I tried different ways to pass the time: I counted the cars that drove by each way, but they were few, fewer, and finally none; I checked my watch and attempted to look at it again in five minutes, but each time I was two or three minutes too soon; I began mentally listing major literary works I should have read but hadn’t (Tom Jones, War and Peace, À la recherché du temps perdu). But the list became depressingly long.
Just after one, a figure came along the sidewalk. It was wearing dark clothes and carrying a bag. It stopped in front of Mr. Feezance’s house and began to scatter the contents of the bag onto the lawn. I opened the car door quietly, so as not to awaken anyone. “Freeze! I have a gun. One move and you’re dead.” I hoped he wouldn’t run because my “gun” was a rolled up manual and I am too old to chase him. Fortunately he froze.
“Get into the car.” He did. He was in his early twenties and looked harmless. “Now what were you doing?”
He was quiet for a moment, then he said matter-of-factly: “Dumping dog dung on that lawn.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ll listen. We have all night.”
“A few years ago when I was an undergraduate at the university, I was looking desperately for a summer job. I saw an ad for one at Thorough-Bread Baker. I applied and Mr. Freezance hired me. He smiled frequently, but he was a slave-driver. I endured it, though, because I needed the money and it was only for a few months…I thought. After two weeks, he called me into his office late Saturday afternoon, handed me a cheque, smiled, and told me my job had ended. I was stunned. As I left, I hear two workers talking: ‘Sam’ll be back Monday.’ ‘Yeah. I’ll bet he had two great weeks’ holidays in the Yukon.’
I was naïve, I suppose, but it took me a while to realize what Feezance had done. He needed someone to replace Sam for two weeks, but he knew he couldn’t find anyone for that short a time, so he advertised a summer job and found a sucker ꟷ me. What he did was unethical, but maybe not illegal. Anyway, what could I do?
I eventually got my degree. Two months ago I saw Feezance’s retirement in the newspaper and I remembered what he had done and I decided to get even. I know I was petty and vindictive, but I felt he deserved it.”
Christianity preaches the virtue of forgiving one’s enemies, but I also recalled what Bacon wrote in one of his essays: “Revenge is a kind of wild justice” and I sympathized with the young man.
We drove to an all-night diner and talked over coffee and sandwiches. I never asked his name. Then I drove him home, assuring him that I would tell Feezance nothing. It probably doesn’t do a P.I.’s reputation any good to fail to solve a case, but it wasn’t the first time I had deliberately admitted defeat.
The next day I reported to Feezance and billed him for the five dollars I had paid his neighbor for parking. He paid and smiled enigmatically. I remembered Hamlet’s observation that “one may smile and smile and be a villain.”
And a few days later, as I was picking up dog droppings from my lawn, I had a strong temptation to start saving them in a bag for future use.