Parking Violation
—fiction by Michael C. Keith

Revenge always begins with craziness and ends in shame.
–– Author unknown

One of Glen Wheeler’s favorite pastimes was sitting on a bench in Gaylord Common in the early evening and taking in its lovely flora and fauna. The park also provided him with some amusement as he watched the city’s derelicts gather before they headed to the nearby homeless shelter on Calvert Street for the night. During warm weather many would elect to remain outside sharing their cheap wine with one another––if anyone had some to share. The cops seldom disturbed them and when their booze ran out most would stake out a bench or a piece of lawn to curl up on until dawn.

Glen tried to imagine what caused these men to end up as vagrants and outcasts. And a bit of his heart went out to them. On a few occasions, he gave them money but was forced to stop this practice after they accosted him for handouts as soon as he appeared the Common. The destitute and once passive men became hostile when he refused them a handout.

Finally the situation got to the point where the panhandlers would harass him with nasty names. On two occasions, they’d even tossed their empty bottles at him. This forced Glen to avoid the public grounds altogether, which made him resentful, too. Spending time in the park had been the highlight of his day and their belligerent behavior forced him to search elsewhere to spend his leisure time. But no place came close to the bucolic setting of the city’s primary green space.

* * *

Glen grew more and more angry with the drunkards who denied him the pleasure he’d once derived in the sprawling natural oasis. They should be run out of there. Why should these lowlife keep respectable citizens like me from enjoying what my taxes help pay for? These social rejects contribute nothing. Something should be done, he thought, contemplating possible measures to regain what he had lost. It had been a long time since his anger had raised its ugly head. In the past that anger had gotten him into trouble and once resulted in a brief time in jail.

After obsessing over the frustrating situation for several days, a possible solution finally occurred to him. While the bums were sleeping, he would douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. That will take care of the problem once and for all. The place will be mine again.

When Glen arrived at the park long after midnight intent on executing his plan, he was baffled by what he encountered.

“Where are they? There’s no one here. Dammit!” he growled, not realizing the irony of his lament.

He sat in his once favorite spot and waited in the hope the usual troupe of reprobates would reappear. Sleep finally overtook him, and not long afterwards one of his intended victims quietly relieved Glen of both his wallet and container of propellant.

* * *

“Hey you, get up! Move on! No more sleeping it off in the park. Can’t do that any more. New law passed against that,” growled a voice that pulled Glen from a deep sleep.

“Huh, a new law? When? That’s great . . .”

“Let me see some identification,” demanded a uniformed officer.

“Okay. I was going to . . . I mean I came here to . . .” muttered Glen digging through his pockets.

“Well, where’s your ID, buddy? I’m waiting.”

“It’s gone. I had it when I came. Someone must have . . .”

“Sure, you were robbed, right? Now you’re coming with me. No ID and I’ve got to take you in.”

“No, wait. I had it when I got here, and my gas can . . .”

“Your what?”

“Nothing . . . nothing. I just had a package, and it’s missing, too.”

The policeman took Glen by the arm and marched him away. As he was led through the park, he caught sight of some of the homeless men he’d planned to immolate. Each held a brown bag that clearly contained a liquor bottle.

“Some of your friends?” asked the officer, snidely.

Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction.