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R.J. Roberts

Private Polarity

The utility pole which caused so much havoc and death, ultimately requiring international intervention to restore peace, was placed exactly thirty five feet from the road, far outside the legally standard five foot easement. Erwin Mervin made significant note of this when he became interested in purchasing the property, battering the real estate agent with questions concerning the legality, liability, and personal responsibility of the pole. In fact, he had little issue with the actual house or the small outboard garage attached to the property, but he had a neurotic obsession with the utility pole.

“Something like that is just begging for trouble!” he exclaimed well over a hundred times in phone calls and emails to the real estate employees, lawyers, surveyors, and all three of his congressmen.

The home buying process was stalled and almost aborted several times over the course of three years as Erwin pondered and explored all possible questions regarding the pole. He was interested in the property mainly because of its secluded nature but also because it was a small, reasonable house to match the fact that he was a small, reasonable man.

Working as an insurance agent for almost thirty years now, he knew how the tiny, insignificant details we attached to abstract things could cause immense issues in the real workings of our world. If you were to ask him, which nobody conceivably ever would, about the case he handled in which a man bought a residential property and built a commercial garage on it, which then disqualified him for recuperation following a commercial accident and the severing of several residential human limbs and genitalia (which he also argued should not be claimed separately); he could speak proudly for hours about the exact real workings of the abstract concepts that he used to disqualify this claim.

So he studied all the abstracts and intricacies of the utility pole until he was satisfied with the official answer that the pole was considered to be a private entity residing on a private property. The utility company had no responsibility or obligation to service it, or any associated wiring attached. Erwin assumed all legal responsibilities once he assumed ownership of the property.

He hired a certified electrician to inspect the pole who merely shrugged and said, “It looks ok. You sure you want to go down this route though, man? I mean, a privately owned utility pole?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Erwin reasonably asked.

“I don’t know man, seems like it’d be fine but….the utility people are animals,” the electrician cryptically said and shrugged.

Erwin ultimately decided against there being any perceptible trouble after three years of pondering the ifs and coulds. He found no legal ramifications in his exhaustive study and only had the vague warnings of an un-legally minded electrician, so he bought the house. He would later claim to have suspected trouble right from the start, to exactly nobody who cared to listen.

On the third morning of home ownership, after signing the immense home insurance policy he sold to himself for his small reasonable house, he got in his small, reasonably priced, and heavily insured car and decided to head to the office. Driving along his secluded driveway through the wooded lot, he spotted movement by his private utility pole. As he approached he could see a bright yellow full brimmed hardhat bobbing among the trees. As he got closer he saw underneath the hat a man wearing sunglasses and a bright yellow and red reflective vest, wearing gloves, holding a shovel, and digging around Erwin’s private pole.

Erwin slammed on his brakes and jumped out so quickly that the car kept skidding across the gravel another two feet.

“Oh, no, no, no!” he shouted. “No, no, no! That’s a private-

“You see this shit?” The reflective lineman shouted. “You see this goddamn shit?” he demanded to the approaching Erwin.

Erwin shut his small, reasonable mouth as he now noticed the lineman was a very large man and seemed to be in highly unreasonable mood. The lineman’s face was beet red and bulging veins were visible in his neck as he jabbed an accusing, leather wrapped finger to the pole, which had a small trench dug around it.

“Um,” was reasonably all Erwin could say, as he stopped walking toward the infuriated lineman.

Federal utility code!” the lineman shouted. “All utility poles need a clear path to them! You see that shit?” the lineman waved to brush between him and the driveway, which he had beaten a crude path into, stomping down weeds and hacking away at the thorny bushes.

Federal code also says a clear five foot radius must always be maintained around the pole!” the worker jabbed a finger to the utility pole. “That ain’t clear! That’s goddamn poison ivy growing up it! I can’t service the pole like that!”

“No, no, no!” Erwin was slowly backing away and confident he could reasonably run away from the worker if he became any more intimidating. “You don’t understand! That isn’t property of your utility company, it’s too far back from the utility easement, it’s a private pole!”

Private pole!” the worker shouted so loudly and with such ferocity that his sunglasses slid down his nose, almost entirely off his face. “There’s no such thing as a private pole! We own all the poles now! We won! You understand me? We-Won!” he shouted each word slowly, for effect. “It’s over!”

