Who let the alpacas out?
“I’m a scientist and inventor, not a friggin’ janitor,” the Mad Scientist declared, handing me the shovel and small rake. “You’re gonna take care of the alpaca shit.”
In the past, whenever the Mad Scientist and I worked together, I was the boss. Now, as Wilbur the Alpaca Farmer’s herdsman, he was gonna flex his muscle over me, the newly hired, lowly stable boy. The alpaca consultant had mandated the daily cleanup of a half-dozen latrine piles the herd of 15 camelids created across the confines of their pasture. The Mad Scientist hated shoveling the mounds of bean-like feces and was excited to be relieved of the duty.
We had just smoked a joint and planned the day. The Mad Scientist would hide in the woods to avoid Wilbur for a little bit, while I shoveled shit.
Wilbur hadn’t thought through the details when the new alpaca barn was built. To provide water for the animals, we needed either a jackhammer or dynamite to get it there from the well. Even Wilbur wasn’t crazy or stupid enough to let the Mad Scientist near explosives. Since I had extensive bank-vault-demolition experience, I was assigned the task of hammer-man.
After morning coffee break, we set up the jackhammer and compressor and I began what would become my primary task for the next several days: smash and bash a channel in the ledge to bury a water line deep enough that it wouldn’t freeze during the winter.
For hours and hours, we labored. Or I labored, pulverizing ledge while the Mad Scientist leaned on a shovel, smoking cigs. I occasionally stopped for a short break and he cleaned the crushed rock, dust and debris from the trench, while offering pointers on how I could do a better job.
“You wanna show me how it’s done?” I asked, wiping sweat off my forehead. It was a warm autumn Eastport day. The leaves were turning colors, the sea was sparkling diamonds, and if you ignored the red fire ants and the chortle and wheeze of the large diesel compressor, the scene was picturesque. “You’re more than welcome to give it a try.” I gestured toward the jackhammer. “Be my guest.”
“No can do,” he said, putting up his hands. “My arms are still fucked from working on your bank vault. I couldn’t possibly handle the hammer.” He grinned a toothy grin. “I already explained that to Wilbur. Besides, you’re doing such a good job.” He looked at his watch. “Time for lunch. You got sandwiches?”
I did. Tuna. Two of them, knowing that he wouldn’t bring his own. I hated it when he watched me eat. Then we shared another joint. He smoked a couple more cigs and I drank water as we watched the alpacas graze at the end of the pasture extending to the edge of the bay.
“I betcha the ’pacas don’t like all the noise we’re making,” he said. “I’m thinking about letting them graze on the other side of the fence.”
“Really?” He was talking about 15 acres, mostly unfenced, located across the street from the busy parking lot of a low-income-housing project. “You think that’s a good idea?”
Just then Wilbur drove up in his Gator. “Hey fellas, is lunch break over?” he asked. “How goes the battle?”
“Fine,” the Mad Scientist said. “We’re making headway, but I was just telling Crash I was gonna let the herd graze on the other side of the fence ’cuz we’re making lots of noise.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” Wilbur said. “I’ll open the gate and you lead them over. And Crash,” he said, “get back to the jackhammer.”
I did as told. More hours passed in the vibrating zen of demolition. Then a truck drove across the outer field and through the open gate of the alpaca enclosure, right up to the ledge I was hammering. It was a neighbor.
“You guys missing any alpacas?” the man asked. “’Cuz there’s a whole bunch of them, down the road a bit. Seem to be headed away from here.”
In horror, the Mad Scientist and I turned and looked toward the outer pasture. Not a single animal to be seen. Almost $150,000 worth of livestock, gone. Escaped through the open gate at the head of the driveway.
We jumped into the work Gator and sped off in search of the herd. We found them a quarter mile away, seemingly considering whether or not to explore a section of mud flats.
“You get out and get behind them,” the Mad Scientist ordered. “We’ll push right back to the farm and through the gate. No big deal.”
I tried chasing and coercing the animals, but they wouldn’t heed me. Meanwhile, a crowd of humans had formed, mostly neighborhood kids. I wasn’t having a good time. Not easy trying to round up a herd of alpacas with a newly found taste of freedom.
“Why don’t you get some food?” called out a little girl. “Then use it to get them to follow you home.”
The Mad Scientist headed to the farm and returned with a bucket of feed. A half hour later, the alpacas were relaxing in the barn.
“That was fun,” the Mad Scientist said when we got back to the ledge. “Hah-hah…”
“Fun?” I said, loudly. Screaming almost. His little giggle had pushed me over the edge. For three years, we’d been pals, and while working together stupid shit was always happening. A steady stream of errors and botched jobs because the Mad Scientist rushed through things without considering all the possible outcomes. I was tired of being the victim of his mistakes. “Fun? You call that fun?”
“No big deal,” he said again.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” I said. “If you think it’s no big deal to waste half the afternoon chasing around a bunch of animals, then you are the biggest fucking idiot I have ever met!”
“Take it back!” he sputtered, his face suddenly contorted and strained, like he was about to transform into the Incredible Hulk. “I said,” his voice getting louder with each word. “Take! It! BACK!”
“Fuck you,” I said, with a short laugh. “You are a fucking idiot. And everyone knows it.” I saw the rage inside him build, but didn’t care.
The Mad Scientist said it again, slowly this time. “Take! … It! … Back!”
I’d obviously hit a sore spot, his Achilles Heel. I wondered who had called him a “fucking idiot” in the past. His father? Step-dad? Teachers? Bosses? Women? It cut deep. And there I was, one of his few pals, wielding the same sharp knife.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” I sneered and walked away, toward my bicycle. “Fuck you!”
Crash Barry will be appearing at HomeGrown Maine: A Marijuana Trade Show and Cultural Bizarre on Nov. 6 at the Augusta Civic Center.