The last Civil War began 150 years after the first.  The first smoldered for so long in multiple places that the notion it began with the shelling of Fort Sumter is historical convenience.  In contrast, it is a simple matter to locate where and when the last Civil War began.  I say this with confidence because I was there to witness it.

It began on a quiet street in San Francisco, in a part of town called Dogpatch during the quietest part of a sunny afternoon on New Year’s Day, and it was started by a man named Maurice.  Maurice was raking ginkgo leaves from beneath the street tree in front of his house.  Several months prior, on a misguided impulse, he had planted some violas under the tree; misguided because he thought that if the plot looked pretty, people would keep their dogs from peeing there. No dog worth its salt passed the violas by.   And truth be told, it’s what Maurice knew would happen.  Dogs have to pee somewhere.  Defeated, he would normally have retreated and let the little square go to the dogs and the dogweed.

That afternoon there was no breeze; this anomaly, coupled with an absence of recent cleansing rains, meant that the fumes coming from the plot needled his sinuses. Maurice screwed some hoses together and lugged them down to the street to hose the plot down. He was trying to ignore the dry and not so dry deposits amid the violas, what Mr. Chu used to call “birthday cakes.”

Maurice’s natural stoicism was being severely tested, but he was passing summa cum laude when his neighbor Suellen came down her steps tailed by Honey.  Honey was one of those pewter-colored terriers that everyone falls in love with, even though they’re totally narcissistic. Honey bounced up to Maurice and nuzzled his shins for some petting, and Maurice happily obliged.  Though he was more of a cat person, he liked dogs, and Honey in particular. Maurice was also aware of the fact that, if you don’t make babytalk to their adorable dogs, people like Suellen feel you are actually expressing a dislike of them.  He didn’t dislike Suellen, or she him, for all he knew.  Maurice had no enemies whatsoever; curious, given he ignited the conflagration.

to be continued


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