that we were at a stalemate. Simultaneously we threw our shovels down and ran at each other. But on the icy ground, we began to stumble. I managed to maintain my footing, but Bob didn’t.
He was on the ground, and it looked like his leg was broken by the angle of it. The red seemed to clear from my vision and I moved to help him up, but he screamed as I did.
“Get away from me you monster.”
I ignored him as I strode forward. With the pain in his leg he couldn’t resist as I pulled him on to his one good leg. He grunted and mumbled as I hoisted him inside his house. Bob’s partner met us at the door. They must have heard the ruckus outside.
“Oh my god, what happened.”
“Bob slipped on the ice, go call an ambulance or something.” I carefully lowered him onto a couch. While they dialled the phone. Me and Bob sat, not saying anything until he finally muttered something through the pain.
“Do you even remember why we do this?” I thought for a moment, before shaking my head. Finally the paramedics came and took him away.
“I’m sorry Bob. For everything.” I said as he left. I followed him out and grabbed my shovel. I set to work clearing both driveways.
“Fine, wallow out here in the snow,” I said, turning my back on him. I heard his front door open, and his partner run out to check what had happened. I walked back to my house and went inside as they shouted obscenities at me. I sat down on the couch. From there I could see the ambulance pull up and take him away.
After that day we stopped pulling our little stunts. We would see each other occasionally, but we wouldn’t say anything. On a good day we might have given a nod of acknowledgement, but nothing more. I think that we both saw something in ourselves that we disliked that day. A rage barely contained.