Of Apple Trees and Graffitti
Mr. Milsum was not well-liked. Although he was a bit of a misogynist and occasionally uttered opinions which were considered politically incorrect, he was not a bad man. Mr. Milsum thought of the world in relatively simple terms most of the time. In his youth he had been particularly zealous and intellectually advanced for his age, but his intellectual pursuits were now stunted for the most part. His ways were mysterious to a lot of those in his neighbourhood and when they watched the way some of his progeny handled themselves, they assumed that their fanaticism, short tempers, and in-fighting were traits that belonged to Mr. Milsum as well. Mr. Milsum had decent relations with most of his neighbours, but a couple members of his extensive clan were known to cause trouble around the neighbourhood.
One of his neighbours, Mr. Acirema, was enraged when one of Mr. Milsum's particlarly delinquent children purposely burnt down his garden shed. "I don't blame the Milsums, their family is usually very peaceful," he said in his bombastic way, "My daughter-in-law is a Milsum, and I love her." Of course, he secretly kept a closer eye on that daughter-in-law by evesdropping on her phone conversations as much as possible. "It's my house," he reasoned, "and I need to protect my children from possible arsonists."
As for the delinquent, it was this same delinquent whom Mr. Acirema had hired to trample the vegetables in the ever-expanding garden plot of the Naissur family. "That Mr. Naissur went beyond his alloted boundary!" Mr. Acirema insisted, as he claimed that particular area of the community garden for himself. Of course, that was when the Naissur's were Mormons. They now professed to be Presbyterians even though the suspicious Mr. Acirema felt he occasionally detected Mormonish behaviour in his neighbour. Nevertheless, they were not Mormons anymore and Mr. Acirema felt he could now trust them. Most of the neigbourhood had forgotten about the epic garden war and now the entire neighbourhood was sympathetic with the Aciremas over the garden-shed arson and even approved when Mr. Acirema toppled down the Milsum's ugly apple tree which had been producing nothing but rotten apples for about two years.
"What an eyesore that was," the neighbourhood agreed. Opinion was divided on whether the new tree which Mr. Acirema had planted would take root. There were a lot of little Milsums rough-housing around the little tree and it had already lost more than a few branches. Mr. Acirema would angrily berate the children by shaking his big fist and cuffing a few of the children before they hid from his righteous wrath. Mr. Acirema swore that he would find the delinquent who had destroyed his shed, but made little effective effort in apprehending the little felon.
Of course, opinion was more divided when Mr. Acirema tried to insist that Mr. Milsum's cousin, the wife-beating Mr. Qari, had been party to the arson. Mr. Milsum, to his credit, made an effort to appeal to the United Neighbourhood Committee, but his arguments and outright lies did little to convince his neighbours of the justice of his vendetta against Mr. Qari. When Mr. Acirema threw some eggs at Mr. Qari's house and angrily confronted the brute, it resulted in Mr. Qari receiving a severe beating which drove him from his home. Many members of Mr. Qari's household were secretly happy and Mrs. Qari, encouraged by Mr. Acirema, was already courting new suitors. Mr. Qari insisted that his wife still loved him but Mr. Acirema petulently refused to let him see her. There were even rumours that Mr. Acirema intended to bed her himself. Meanwhile, the Qari family fought among themselves over the suitability of Mrs. Qari's various suitors.
And of course, Mr. Acirema conveniently forgot the time he had recruited Mr. Qari in his effort to have Mr. Allotaya, Mr. Milsum's nephew, evicted from his home. Mr. Acirema's memory was a delicate thing. He could wax eloquently on his triumphs and greatness but remained frustratingly forgetful when it came to the clashes he had experienced with his neighbours.
Some of the neighbourhood gossips whispered that Mr. Acirema had manufactured the entire incident as a stepping-stone to further his access to Mrs. Qari's delicious potatoes in the community garden. Furthermore, they reasoned, what better way for him to get to those potatoes but by cutting down the ugly apple tree which had formerly blocked his access. From these conspiracies came more conspiracies, each one more ridiculous than the last. Mr. Acirema, one gossip not known for her intelligence insisted, burnt down his own garden shed just so he could chop down that apple tree and get access to those potatoes. Few people took her seriously, except for a few members of the Ecnarf family. Of course, the Ecnarfs loved to scoff arrogantly at the political manoeuvring of the Aciremas while ignoring their own indiscretions. The whole neighbourhood had been aghast when some of the grandchildren of the Ecnarf clan, who were related to the Milsums, had angrily vandalised the Ecnarf garden after being confronted with some particularly nasty familial favouritism.
Mr. Milsum was not well liked. His niece, Yekrut, had been grudgingly accepted into the West Block's Knit Club but more than few of the club's members grumbled about her unpopular opinions and the way her children seemed to disrespect the neighbourhood customs. "As a matter of fact," complained old man Eporue as he knit another one-size-fits-all asexual sweater, "all of those little Milsums really don't have a lot of respect for our ways."
Kramned Eporue's son, one of old man Eporue's many grandchildren, decided to take action. He was tired of the way the Milsum family kept insisting that the neighbourhood needed to accept their ways and so, in big red letters, he sprayed the words "MR. MILSUM'S MOTHER WAS A TWO-BIT PROSTITUTE" on an empty wall. It didn't take long for many of the Milsum clan to get riled at such an underhanded insult and soon there were little Milsum children gathered on their lawns hurling acorns at Kramned's car. Kramned hadn't written the graffitti himself and tried to explain that to the young Milsums, but he was answered with a hail of insults. Although Mr. Learsi and Mr. Acirema had nothing to do with the graffitti it was not long before their cars were targetted as well. This, of course was the Milsum custom, because experience had taught them, rightly or wrongly, that if there was a problem it was likely the Learsis or the Aciremas who had caused it.
A few of the wiser Milsums urged their children to behave themselves, but their suggestions fell on deaf ears. Matters became worse when a few neighbours decided to broadcast the graffitti's contents on megaphones from their front porches. This made the Milsum children even more enraged and the acorns flew with dizzying fury, but little accuracy.
"See," a few neighbours said, "that graffitti was necessary, look at the way those little buggers are reacting."
"I don't know," others countered, "the graffitti is a little disrespectful."
"What about when a couple of those little Milsums sprayed the word "DUMBO" on Mr. Acerima's driveway?" others argued with self-satisfaction.
"The Milsum's don't consider that as insulting," was the reply.
"Well, I certainly do," they insisted, "I know my children would never throw acorns if my mother was called a whore."
"You and your mother are estranged, aren't you?"
"That's not the point. The point is that these little Milsums are not mature and therefore we should be broadcasting the words of this graffitti from our fronch porches."
"So, because they're immature, we should be too?"
"You know what I mean."