Horrifying… revenge. The epigraph to ‘Anna Karenina’ – a book I read every few years – is biblical and equally unnerving: Vengeance is mine, I will repay. (Romans 12:19)
Revenge is so intimate. Think of the bully whose face you see in your nightmare – up close and reprehensible. Fear, loathing and, of course, the desire for… revenge.
Vengeance suggests a planned and formalized payback. A duel between two forces of perceived wrongs. Don’t get in the way. Collateral damage may ensue.
Well, let’s not dwell on vengeance or revenge, let’s turn to the next pronouncement in Tolstoy’s novel-masterpiece. This opening line has become famous. It’s mathematical precision is startling. Our comforting encounter after the scary vengeance quote:
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Stop. I’m reeling from images ricocheting like lab mice caught between cheese and voltage. Vengeance and happy families?
Well, I do feel somewhat better – if temporarily – having my reality soothed by this truth about happy families. Wait? Aren’t happy families like a photo of a beautiful landscape – distant and two-dimensional? Who has stepped on the other side of that mirror and has inhaled the happy family’s atmosphere? Tissue, please.
What about raccoons and revenge? From Tolstoy to a story of imprudent, pool-bathing raccoons felled by an unhappy homeowner. All too familiar, you say?
Let’s record the story of a tragic situation and lament the death of rascally creatures. Not revenge, think karma, think balancing the scales. Revenge is a human truancy and has apocalyptic possibilities. Karma wants fair due, I’m afraid, and Lady Justice is portrayed with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. I think too much attention is paid to the blindfolds. Impartiality? This gal sees it all.
Setting: A home’s backyard with a pool visited by the uninvited, water-loving raccoons. Homeowner Mrs. M, widowed, determined, and exacting, keeps a notebook of raccoon nocturnals.
These bandit-faced creatures enjoy the pool’s soothing waters and widow M. never confined her pool with fencing. Besides bathing, they leave excretions not suitable for bathers even though the pool is used only as eye refreshment. Mrs. M, tall, stooped over, is a woman of eight plus decades who runs a debris-free, uncluttered yard with the efforts of a yard service.
A diligent homeowner, Mrs. M. marks her calendar whenever intruderly evidence appears. For a week now, she scoops scat floating on the chlorine-blue surface.
Her yard work is done by the service owner himself, having learned years ago how to match Mrs. M’s directives. Always with a patient, charming smile; his gaze masked by sun glasses never betrays disagreement.
These unrepentant invaders must go, Mrs. M decides. But how? she asks herself.
Soon she’s also asking the hardware store’s employee. She returns to her yard with a pie tin, can of generic cola and a tablespoon of powder from a box with a frightful label. A rock in the pie tin’s center secures its place next to the pool’s cool enticement.
Waiting, watching is never a neutral stance. Mrs. M wants to see a certain outcome undisguised by a moonless night. Three corpses on view the following morning merit a call to her landscaper.
‘Bury them in the yard,’ she tells him.
‘You sure you want to bury them?’ he carefully counters.
Fetching shovel, he digs to clear a hole worthy of the felled ones. Digging, that is, until he hits something larger than expected in the yard’s cooperative soil. Odor of distinction seeps to the digger’s face and he stops.
‘Mrs. M, we’ve hit a sewer pipe!’
He doesn’t need to shout as Mrs. M. has been watching all the while.
‘Better call the town, Mrs. M.,’ he tells her.
‘Yes, and better throw those dead raccoons into the trash.’ she concedes.
For a month now, Mrs. M.’s neighborhood has been unhappily surrounded by town trucks and their digging apparatus.
Revenge never smelled so sweet.