The boy upstairs

A few months ago, a family moved into the unit directly above mine in this apartment building, and they're a bloody pain in my ass. Their son screams, stomps, throws tantrums, and especially likes jumping up and down on the floor, often. Their floor, of course, is my ceiling.

Judging from the tone of his shrieks, I'm guessing he's five or six years old. His name is Mark, I know, because his parents sometimes scream it at him, but not as often as little Mark deserves. He's renewed my belief in corporal punishment.

I spoke to his parents about their little monster, without even calling him a little monster. I was polite, soft-spoken, and smiled, tried to be neighborly, and it hasn't made a damned bit of difference. The child still screams, more loudly and more often than it seems reasonable for a child to scream, and he still stomps on the floor — maybe more often than before.

In my living room was an empty box, which had originally contained a year’s worth of the laxative pills I can’t poop without. Great pills, by the way. Two every morning, two every evening.

In my basement storage room was a cheap grilling set-up that the wife and I brought with us when we moved here from Kansas City. We haven’t used it in years, but I think… yup, there was still a half-empty sack of generic charcoal briquettes.

In the other corner of the storage area was a roll of adhesive shelf-lining paper, shiny silver, left over from when we’d first moved to Kansas City. Steph thought that apartment's kitchen cabinets were uncouth.

With these three ingredients plus a Sharpie pen, my plan didn’t cost even a nickel. The briquettes got poured into the box, packed so tight it barely rattled, and the box was sealed and wrapped with the silver shelf-paper. In large letters on the outside, I wrote, “Merry Christmas to Mark from Santa!” and doodled some smiley faces (the limit of my artistic ability) to add to the festive spirit. Whoops, forgot to sign it. Then I went up the stairs, and quietly left my present on their welcome mat.

Maybe they’d put it under the tree for little Marky, but mostly it was intended as a message for his parents. I left the box on Wednesday, then forgot about it, because there were too many variables that could go wrong. The parents might simply toss it, or open it and keep the coal for a summer barbecue.

There’s no knowing without asking and I ain’t asking, but — maybe, mission accomplished? Today is Christmas, and the kid and his parents yelled at each other for 15 minutes or so, which is normal for them, but all sides seemed a little extra amped up. Then came a glorious rattling, rumbling sound lasting only a couple of seconds, and I want to believe it was coal spilling out of the box and onto the hardwood floor above my head. Then just a moment of silence, before loud vulgarities from the kid’s father, and from his mother, “Mark, you are going to clean this up!”

When I started typing at the top of this page, the kid was screaming, “I don’t want to, Mom, I don’t want to!”, and now as I’m finishing I can just barely hear what sounds like a broom sweeping above my ceiling.



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  1. I don't know if this is true, but the parents are gonna k now it was you. Be careful, brother.

    1. I am courageous like Walking Tall but also pretty sure my complaint to them was only one of many.


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