With a furrowed brow, the behemoth inhaled another ample breath, as he prepared to roar yet again. “Listen, fellas, you need to stop this nonsense…immediately! You’re scaring my wife, and I will tear the limbs from your bodies if all of you don’t calm down! Right now!”
The entire room froze into place with bated breath, including the two maniacal instigators of this fiery conflict currently at play. As I could sense with the others, a part of me was inclined to flee from the scene…but there was another portion that refused to leave and had nailed my feet to the ground beneath me. This train wreck, even though possibly dangerous to myself and Rhonda, still was too fascinating to tear away frm. Noticing that he had my attention along with the rest of the room, the giant lowered his arms and raised his chin in a supreme triumph, needing only a beard on his bare face in order to resemble the almighty Zeus. He was about to issue another thunderbolt of a proclamation when a gentle but firm voice addressed him from behind.
“Honey…Stop being such a bully! You know better!”
I could see his mild-mannered wife pulling on his shirt, and he turned to face the disapproving miniature presence. His towering physique leaned down to hear the quick utterance of a susurrous scolding. True, I couldn’t make out an actual word of it, but I knew almost instinctively from its tone that it was likely a stern reprimand. As with the case of every human language, every expression has its own musical cadence, and just like a pop song repeated tirelessly against your battered eardrums, you only need a few notes to recognize it. If asked to, I could audibly identify a Russian mother berating a small child from a sampling of uttered phrases, though I know only a few actual words in that tongue…and much like that example, there were a few key notes being played by the small spouse that evinced an almost pedantic nature. Consequently, the music did sooth the beast, and the giant turned to face us once again as a changed man. Though his face betrayed no apology, he did seem to be a little less tall now.
“To all of you,” he began, “ I apologize for my outburst. That was very un-Christian of me to threaten all of you like that. Sometimes I lose my head when I get frustrated, and then I get a little crazy. I promise that I’m not going to tear any limbs off of anyone. I just…I just want the yelling to stop.” He paused. “I hate yelling.”
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to see you angry,” confessed Raymond jokingly. Some general laughter, fueled by relief, broke out among the various homeowners in attendance. “Tell me, my Goliath of a friend, what are your names?”
The giant’s countenance softened and molded into a sheepishly apologetic expression, looking almost comical on his menacing frame. “Oh, right, I’m sorry. Good point. My name is Brian Steelkilt, and this is my wife Carol. I would introduce you to our son, but he’s still a work in progress.” He placed one of his large mitts on his wife’s slightly swollen abdomen, caressing the area with a paternal solicitude. “We’re expecting him in a few months.”
Raymond joyously clapped his hands a few times. “God bless you! Our building family will actually get its first child! Congratulations to you both!” Rhonda and I joined the general smattering of applause that broke out, and a few amiable shouts of Congrats were echoed around the garage.
Surprised by this sudden emergence of warmth from the very people that he had threatened only moments ago, Brian’s facial color changed from a warpaint red to a blushing pink hue. “Thanks, everybody…that’s really nice of you.”
I noticed that this interruption had only caused Babbu and Vinny to suspend their quarrel for the time being, but their gladiatorial postures still betrayed their bloodthirsty desire to recommence combat. Their anxious looks at each other caught the eye of Raymond as well. “Okay,” began the loquacious property manager, “back to our slight quabble from before. Now, sirs, can we put aside our differences for now, especially in order to calm the situation for my friend Brian and his expecting mother? I think that it’s a sign of providence that our Goliath was defeated by a loving, beautiful mother-to-be instead of a cast rock. So, how about we just agree to disagree, gentlemen?”
Vinny tersely shook his head. “That’s a no-can-do, guys…he’s still got a knife.”
“You idiot,” shouted Babbu in a defiant excitement, “I already told you…”
Up until this point, the police captain Richie had been attentive but taciturn, obviously allowing Raymond to be the official spokesman of their joint leadership. However, at this point, I could see from his body language that his patience had cracked like the surface of a frozen lake (which must feel like this goddamn floor, I thought), and his resignation immediately retired from the scene. He stepped between the snapping pair, showing a palm to Babbu but turning his body in order to address Vinny. “That’s enough,” he commanded the two of them. “Mr. Singh, please calm down. Vinny…I am not your CO, but have you attended your community awareness training yet?” When Vinny didn’t respond after a few moments, Richie continued. “Well, if you had, you would have learned that the Kirpan is an important article of the Sikh faith, and it’s to be allowed on his person as a religious right. Is that understood?”
After hearing Raymond speak at length, I had gotten the general impression that he was fairly competent, but I didn’t get any sense of a leadership quality. After only hearing a few words from Richie, however, I understood how he had perhaps attained such a rank within his precinct. His mere presence gave an immediate impression of authority. It worked even more on Vinny, whose disposition was clearly altered and gave way to calm.
Though somewhat begrudgingly, Vinny nodded at Richie. “Understood, sir.”
Richie, in turn, nodded back before raising his voice to address everyone present. “Okay, so that’s settled. If the two of you wish to continue your discussion, you can do so afterwards. In order to not waste the time of everyone here, let’s now get back to the meeting. Raymond?”
“Absolutely,” began Raymond. “Thanks for the assist there, Richie. Now, I think that we should quickly go around the circle and introduce ourselves. It helps me so that I can associate a name with a face…”
“Brummer! Hasselhoff! Komm zurück…Schnell!”
Along with these quick shouts, I suddenly heard a commotion at the other end of the garage. Claws could be heard raking across the concrete, as two quadrupedal creatures scrambled toward us from the shadows. Only a few feet from Babbu, they stopped close enough in order for the overhead light to reveal their identities as two large German Shepherds. The darker-colored one fixated upon Babbu, barking ferociously at him; the lighter-colored one began to run around the outer perimeter of our circle, as if to select a separate target for his own machinations. At this point, the truce arbitrated by Richie and Raymond immediately fell apart, and the simmering sense of panic among the homeowners ignited into a small conflagration. Some of the homeowners erupted with shrieks of fright, and a few people even began to run towards the stairwells in the corners of the garage. Rhonda and I stood our ground, clasping hands and discussing our next step in a silent exchange between our eyes.
Vinny once more started to reach for his sidearm. “I’ll shoot it. Babbu, get out of the way!”
“If you hit me, I’ll sue all of your police buddies and your family!” retorted Babbu.
I could clearly see Mike as his husky frame undulated in fright. “Oh, shit, man…this situation is all fucked up!”
The escalating cries and the loud yelps from the menacing canines reignited the flame that had been doused in Brian, and his irritation served as an incantation, channeling his inner demons once again with their horns raised. Protectively, he put his body in front of Carol. “If somebody doesn’t take care of those dogs, I will! And nobody get in my way!”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.