“No, no, no!” Erwin said, still walking backwards to his car. “The law states you can’t reasonably be expected to-

“You’re going to tell me the law?” the lineman shouted with such force his sunglasses did actually fly off his face. He threw the shovel behind him, it clanked off the pole so hard Erwin heard the wooden handle crack. “You’re going to fucking tell me?” he demanded. “After I fought so goddamn hard for all these goddamn poles, after I watched my buddies go through hell to own all the goddamn poles around here, you’re going to tell me?” he screeched, his enflamed face now becoming purple.

“B-but…” Erwin could only say, and he ran around to his open car door, happy to put his reasonable and heavily insured car between him and the infuriate worker.

“You go ahead! You just fucking try!” the worker screamed. “You tell me! You get divorced, and you tell me!”

“B-but…” Erwin could only say.

“You go ahead! You just try!” the worker screamed. “You tell me! You get divorced because you’re fighting for these goddamn poles, and you tell me!” the worker screamed.

“I really think you’re-

You shut the hell up!” the worker silenced Erwin. “Now I’m going to service this damn pole. I’m going to do my duty! At least one person in this country does! And if you,” he thrust a finger towards Erwin, “or my ungrateful wife,” he thrust another finger backwards, “or this whole ungrateful country don’t like it, you can go fuck yourself!”

Erwin could only shake his head in disagreement, his face astonished with shock.

“I’m telling my boss too! I’m getting you written up for all these damn violations, pieces of shit like you aren’t getting away with this anymore! When god-fearing, hardworking guys like me bleed for these poles, people like you aren’t getting away with it!” the lineman shouted. He pulled a pair of lineman’s pliers out of his tool belt, holding them like a weapon, and began walking towards Erwin menacingly.

Erwin yelped in panic and tried to frantically open his already open car door, then quickly dived inside, stomped on the gas without bothering to close the door, and he flew out of his driveway, onto the road, without even checking for traffic.

After five minutes of high speed driving he stopped hyperventilating and checking his rear view mirror to make sure the lineman wasn’t running after him. He was then filled with a sudden anger and a courage that only came to reasonably spineless people like him when they realize that now that the conflict was over, it would be a great time to fight back. He took his cell phone out of his belt holster and dialed the utility company.

It took a half hour, his entire drive to the office, before he was actually put in touch with someone who could help, but they weren’t in and he could only leave a message. He was still much more flustered from the confrontation than he thought, and the message he left was a mostly gibberish, but outraged and incensed account of his reasonable victim status.

His work suffered the rest of the day, he was always peering out windows and over his shoulders looking for angry linemen to appear, wanting his blood. On his drive home, he would nervously scan every utility pole by the road, thinking linemen would be hiding behind it, or maybe even perched on top with a rifle.

Pulling into his driveway, he moved slowly down it, his eyes darting back and forth towards every bush and scrub and weed he saw, looking for reflective red or yellow. He finally got up the nerve to drive up to his private pole, where he saw the brush cleared out from around it. The ground had been dug up and filled back in directly around the pole, where the angry lineman must have dug and inspected its underground components.

Prominently nailed to his private utility pole was a crude piece of scrap wood with the words, “Piece of Shit,” spray painted in neon pink. The last word was underlined and written twice as big.

He slept nervously in his reasonable single bed, on his lifetime warranty mattress, having nightmares of burning red linemen’s eyes glaring at him. He awoke in a shout, when a dozen eyes rushed directly towards him.

In the morning he looked haggard in his bathroom mirror, red eyed and shell shocked. He kept delaying leaving the house, making several aborted attempts to walk out the front door, finding some imaginary excuse not to, pretending reassess his home insurance policy twice. When he finally worked up the nerve he ran out of the house like he was expecting to be shot at, sprinting to his car and tearing open the door, slamming on the gas before realizing he hadn’t turned on the ignition. Starting it, he kicked up dust and stones from his reasonably priced limestone chunk, five year guaranteed driveway as his car flew down it.

Relief and even exhilaration waved over him when he drove by the utility pole and saw the vulgar sign had been torn down and the general area around the pole had been tidied up. A certain reasonable, assuring, and spineless pride came to him when he realized he must have gotten someone in serious trouble with his message. A smug grin appeared on his face, and he slowed down, feeling silly about being terrified.

Just then, at the end of his driveway, a reflective red and yellow lineman appeared in Erwin’s path, holding his hand up.

