The Mad Scientist, Part I
To steal the water for the ice rink in his courtyard, the Mad Scientist rigged a crude bypass to the water district’s pipe and meter. A couple times a day, during a particularly lengthy Eastport cold snap six winters ago, he’d open a valve in the basement and run a long hose out a gaping hole in the side of his building. It took three hours of moving the trickling hose around the courtyard to form a new layer of ice, but slowly the rink took shape: 80 feet long and 50 feet wide. The Mad Scientist prayed against snow. He was gonna have a skating party and didn’t want to shovel.
The Mad Scientist envisioned a guest list of hot females in short skirts and ruffled panties, physical clones of Nancy Kerrigan with Tonya Harding’s morals and blonde hair. He thought they’d skate and frolic as he impressed them by skating backwards while wearing an ancient suit of armor from his hockey-playing days, two decades earlier. Afterwards, hamburgs on the grill, maybe some hot chocolate with schnapps for the ladies, but he’d stick with his standard 750 milliliter bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy mixed with a quart of half and half. The gaggle of beauties would laugh at his jokes and dance with him to the heavy metal music of Germany’s Rammstein blasting through a huge speaker. He’d thrust his fist up into the night until the wee hours of the morning, when all the skaters collapsed in the throes of orgiastic lust onto his moldy bed, sheets and pillow, yellow with spit and sorrow.
He was delusional, of course. His life sucked. Most of the chicks he knew hated his guts because of his many drunken transgressions. He had no job until spring. Completely broke. Selling little bags of shitty weed and getting soused whenever he could raise enough shekels to buy a bottle of coffee brandy. Many on Moose Island believed him to be a lunatic. Crazy, yes, but he was not yet stark raving mad, despite living in an architectural monstrosity with a hundred rooms. His house was collapsing around him, a rambling and crumbling former dormitory that was impossible to heat, so he didn’t try. The roof leaked wherever he hadn’t nailed and strapped blue tarps. The place looked dangerous and abandoned and should have been condemned, but wasn’t, because city officials were scared of him. Afraid the Mad Scientist would explode.
He wouldn’t explode, though. That was part of his charm: beneath all the crazy talk, swagger and bluster, he was sensitive and, to a certain degree, thoughtful. He dreamed of being popular, mainly so he’d have a constant supply of fresh friends to tell his theories about spaceship propulsion, fish farming and the ghosts he’d seen running through his hallways late at night. He wanted people to witness his world of fantasy and, if they hung around long enough, his pain and suffering.
The skating party didn’t play out as planned. Instead of nymphomaniacs, the regular posse arrived at noon, including me, my sweet wife, and Jason the Mason, with his 18-pack of Natty Light Ice and his family: wife, stepdaughter and her three kids (a teenaged special-needs boy and his sexually precocious 12-year-old twin sisters). Also in attendance were a shy, sketchy fella with a variety of facial tics, a local drug dealer and his 10-year-old son, plus a couple other Moose Island freaks. Only a handful of us brought skates, but everyone wanted to party.
Nothing ever goes right for the Mad Scientist. The afternoon before the skating party, he proudly showed me the results of his twice-daily watering. The ice was smooth as silk. The repeated floodings left an almost Zamboni-like finish. As long as the temps stayed cold, and it didn’t snow, this was high-quality ice. But the Mad Scientist wasn’t happy. He couldn’t leave well enough alone. He wanted more. He wanted his courtyard to look like a hockey rink. So that evening, half-drunk and under klieg lights, using six cans of bright blue spray paint, he painted lines where he felt they were appropriate. Then he sprayed the outline of the goals and, at center ice, a large circle around a smaller, solid circle for face-offs.
The day of the skating party was cloudless and bright. The morning and noon sun hit the blue-painted ice, which absorbed the radiant heat, and melting occurred. Anywhere the Mad Scientist painted was affected, so there were ruts and holes all across the rink. This made skating quite difficult. Too challenging for the twins in their cute skating outfits. Too tough for their clumsy and awkward brother in his boots. Even my wife, who longed to skate, gave up because of the soft spots. But the Mad Scientist kept going, pretending it was alright, insisting the flaws made the rink more interesting, turning skating into a jumping aerial show. Eventually he grew bored skating alone, which was great because we were starving and wanted him to fire up the barbeque.
The grill was half of a 55-gallon steel drum, loaded with charcoal. The Mad Scientist didn’t believe in lighter fluid. He wheeled out his oxy-acetylene tanks and used the torch to light his cigarette. Then, to the amusement of the children, he turned up the gas and focused the flame on the briquettes for a couple minutes until we had a bed of coals.
I cooked burgers, dogs and chicken breasts, but the Mad Scientist, still wearing his hockey gear, sans skates, refused food, preferring instead to hold court and leer at the twins, who giggled under his attention. While we ate, he worked on the Coffee Brandy, the only alcohol his delicate system could handle. Didn’t take long for the Mad Scientist’s language and stories to become inappropriate, so right after the meal, most of the crowd left.
Dark comes early during Eastport winters, so we went inside. The Mad Scientist spent most of his time on the second floor of his manse, in a grand room with two giant fireplaces, large enough to handle three wooden pallets apiece. (For a while, he had a practically limitless supply of pallets he could steal from the industrial park next door.) The ever-impatient Mad Scientist couldn’t be bothered with kindling or building a small fire before adding pallets. He preferred to take a couple empty milk jugs and, using a small propane torch, put the flame to ’em until the plastic melted, dripping fire onto the pallets, causing a quick inferno.
As the fire blazed, he drank and drank and his mood swings grew uglier. Anger rose like a vicious wind. He professed hatred and disgust for the masses who had wronged him, going all the way back to high school, 30 years prior. As he poured the last drink from the bottle, his rant took on a suicidal tone. His wildly gesturing shadow danced and flickered on the walls and ceiling. It was time to go. Soon he’d be asleep. This was the routine.
“GOD!” he roared. “SATAN!” he bellowed. “ALIENS!” he howled. “I DON’T FRIGGIN’ CARE WHO! SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!”