This is the neighborhood where you live.
You have some neighbors.
That would be Percy.
You love your neighbor Percy.
Percy is the best neighbor anyone could ask for. He’s quiet. Minds his own business. Always asks your permission to leave his house. Always asks your permission to enter his house.
Percy’s generosity knows no bounds.
To welcome you to the neighborhood, he gave you his wife’s spot on the waiting list for a lung transplant, without even asking.
He doesn’t complain if you call the cops on him when his mail is accidentally delivered to your house.
Hell, he even lets you borrow his mailbox to use it as a big hammer for smashing wasp nests around your property.
He never sues you. He never snows on you. And not even once has he been passed out on your driveway when you needed to park there.
You’ve gotten to know Percy pretty well over the years.
His background, his hobbies, his job as an IT manager at a Fortune 500 embalming fluid company, all his water park–related humiliations, etc.
For instance, you know that Percy loves to relax on his computer.
And when Percy relaxes on his computer, he never, ever presses the Hate Speech button that now comes pre-installed on all MacBooks.
Like a saint, he tried getting it removed, but when he called Apple, customer service told him no. He took the high road and told them, “Okay, sorry, I am going to use the bathroom now.”
Still, Percy persists, relaxing on his computer for upwards of 19 hours a day and not even considering pressing the Hate Speech button the entire time.
By not pressing it, he has made your neighborhood a better place.
If that isn’t a true sign of character, nothing is.
Sadly, Percy is moving to Tampa, where he will work for a charity that surgically adds more legs to shelter dogs with only four legs.
Percy’s departure will be a huge blow to the neighborhood. Everyone loves Percy. He’s the keystone to the whole community. Without him, there’d be no point in living on your street.
Frankly, all your other neighbors kind of suck ass compared to Percy. They’re always asking to borrow your home’s support columns but never give them back, never picking up after their dogs when they die on your lawn, etc. Stuff like that.
Percy is throwing a going-away part in his backyard today, and everyone on the block is invited.
Normally, you hate going to neighborhood functions, but because it’s one of the last times you’ll see Percy, you are obligated to go.
Jesus. Every last one of the neighbors you’d love to see a sinkhole swallow is there.
You’d really love to see Percy. At the same time, you’d rather have a steamroller flatten you from the feet up so your internal organs squeeze out of your mouth like toothpaste rather than hang out with mediocre neighbors.
Are you gonna go?
You were so repulsed by the idea of having to make small talk with your neighbors that you opted to get squashed by construction machinery instead.
Not even the chance of getting to hang with your pal Percy could stop you from begging the foreman at a construction site to turn you into a human Go-Gurt if it meant so much as making eye contact with the non-Percys who also live on your street. As your innards expel from your mouth, eyes, and ears like wild cherry Slurpee out of a dispensing nozzle, you breathe a final breath of relief that you didn’t have to force conversation with the neighbors you don’t like as much.
You failed to get fucked up on gin and build a gazebo for your neighbor. Try again.
You suck it up and head to Percy’s party. After all that Percy’s done to make living near him a pleasure, putting up with all the dipshits who live on your street is the least you can do.
You look around the party for Percy.
Hmm. He doesn’t seem to be here at the moment. Better occupy yourself until he’s here.
You want to get your gin on, and who can blame you? You look out your window and notice that your dear neighbor Percy is having a going-away party for himself. You’ll miss Percy when he leaves, but right now you’ve got gin on the mind and want to ask Percy where he keeps the good stuff.
You head next door and look around the party for Percy.
Hmm. He doesn’t seem to be here at the moment. Better occupy yourself until he’s here.
You approach your adult neighbors. They are wondering out loud why Percy is MIA at his own going-away party.
Before any of them respond, your heinous neighbor Morticia interrupts, leaping in front of you with a digital camera.
She still hasn’t taken the American flag on her porch down even though July 4th was months ago. Yeah. One of those neighbors.
“Look who it is! So sad that Percy’s moving, yes? Anyway, we were all just positively gushing over what my oldest son’s been up to,” lies Morticia. “The one who works as a Representative for the Union of Drunken Masseuses? You’ve met him, yes?”
“Well, he’s been missing for over a year now! We couldn’t be happier for him. Come take a look at the last known photos of him before he wandered off course in that corn maze and never came out.”
Everyone gathers around the camera.
All right, you’re going to have to act interested in this woman’s boring family life.
All the adult neighbors go “ooh” and “ahh” and offer compliments about how lost her son has grown up to be.
It is growing impossible for you to maintain even the slightest interest in this.
“Here it is, the last known photo of my son,” proudly exclaims Morticia. Everyone claps.
Jesus, this is a drag. The only thing you’re getting out of the drunken masseuse pictures is the urge to have a strong drink.
You approach the neighborhood kids. They are playing a game of Exploitative Labor, which involves professionally landscaping Percy’s yard while chanting:
Work the land!
With blistered and arthritic hands!
Our backs will break, this lawn we’ll rake
Two dollars a day, the wage we’ll make!
The kids play this on your lawn every day. Although it keeps your property beautifully landscaped, you will lose your mind if you hear them sing this one more time. It drives you nuts.
Your curmudgeonly ass is going to need a drink to make all this thing tolerable.