Erwin slammed on the brakes and shouted incoherently in surprised panic. He ripped open his door and was outside before he knew it. He held up his hands up defensively and shouted, “I don’t want any trouble! Just leave me alone!” in terror as he was instinctively about to run into the brush, unsure of where he wanted to go besides away.

“Hey, hey, hey!” the lineman said, taking his yellow wide brimmed lineman’s hardhat off and holding it in front of his chest, in an old timey gesture of humility. “It’s cool man, I just want to talk!”

Erwin now noticed that this was a different lineman than yesterday, shorter, older, not at all furious looking. He crouched behind his open driver’s door, using it as a shield, and asked, “What….what do you want?” his voice cracking in fear.

“Look man, I don’t mean any harm!” the linemen said as he held up one hand harmlessly and approached. “I just uh…know you had some trouble with Marv the other day and I was hoping I could smooth things over.”

“Well I uh…” Erwin started, then suddenly his reasonable spineless mind recognized that he had the upper hand in this situation, they were coming to him for resolution of this issue. “That guy was crazy!” he blurted out. “I thought he was going to kill me! I could sue you people! I could have his job!” A sudden wave of reasonable spineless righteousness empowered him.

“Look,” the lineman said, moving closer. “I know, I know. Marv’s got problems ok?”

“You bet he does! That was totally unacceptable, how he treated me!” Erwin said.

“Look man,” the lineman grimaced and dropped his hands to his side, shaking his head in exasperation. “You just don’t know man, you just don’t know what this job does to people.” He said, still shaking his head. Erwin thought he might even be on the verge of tears.

“The things I’ve done man, the shit I’ve seen…” the lineman said. “It’s left its mark on me, it’s touched all of our lives man. I’ve just….I’ve just seen too much blood,” the lineman looked earnestly to Erwin, his eyes glassy with tears and his lip twitching with emotion. Erwin couldn’t help but feel touched by this, even though he had no idea what the lineman was talking about.

“Marv’s a good man, ok? He’s having some trouble though, he’s getting divorced, his house is getting repossessed, his kid’s entire chest is a tumor, it’s just getting to be too much. He doesn’t deserve to lose his job though. Ok? He’s a good man, he’s done a lot in the name of public utility. He paid the price. He’s paid for all of us, man.” The lineman said.

Erwin could only nod.

“Could you just call our boss back, tell him it wasn’t that big of a deal? Just say you were you were angry and blew things out of proportion, now you feel bad about it. I’ll take care of Marv. Ok?”

“Yeah, um…sure,” Erwin said, his voice now cracking with sorrowful emotion.

“Thank you. The boys, you see, if Marv goes down they’ll want blood. He’s one of our own,” the lineman said and put his wide brimmed hardhat on, tipping it to Erwin as he walked out of the driveway, onto the road, and drove off in his electrical truck. Erwin followed behind him, watching the truck drive away. Aside from the spools of wire, the bucket crane, and assorted tools he saw on the truck as he watched it get smaller down the road, he could have sworn he saw a cannon mounted on it.


Once at that insurance office, Erwin spent an hour and a half on hold until a supervisor picked up the phone.

“Ok, so what now?” the supervisor asked, sounding bored.

“Hi, I um, was having some trouble with one of your lineman and well, actually I wasn’t having any trouble, it was just a big uh, misunderstanding,” Erwin said.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. They told me about that. Marv’s kind of hothead, they used to call him, ‘Cannibal,’ in the trenches, sorry about that. Everyone thinks I’m going to fire the guy but I don’t see what the big deal is. Hey, what started this all off?” he asked.

“Oh, well it was just a simple misunderstanding,” Erwin said. “You see I don’t think he was aware the utility pole on my property was a private pole and-

“Private pole?” the supervisor snorted in laughter. “Yeah right man, there ain’t no more private ones, we took care of that!”

“Oh, no, no!” Erwin said. “No it’s definitely a private utility pole, I researched the whole thing. Anyway, I just think he simply didn’t realize this and it wasn’t that big of a-

“Wait a minute,” the supervisor cut him off, and Erwin could hear a rapid clicking of computer keys. “What was your address?”

Erwin told him then began pleading his case again, but he could feel the supervisor ignoring him, and he heard a fury of increasingly hammering keyboard clacks.

“Son of a bitch…” the supervisor eventually said. “There is one left!”

“Um, well yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to say. So this is good because you can see how simple of a misunderstanding this would have been for him to make, so I think we should just-

“That sadistic bastard didn’t recognize a private pole when he sees one?” the supervisor’s voice raised in disbelief. “This job has finally gotten to him man! That son of a bitch can’t hack it anymore, he’s through here!”

