The Mad Scientist, Part V
“I don’t know how he can friggin’ get away with building without permits,” the Mad Scientist said, after taking a long sip from his pint glass of Allen’s coffee brandy and half-and-half. “The boss builds the big green barn and doesn’t get a permit and his kid brags about it, up and down the coast.” He took a puff off the joint. “And this one,” he pointed toward the rough-hewn barn we were standing near, “we built it without a permit and it’s less than 250 feet from the ocean.” He puffed again. “Yet if I drive an unregistered vehicle from here to the IGA, I’m gonna end up down in Machias in jail. Friggin’ unfair, I tell you.” He inhaled again, then handed me the joint so he could gulp down the rest of his first drink of the day. “It’s friggin’ bullshit.”
We were awaiting the arrival of the alpaca consultant from southern Maine, with her trailer carrying the nine newest members of Wilbur’s herd. She was already an hour late. Wilbur had just sent Dana, his Passamaquoddy mistress, to the alpaca pasture to tell us the consultant had been slowed by rough weather down the coast. In Eastport, though, the sky was blue, with wisps and streaks of pink, purple and orange as the first signs of sunset appeared above the corner of Wilbur’s 45-acre saltwater farm.
The Mad Scientist was still grumpy. The pot and booze hadn’t mellowed him yet, but I knew his attitude would adjust in a minute or two. He’d be funny and goofy, happy, then crazy. He’d grow louder, and madder, as the bottle emptied. When he got down to the last drink he’d plummet to utter sadness, sometimes even speak of suicide. But he always passed out before he killed himself. He’d awake the next morning alive and hung over. And grumpy, once again. This pattern was repeated as often as his meager budget allowed.
“Drives me nuts,” he said, shaking his head. “This guy builds two barns without permits, near the shore, and no one blinks an eye.”
“Perhaps all his donations to the city manager’s pet projects buys him some protection,” I said. “Or maybe, in Washington County, rules don’t apply to millionaires …”
“Multi-millionaire,” the Mad Scientist interrupted. “He claims he’s got 42 million bucks. Gimme the joint!” I did and he puffed hard. “Guy has millions,” he grunted, “yet he’s cheaper than anyone I’ve ever met. Did I tell you about the time he borrowed cash from me in Calais to pay for lunch?” He paused to puff again on the joint. “The bastard still hasn’t paid me back. It’s been a friggin’ year.”
“You’ve told me a hundred times,” I said. “Why don’t you just ask him for the money?”
“Just waiting to see if he remembers,” the Mad Scientist mumbled. “Wanna see if he pays his debts and …”
He stopped talking as we watched a blue Jeep drive down the hill from Wilbur’s new house and off the farm. It was Dana and her two youngest kids leaving.
“What’s he got that I don’t got?” the Mad Scientist asked with a sigh. “Doesn’t his wife care that he’s got a girlfriend?”
The Mad Scientist had a crush on Dana for years. She was a nice, pretty woman with a great smile and a silky pair of legs. “I’d show her a good time. Much better than Wilbur ever could. That old fucker.” He sighed again. “Oh, oh, oh, that Dana. I just wanna munch on her.” He growled, like an aroused beast. “Yesterday, when we walked the alpacas over here from my place, it was obvious she wanted me.”
It was my turn to sigh. I’d helped lead the animals from their temporary home at the Mad Scientist’s to the new barn at Wilbur’s. Dana definitely hadn’t shown any hint of lust for him. But what could I say? If we argued, I’d have to point out that it’d been three years since he’d gotten laid. Even if a desirable woman could see past his extensive scars, disfigurements and missing digits, they’d surely be scared off by his drunken, paranoiac diatribes.
He poured a fresh drink and lit a cigarette. “Let’s see how my girls are doing,” he said. “I hope they like their new home.”
I followed him into the barn. He claimed to be glad to be rid of the five alpacas and three llamas that had been living in the dooryard of his 100-room house for the past couple of months. But I saw through his bluster. Every time I’d visited him, he just wanted to hang out, drink, smoke and watch the animals. I could tell he felt affection for the herd, which was unusual — most of the time the Mad Scientist hated everyone and everything.
A couple hours later, the livestock trailer appeared. It was dark, the bottle was three-quarters gone, and the Mad Scientist was drunk. The consultant was exhausted and frazzled. She’d had to stop several times due to heavy rain, wind and lightning, so the trip took almost twice as long as usual. She eagerly accepted the chilled white wine Wilbur offered. The four of us watched the nine alpacas wander their new digs.
“So,” the consultant asked the Mad Scientist, “are you having any issues with the animals?”
“Hah!” he laughed. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Really?” she asked. (Earlier, she’d privately expressed concern to Wilbur and me that the Mad Scientist wasn’t qualified to care for a herd worth a quarter-million dollars.) “No questions at all?”
“Nope,” he said, grinning, high and in his crazy zone. “I’ve got it all under control. You see, I know how to deal with animals.” He paused and took another sip of his drink. “For instance, the other day, when I was giving them their grain, Teresa spit right in my face.” He laughed. “But I didn’t get mad. I stayed calm and vowed to get even.”
“Alpacas don’t usually spit at humans,” the consultant said. “They spit at each other during feeding. You must have got caught in the crossfire.”
“So I waited until later in the day,” he continued, as though he hadn’t heard her, “and then, when she was all chill and not expecting anything, I slapped her on the ass and she turned around, then I squirted her with the garden hose. Hah! Taught her a lesson!”
No one said a word. The consultant looked aghast. Wilbur had a silly smile on his face. I just shook my head.
“I wouldn’t recommend doing that again,” the consultant said slowly, choosing her words carefully. “I don’t think Marty McGee would approve.”
“WHO THE FUCK IS MARTY McGEE?” the Mad Scientist roared. “I DON’T KNOW HIM!”
“Why, she’s one of the foremost experts on camelid behavior in the world,” the consultant said, almost stammering. “She’s written many books specializing in training …”
“Well, I’m the expert around here,” he interrupted. “Not her.”
Again, everyone went silent.
“Well,” Wilbur said, “might not hurt for you to read a book …”
“BOOK!” he screamed. “I DON’T NEED TO READ NO FUCKING BOOK!”
Crash Barry’s Tough Island: True Stories from Matinicus, Maine is available at select indie bookstores and at crashbarry.com.