Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Mark A Davis
Like an ancient citadel perched on the mountain border of some malevolent dark lord's lands, the tower of black brick loomed against an oppressively gray sky. This particular tower, however, was attached to a modest building in a suburban street in Frosthaven NJ. Rhododendron bushes lined the walls of the dwelling, surrounded by fresh bark and encircled by an immaculately manicured lawn. Nearby a leaking hose dribbled water. The knocker on the door depicted a glaring demon.
Ignoring this, Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, banged on the door. After several moments it opened. Framed in the doorway was an alien creature out of nightmares -- four eyes, eight tentacles, bloated purplish skin, and a mouth full of rows of shark-like teeth. The creature was vaguely humanoid and appeared to be wearing slacks, a preppie-style sweater, and smoking a pipe.
"Who dares cast their shadow over the entryway of Ninugtus the Unspeakable?" the creature bellowed.
Grandpa stuck out his hand. "That would be me," he said. "Grandpa Anarchy. Nice to meet you, Ninugtus! I am the world's oldest active hero, and I also happen to be your next door neighbor. Welcome to the neighborhood!" Grandpa paused to glance at the black brick, then added, "You know, for the last few years this place has been owned by Mayor Doomhollow, and he seemed to delight in renting it out to the worst neighbors he could imagine -- white supremecists, drug dealers, demons, and insurance salesmen. Glad to see they finally sold the place to someone who is hopefully not a villain and who plans to live here a while!"
"Insignificant mortal!" Ninugtus exclaimed. "Bow down before my immense power!"
"Yeah," said Grandpa, "that's probably not gonna happen. But listen, Ninugtus, while I'm over here, I did want to bring up something. See, the neighborhood covenant rules -- I know nobody likes them, but see, they say that you have to be quiet after 10 PM, right? I mean I don't want to be a stickler about things, Lord knows I've got sidekicks building things at odd hours of the night. But that throbbing, pounding sound of yours has been going steady all night for the last three days. Think you could turn it down a little? Only if you don't, I'll be forced to call the cops, see?"
"Your lands shall be mine!"
Grandpa Anarchy sighed. "So it's gonna be like that, is it?" he said. "Listen neighbor, let's get one thing straight -- the neighborhood covenant specifically forbids battles between super-powered neighbors, otherwise I'd be happy to give you what-for right here and now. But I can't. I got to obey the rules, right? Ever since that knock-down, drag-out fight with Mr. Wong in '74 -- you remember him? He went by the name the Red Jade Dragon. Ever since then, they've had this rule: keep the confrontations to the streets of the city. No fighting in the neighborhood.
"And another thing," Grandpa added. "That purple dog of yours with ten legs and a mouth like a shark? Keep it off my lawn, got it? 'Cause if I find that thing crapping on my property again, it's going to come down with a case of lead poisoning, understand? Fast, hot lead poisoning. I'm within my rights to shoot at anything that trespasses onto my property. In fact as the local hero I'm pretty much required to do so, and not only will they not stop me, they'll probably give me a medal. So just keep it off my lawn, got that?"
The tentacled monstrosity puffed his pipe angrily, then declared, "You call that lawn? It not been mowed in year! Full of weeds, keep spreading to my side! You take care of lawn!"
"Hey," said Grandpa, "I mow my lawn regular, twice a year, every spring and fall!"
"That what Ninugtus saying!" the creature bellowed.
"Look," said Grandpa, "all I'm saying is if you don't knock off the noise, it won't be just me you're dealing with. It'll be the Neighborhood Covenant Board. Got it?"
A troubled look passed through the alien's eyes. "Woman with blue hair, black glasses, and annoying voice -- she is on board?"
"Mrs. Pinchpenny?" said Grandpa. "Yeah, that's her. Retired librarian. She's a stickler for rules."
"Ninugtus not like that woman," the alien said. "Not allow Ninugtus build moat or line driveway with skulls of enemies. Tell Ninugtus is against covenant."
"Well, that's my point," said Grandpa. "You'd rather face a cyborg army of death droids than face Mrs. Pinchpenny, am I right?"
"This is a true thing." Ninugtus puffed his pipe a moment in thought. "Ninugtus sorry about outburst," he said. "Ninugtus doctor say Ninugtus must avoid stressful situations. Is much pressure, trying build army for world conquest. High command always demand, Ninugtus, report progress! Ninugtus, how much land you conquer so far?" He spread his hands. "They give me budget to conquer local Walmart, maybe! Is only so much one being can do! Ninugtus only have eight tentacles!"
"Tell me about it!" Grandpa replied. "Like that Flying Egg that my new sidekick is building. Those things don't pay for themselves!"
Ninugtus laughed, then extended a tentacle. "Ninugtus promise be quieter at night," he said, "and to keep D'ragthar warbeast chained up. Ninugtus want be good neighbor, not want for plans be interrupted. Is good?"
"Sounds good," Grandpa replied, shaking the creature's tentacle. "You know, I could tell you a few things about this place. It was built in 1907 by Professor Victorian Honesty St. Normal, the famous mad scientist. That's why they call it St. Normal Tower, by the way. The Prof owned the place until that dimensional incident in 1924. Anyway, it's been owned by various evil people since -- Tabitha Von Grimmelshausen, evil sorceress; Thomas Alexopoulos the mad artist who painted into different dimensions; the Suicide Squid from Betelgeuse -- not to be confused with that tentacled elder god that we got here a few years later, he didn't own the property he just moved in so we had him evicted. Mrs. Pinchpenny does not allow elder gods from beyond the stars -- it's in the covenant.
"Then there was Frankie, the monster creation of Professor St. Normal -- he stayed her a few years. And oh, super villain genius Stanislaus Von Censure, remember him? I already mentioned the Red Jade Dragon. There was Mrs. Vincent, who was a perfectly normal woman apart from owing a dangerous shadowarg as a pet. And Mr. Hightower, he seemed perfectly normal until he tried to blackmail the city of New York.
"Basically," said Grandpa, "the place attracts bad people. But I'm sure this time will be different!"
"Well?" asked the Titanium Goose. Grandpa's current sidekick was a young man in a suit of power armor with a helmet and visor shaped like the head and bill of a goose. He was working in the Anarchy Cave on a flying machine shaped like an egg.
"He seems like a nice guy," Grandpa replied.
The Titanium Goose stared at him. "Really?"
Grandpa Anarchy sighed. "No," he said. "He's an alien bent on world conquest. I give him one, two months tops, then we'll be duking it out over New York." He tossed a five dollar bill onto the workbench. "There," he said. "You win. Happy now? Just once I'd like to have a normal neighbor in that place. Just once."