“Um, well I think that’s a little harsh-

“And you!” the supervisor shouted. “You, Mr. Private Pole, you think you can annex our territory? You’re a dead man!” he screamed into the phone, and Erwin heard the receiver crashing into the cradle. The phone went dead.


Erwin made several excuses to stay late at the office, despite his secretary sighing and complaining about working overtime. She eventually demanded to go home and Erwin said he might sleep there tonight, but she pointed out that the office wasn’t insured for residential purposes, so he was reasonably forced to go home.

For the first time in his life, he thought of buying a firearm, but quickly dismissed the idea as he knew that his reasonable, spineless heart wouldn’t be able to use it. He drove home, eyes darting back in forth looking for surprise linemen attacks but found none. As he slowly pulled into his driveway his eyes scanned every bush he passed, his heart pulsed harder and his breathing slowed as he neared his utility pole.

He almost had a panic attack when he caught a glimpse of reflective yellow and red, but it was way above ground level, like it was suspended in the air, totally motionless. He crept closer, his finger nails digging crescent trenches into his steering wheel, as the utility pole came into sight.

Hanging from the utility pole, a noose around his neck, was Marv.

Dead, solemn, and silent he hung, his open dead eyes staring blankly to the ground. The metal buckles and clasps on his tool belt seemed polished, reflective and spotless. The leather tool pouches were burnished with some sort of treatment that made them gleam, his spotless reflective vest glistened reflective red and yellow in the moonlight, and his yellow full crowned hardhat was polished bright. In his right hand his dead fingers proudly and almost triumphantly clutched a pair of linemen’s pliers, holding them to his chest, tight to his bosom, with such conviction that even death couldn’t force him to let go.

Erwin’s mouth hung open in horror, as his car continued to move his eyes remained frozen on the scene. Finally his neck strained to its limit over his shoulder and he was forced to look forward to the driveway. He slammed his foot into the gas, his car rocketing up the drive and kicking gravel from his tires. He screeched to a halt in front of his garage, then ran inside the house without closing the car door. He ran directly to the basement, into the alcove underneath his reasonably unfinished stairway, covered himself with an old blanket and hid for the rest of the night as he softly and reasonably whimpered to ward the horror away.


The decision to escape, to get away and never come back, not even knowing where he would go but to still blindly and hysterically flee, seemed a foregone, obvious, and reasonable decision that Erwin immediately made upon waking. He would reach the end of his driveway, and floor his gas pedal until he was far away. That was the extent of his planning, but this was the only desire had.

He left his basement, still clutching the old blanket around him with some mindless hope that it may protect him as he dashed to his car. His simple plan was quickly thwarted when he saw the open car door and the interior light not glowing, and he knew the battery was dead. He still hopped inside and tried the ignition, begging god to do him this one favor, but it wasn’t to be.

Now panicked, without a plan, and seeing phantom linemen stalking out of the bushes and closing in on him, his mind completely broke. He jumped out of his car and began sprinting down his driveway. His short, fifty year old, potbellied frame moved with a true purpose for the first time in his life as he bounded down his driveway, his breathing ragged after fifty feet, but he kept running, he wouldn’t quit unless death overtook him.

It didn’t take long for him to reach the pole and a reasonable voice in his head told him to not even look at it as he passed, but he just had to. Marv was no longer there, but now hanging from the same noose was a bloody, gutted pig with thread-like intestines hanging from its gaping stomach to the ground. Flies buzzed all around the scene and an angry-eyed crow was perched on the pig’s pale head, pausing from pecking at the pig’s dead eyes to glare Erwin as he passed.

Erwin reasonably screeched like a little girl and threw his arms in the air, the blanket flew off him. His pace became hysteric and he blindly ran down his driveway, arms flailing. His screaming stopped as he found his voice choked in spite of his desperate need for air. He discovered that he was reasonably crying, the desperate inhales of his overworked lungs now choked by his spattered sobbing.

He was moving so quickly, so hysterically, that soon he was near the end of his driveway and close to what his panic addled brain thought would be freedom. His feet skidded to a halt, kicking up waves of gravel, as he caught another deadly glimpse of reflective yellow and red. He suddenly noticed that his driveway exit was blocked by a wall of men, all with full crowned yellow hardhats and reflective vests. They held lineman’s pliers, engineer hammers, and shovels with threating intent and they squinted their hard, purposeful eyes at Erwin.