You go to the drink cooler.
It’s mostly filled with chilled bottles of embalming fluid.
Percy must have brought some samples from his office.
You pop open a bottle of embalming fluid.
You pour it in a glass and smell it.
Hmm. Hoppy. A hint of citrus. Notes of coriander. Overwhelming formaldehyde.
You take a long gulp, nearly finishing it.
It’s not very good.
—the embalming fluid hits your system. It is fucking you up good, all right.
You wake up in Percy’s backyard, naked and coughing up embalming fluid all over yourself. Damn, that stuff fucked you up.
As you come to, you realize that you built him an above-ground pool.
Wow. Could you have built anything more useless?
He didn’t ask for this. What drove you to do this to his backyard? Kind of an inconsiderate thing to do to a neighbor.
You can definitely not handle your embalming fluid like you could in college.
You find gin. Now we’re talking. Gin is your drink. This is good gin, too. Of course Percy would be a man of refined taste.
You make a gin and tonic.
You slam that gin and tonic in no time. You clutch your stomach and shake it around to make sure the gin soaks all your guts, as gin is meant to be consumed.
Immediately, you feel a little looser, a little less uptight.
A buzz is on its way, but you’re not there yet.
You pour a shot. Then two more, polishing off what’s left in the bottle.
Whoo boy, that felt nice. The gin’s coursing through your system, making itself known.
Your liver radiates in gratitude.
Damn, that’s hitting the spot.
Congratulations! You have a solid buzz going.
You put your mouth on the bottle, lean back, and take a long pull of gin, polishing off what’s left in the bottle.
You take off your shirt. Taking off your shirt just makes sense to you right now.
You grab your love handles and shake your gut around some more to coat your insides in gin.
You’re feeling far less antisocial than before. Your mood has lifted considerably.
Unlike before, you don’t hesitate to go right up to your adult neighbors and start a conversation. The buzz has got you in the mood to mingle.
They are all muttering about how Percy hasn’t even showed up to his own going-away party yet.
Before any of them respond, your heinous neighbor Morticia interrupts, jumping in front of you with her digital camera.
“Look who’s shirtless! So sad that Percy’s moving, yes? Anyway, we were all just positively gushing over what my youngest son’s been up to,” lies Morticia. “The one who works as the Official Mascot of Lettuce? You’ve met him, yes?”
“Well, he’s been crushed by a gazebo! We couldn’t be happier for him. Come take a look at the last photos taken of him before the gazebo NASA installed on the International Space Station plummeted to earth and landed right on top of my boy.”
At the very mention of a gazebo, an idea strikes your gin-buzzed brain.
All the adult neighbors go “ooh” and “ahh” and offer compliments about how crushed by a gazebo her son has grown up to be.
Okay that’s enough of that. You are way too into this. Have your gazebo idea.
A gazebo is the Rolex of benches. Imagine if someone glued an umbrella to a bench so helicopter pilots couldn’t spit on you from above. That’s the kind of luxury that a gazebo affords.
You look around Percy’s yard. There are no gazebos.
The gin buzz has got you feeling kind and charitable.
Wouldn’t it be nice to give him a going-away gift? A gazebo would be a really primo gesture. Imagine it. Percy, relaxing on his computer, outside in the shade.
Plus, since a gazebo would be really hard to ship to Tampa… it might even make him stay! Who knows?
You barrel your sedan into Percy’s backyard, crushing several snack tables and his grill.
“That’s not a gazebo,” respond your neighbors. “That’s a shed.”
In the end, they’re right. This isn’t the real deal.
If you’re going to build a gazebo for Percy, don’t take the easy way out.
It’s settled. You are going to build Percy a gazebo.
All your neighbors clear out of Percy’s yard at once because they saw a bee.
Good. More room for construction.
How do you want to get started?
You go home and hop on your computer.
You peruse www.GazeboForMyPerfectNeighbor.com and decide that this nubile gazebo right here is the one you’re going to build for him. It is the only gazebo kit they offer.
He’s gonna love this. You know it.
You sell all of your dad’s war medals on eBay to someone named XX_aliceinchainsfreak_XX and rake in just enough dough for the gazebo.
Immediately after you click “ORDER GAZEBO,” a delivery drone bursts through your window, flies back outside, drops the package on a bird’s nest full of blue robin eggs, flies back inside, scoops up every TV remote in your house, drops them in your toilet, and flies away.
Must be the gazebo kit!
Hmm. No lumber, no nails, no building materials at all. Just the gazebo kit’s instruction manual.
Seems easy enough!
First thing’s first: You need more gin to get fucked up on.
The more gin you can get in your system, the more you’ll feel like you’re pretty sure you can build a gazebo from scratch. How hard could that be?
Go find more gin to get fucked up on.
You’re buzzed and probably shouldn’t be driving, so you hitchhike to the liquor store.
Besides, the liquor’s got you in the mood to mingle, and what better way to make mingle with people than to hitchhike?
A truck honks and pulls over.
It’s a Seagram’s truck—Seagram’s is the Ray Rice of gin!
That’s a big deal! Wow, this couldn’t be more serendipitous.
“My name’s Rig. Lemme guess, liquor store?” presumes Rig the truck driver.