By Ronald M Larsen
If you asked Jered Thorndike III to describe his character, his self-assessment would be, “I’m precise, orderly, and methodical—an excellent accountant.”
If you asked his next-door neighbors, the answer would be, “He’s a prissy little shit of a number-cruncher.”
Jered was a successful partner in Wittmeyer, Swanson, Mercer, and Thorndike Accounting. Numbers were his life. Everything added up—right-side up, upside down, sideways. His office, automobile, home, and yard (maintained to precise standards by Oliver’s Landscaping) matched his fussy, prissy, precise temperament. “A place for everything, and everything in its place. Order and precision. That’s what makes the world go round,” he said.
Lately, however, serious cracks had appeared in Jered’s orderly world. The property next door had changed hands several months previously, and the Mitchells were the antithesis of everything Jered stood for. The man of the house was slovenly, with a gargantuan beer belly that he enhanced daily. He probably was (Jered had spoken to him only once) a mechanic or some such tradesman. His wife favored faded, flowery housecoats as her morning adornment, switching to shapeless, faded dresses in the early afternoon. Their house had gone downhill in the few months they’d owned it. Paint was peeling from the eves, hedges were untended, trash littered the lawn, and the grass was mowed only when it had gotten a foot high or more.
“It’s an embarrassment to the neighborhood,” Jered often said.
But worst was Axel and Harry, the pre-teen boys. Jered considered them to be undisciplined soon-to-be juvenile delinquents. Their relationship, which had started off poorly when Jered first scolded the boys for tossing trash on his lawn, was now one where they did their best to irritate him. They continually tossed trash into his yard, cut across his lawn on their bicycles, and generally were loud and obnoxious, especially when he sat on his back porch to read the evening paper.
Jered dealt with the situation as best he could, which was to pretend to ignore the boys and act in a gentlemanly fashion while seething underneath.
The first snowstorm of the winter arrived on a Thursday evening, dropping several inches of wet snow.
“I welcome the snow,” Jered told his wife. “While it will make driving somewhat difficult, it’s covering the detritus in the Mitchell’s yard. Temporarily, at least, the neighborhood will look decent again.”
While waiting for the school bus the next morning, the boys pelted passing vehicles with snowballs, reserving a serious flurry for Jered.
“Undisciplined little bastards,” he muttered as he drove off to his office.
When the boys arrived home from school, Axel suggested, “Let’s build a big snowman right next to old square-pants’ driveway.”
“Good idea,” Harry replied, “only let’s make it a snowwoman with big hooters.”
“Great, and we should build her giving old Jer the finger.”
In their usual spirit of overdoing things, the boys constructed a 6-foot tall snowwoman on the curb next to Jered’s driveway.
Jered’s week had been difficult. He would never admit it to anyone but himself, but he was tired and crabby. As he turned onto his street, he spotted the snowwoman. Something snapped in his precise little brain. Time to even the score with those little bastards! He aimed his Saab directly at the snowwoman. “I’m going to take the damn thing out!” he shouted as he floored it.
Meanwhile, Axel and Harry had changed out of their wet garb and were sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate.
“See our snowwoman, Ma?” Axel asked.
“Yeah, look out the kitchen window. You can see her real good,” Harry added.
“It’s a nice snowwoman, boys,” their mother said, “but I wonder if the fire department might not be upset that you built her over the top of a fire hydrant.”