Erwin stopped, briefly thought to run back to the safety of his house, but abandoned the idea, knowing he was completely trapped.

“I-I, uh, I didn’t…he…” Erwin stammered, pointing frantically with his hands to the pole, but unable to make a reasonable point.

“So, what do you got to say for yourself now, piggy boy?” One linemen said as he began walking towards Erwin, who recognized him as the one who tried to talk reasonably to him yesterday. This lineman stood at the front of the pack and had more communications equipment in his belt, and Erwin realized he must be a foreman.

“N-no!” Erwin shouting, throwing his hands up in defense. “It wasn’t me! I-I-

“We’re going to settle this thing!” another lineman shouted. “First you’re going to pay for Marv, then we’re going to take back our territory!”

“N-NO!” Erwin shouted, and suddenly the reasonable thing to do became crystal clear in his mind. “You don’t understand, this isn’t a private pole!”

The linemen cocked their heads in confusion.

“It’s-it’s not private! I was wrong! I don’t own it at all! It’s-it’s Telsat’s pole!”

The linemen’s eyebrows lowered and their lips curled into a furious snarl at the mention of their competing power company.

“Y-you got to believe me! Look it up yourselves! I looked up the records yesterday, this has all been a huge mix-up! I’m sorry about Marv b-but he killed himself! I couldn’t help it!” Erwin said, and he could see the hesitation and confusion on the linemen’s faces. They grouped together in a circle, and started whispering to each other.

Finally, the foreman lineman stepped forward. “Alright, if it’s Telsat’s, we’ll fix that. We’ll go get more boys and we’ll claim what’s ours. Then, we’ll deal with you,” he said.

“I don’t have anything to do with any of this!” Erwin protested.

“Neither do I, I don’t own the power company, but here we are,” the foreman shrugged and began lighting a cigarette as he studied Erwin. “You got a stupid name, by the way,” he said and waved to his boys, they began dispersing.

Erwin watched them walk back to their utility truck, one particularly nasty looking lineman kicked over Erwin’s mailbox then sneered back at him. They piled onto the utility truck and began driving down the road, and Erwin watched the nasty looking one patting the cannon mounted next to the crane, smiling and waving at Erwin as they drove off.


Erwin jogged back to his house, covering his eyes with his hands so he wouldn’t see the ghastly scene at the utility pole. He frantically dialed Telsat and spent four hours on the phone explaining his position over and over again, spending three quarters of that time listening to You Got the Touch on hold, until he finally got in contact with someone who understood what he was talking about.

“What!? There’s one left?” the man said. “Holy hell, those guys have been killing us! We’ve been looking for a chance to smash their balls right in their own territory, this is it! Hey, be ready for some fireworks!” the man said and the phone went dead.

Erwin nervously paced around his house, trying to contemplate what the heck was going on, but only twenty minutes after he hung up the phone he began to hear chainsaws and power tools from the direction of utility pole.

He ran out to greet his liberators, and saw that they had already cut the dead pig down and were burying it. They were also chopping down trees, digging trenches around the pole, and arranging the downed logs into what Erwin could swear looked like the beginning of a colonial style fort.

“How’s it going?” one of the lineman nodded to Erwin, not pausing from dragging a log.

“You got to do something about these guys! I don’t even know what the heck I did to them, they’re just…they’re animals! They got to be stopped!” Erwin blurted out.

“Oh, they’re all talk,” the linemen hauling the log said, but in a flurry of movement that Erwin couldn’t immediately discern, the lineman’s head was suddenly caved in by sledge hammer wielded by another lineman who jumped out of the dense brush.

The wilderness around the pole became alive with linemen jumping out in a surprise attack. The first to jump out had strapped a reflective yellow, “Men at Work,” sign to his chest as a breastplate. He raised his sledgehammer after caving in the competing lineman’s head and let out a guttural and piercing war cry, as the brush around the pole jolted alive with more lineman springing out and attacking the Telsat boys.

Erwin could only reasonably hold his mouth open in shock as he watched a furious melee ensue. The foreman Erwin had seen earlier in the day jumped out and was particularly fierce, he wielded a crude ball mace fashioned out of heavy wiring and a huge chunk of wood from a pole. He ran right into the surprised Telsat formation, swinging freely and viciously as he killed three opposing lineman with one tremendous swing.

Erwin stopped gaping at the scene and reasonably ran for his life, back to his house, as he heard screams, the clanking of metal, and the unmistakable sound of a chainsaw boring into someone’s chest as they screamed their last panicked shriek. He ran down his basement steps and reasonably cowered under the stairs again, covering his head with his hands and softly whimpering.

The screams and clashing could be heard for the rest of the day. Erwin was briefly relieved when nightfall came and the battle seemed to stop. He even ventured a look out his basement window, noticing the brush and trees around the pole seemed completely cleared out now, and he could see the motionless reflective yellow and red forms laying all around the pole.

A flash of light and a concussion knocked him to the ground, shattered his window, and Erwin felt a pounding in the earth vibrate through his entire body as the opening artillery barrage had begun. The siege, which would last six weeks, had started.


In the morning the Red Cross came, and even though they had a truck full reflective red and yellow casualties, they took the time to help Erwin jump start his car, and gave him a Red Cross free oil change coupon for his inconvenience. This began Erwin’s daily ritual of the Red Cross escorting him through the siege zone under a white flag as he drove to work every morning. A temporary truce would be called at this same time every day and the cannons would become silent, the besiegers and besieged would crawl out of whatever hole they were hiding in to take a safe opportunity to look around the battle zone. Animals in the brush would follow the same ritual as they stared in awe at the devastated, cratered landscape. Erwin would drive passed confused squirrels and rabbits seeming to question him with their eyes why this was happening. He’d drive passed the grim, bloody faces of the combatants, and they’d look at him with the same dazed, shocked questioning as the animals. They still wore their reflective red and yellow vests, but they were ragged now and non-reflective from the vast amounts of grime and blood stains. They still wore their full brimmed yellow hardhats, with dozens of dents and scratches, but many now had bright yellow webbing wrapped around them, which held packs of cigarettes, playing cards, coils of cannon fuse, and small vials of holy water. Written in simple, prominent, bold, black letters on the attacking foreman’s hardhat was, “Wiring Is Hell.”

Despite the constant bombardment from the cannon and mortars mounted on utility trucks parked by the road, the fort around the utility pole seemed to actually be growing. The bastions grew a foot in height and width every day, and the number of defenders inexplicably grew even with the startling number of dead and wounded Erwin saw the Red Cross carry out.

Towards the end of the third week, a blockhouse barracks was erected inside the fort and Erwin and caught glimpses of a brightly neon lit nightclub through its open door, powered by his utility pole. At night, between the artillery barrages, he could regularly hear Karaoke singing and trivia contests coming from the club’s overpowered sound system, and on Wednesdays the thumping bass of rhythmic music, and the corny cadence of a DJ as he announced names like, “Candi,” “Cinnamon,” and “Sparkles,” and he would hear intense shouting and hooting from the men as girls danced to blaring Mötley Crüe songs.

One night in the fourth week a stray mortar shell demolished Erwin’s car, and after that the Red Cross began driving him to work. They constantly made comments to Erwin that they hoped he was planning on making a large donation sometime soon, but he only nodded and occasionally offered to buy coffee and donuts.

Exactly six weeks into the siege Erwin walked out of his house holding his briefcase, his flak jacket and Kevlar helmet on, waiting for the Red Cross to pick him up, but they never did. He also noticed an eerie silence and for the first time in what seemed like years, he saw birds flying and ground squirrels scampering out of the brush across his lawn.

He walked down his driveway, now a difficult task as it was littered with five foot deep craters, as well as splintered wood blasted away from the fort, smashed electronics, glass from shattered booze bottles, and scraps of neon rags from what looked like shredded panties and lingerie. When he reached the fort, he saw it was still intact and had even grown another layer of logs since last night but its gates were wide open and inside he could see a line of men kneeling on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs, their helmets and reflective vests removed. They looked miserable, defeated, and solemnly accepting their fates as the victorious besieging linemen stood around them, laughing, slapping each other on the back and playing cruel games like, “Got Your Nose,” with the defeated. A tight crowd had formed a circle around the shell shocked dancing girls as linemen tried to out-do each other with boasts of their heroism, regardless of the fact that the girls were all deaf, bleeding, mentally comatose, and had boyfriends anyway.

The foreman of the besiegers came out and tipped his hardhat to Erwin, smiling ear to ear. “We got some of the sewer department guys to dig a tunnel into their fort!” he said. “Joint department venture, really awesome when it works!”

“Oh,” Erwin said.

“Yeah. Hey uh, you wouldn’t happen to have an axe, would you?” the foreman asked, and motioned back to the fort, where Erwin could now see one of the defeated with his head laying on an old tree stump, smoking a cigarette and asking the victors to, “Just get this shit over with.”

Erwin only nodded and went to his wood shed, came back with an old gnarl handled wood axe, handed it to the foreman and said, “Well, looks like you guys will be on your way soon.”

“We’ll see what happens,” the foreman said and shrugged as he walked back to the line of kneeling besiegers, brandishing the axe and taunting, “Look what daddy found!”

Erwin walked down his driveway to the road and managed to convince one of the artillery linemen to drive him to work in a siege utility truck.

He convinced his secretary to drive him home after work and she reasonably asked, “Hey uh…what the hell is going on around here?” when she pulled into the driveway and saw the fort being dismantled and the headless naked bodies being tossed into a newly dug mass grave.

“Utility stuff, I guess,” Erwin said.

She was completely silent as she drove to his house.

“Look at this, this driveway is supposed to be guaranteed for five years! You see this?” Erwin waved to the blasted, debris strewn, cratered surface.

They went into his house where his secretary proceeded to vomit in his bathroom because of the deathly smell that permeated the area, and after that she curled into a ball and sobbed underneath his reasonable dining room table with three years left on the warranty.

A knock at the door caused Erwin to put his whiskey bottle down and answer it.

“Here, I didn’t forget this was yours!” the foreman said, smiling as he handed the axe through the doorway.

“Oh,” Erwin said, looking with disgust at the axe, not taking it.

“What?” the foreman asked, his face souring in indignation. “I washed it off!”

“Just uh, on the porch there,” Erwin mumbled.

“Alright, whatever,” the foreman said and tossed the axe on the porch. “So did you hear? Telsat finally capitulated! After all the U.N. talks, they’ve agreed to transfer the pole to a neutral party, to you!”

“Oh,” Erwin said. He didn’t really know what to make of it, especially considering the fact that he had lied, Telsat never owned the utility pole in the first place. He was so frantic that he would have said anything to save his skin at the time. “That’s uh…good news.”

“Yeah, so I think we should probably have a little chat sometime,” The foreman said with a wicked amount of foreboding.

“Right,” Erwin nodded.

“You know, about what you’re going to do to take care of Marv’s family, restitution for this mess, all that. Lot of good men paid for this with their lives, you know?”

“Sure, sure,” Erwin nodded. “Well I guess just take everything I own. Would that be good?”

“Sure, that’s a start.” The foreman nodded.

“Right, well I’ll tell my secretary to make sure Marv’s family is my beneficiary on my life insurance and my will, then I guess I’ll ask if she wants to have sex and then I think I’ll kill myself.”

“Good, good, sounds like a plan.” The foreman smiled.

“Alright, have a good evening then,” Erwin nodded and began closing the door.

“Oh, one more thing, just real quick,” the foreman said. “We ask that everybody fills out a little survey, just a few questions, take you five minutes, just asks how good of a job we did,” he handed Erwin an envelope. “You can fill it out and have your secretary mail it.”

“No problem,” Erwin said, taking the form and closing the door.


The next day there was a stressful delay to the parade, as the coroner’s van was blocking the driveway most of the morning until they finally loaded Erwin’s body and drove off. That unpleasantness aside, it went off without a hitch. A marching band, one hundred strong, strutted up and down Erwin’s driveway, the shell craters having been filled with rubble from the now demolished fort. The utility company’s flag flew high on the utility pole. A Thomas Edison impersonator christened the pole with a bottle of champagne, dubbing it the Marv Walker memorial utility pole. Hundreds of people played carnival games and ate food from the dozens of concession trailers and tents set up. A thirty gun cannonade marked an end to the festivities that night and people shook hands and exchanged numbers as they threw fake flowers on the graves and hung plastic wreaths on the pole. Eventually the flag was lowered, folded, and handed to Marv’s family on behalf of a grateful utility company.

The next day the brush began growing again, squirrels scampered up and down the pole, birds built nests on top, and nobody ever visited it again. Eventually, the plastic flowers were swallowed by the growing brush and the two year guaranteed wreaths withered away at the exact right time, revealing behind them the metal utility pole identification tag, “J154B3,” which the pole was solely called ever since.

➥ Bio