Saturday, October 17, 2009
DID YOUR CHILD DO THIS?
Stu and Val are upstanding members of their community, Sereno Knolls, which is situated along a golf course spotted with townhouses and behind heavy metal gates. There has been but one incident in the recent collective memory of this most pastoral playground for plutocrats - an inexplicable sabotage in the clubhouse. After a children's festival, there was found a large slice in one of the theatre seats. The cushion was hung out in front of the theatre with the sign in bold letters inscribed over it: "DID YOUR CHILD DO THIS?" It was thought guilt and embarrassment might bring a confession like in Perry Mason, but it didn't, and so eventually the sign and cushion were removed and the culprit remained uncaught and the grim business of golf was taken up once more.
An even more troubling event began when Stu and Val were featured in one month's community newspaper, Fairway Foldderol. They aren't particularly happy about it.
The story was rather innocuous, as all of the rest have been; something about crabgrass encroachment on the greens. But two commentors on the problem were gifted with hedcuts, like those in the WSJ they all calculate to leave in their carts after a round. It seems Stu's portrait was not, in his mind, particularly flattering.
The happy couple would not voice discontent, of course, for they would not want it thought they were engaged in such petty concerns. However, in a week or two, they sought discreetly to determine who had written the crabgass article, and, specifically, who had created the hedshots.
They were not successful. The publisher and editor, one individual, claimed these stories come over the transom after every Homeowners Association meeting and he does not credit them. All bylines and photos in Fairway Folderol are unattributed, for, after all, it's only a neighborhood gossip sheet.
Not being successful does not jibe with the bearing of Stu nor Val, so they stepped up their subtle campaign. Oh, really, we must know, they claimed in a letter to the editor (not for print); we want to thank the artist, as it's such a close likeness, and we feel we simply must know how we were chosen for the honor among all other humans on the planet.
The publisher/editor, being a man who recognized no irony and wasted no words, replied simply that he did not know the answer to their question.
Next came the letter from an attorney, who had not been engaged officially, but she has known Val and Stu for ever so many years and is often able to offer off-the-record advice and bring some satisfaction without any trouble to any party. She asked the original question.
And drew the identical reply - if possible, even more tersely worded.
The demand letter from the attorney came in two weeks. No answer from the Folderol.
A suit was filed in Superior Court, and the Publisher/Editor was duly served.
The news became general then. Did you hear? Val and Stu are suing about their picture in our dinky little Folderol! Have you ever heard such madness?
Val and Stu stopped playing golf, visiting or being visited by their neighbors. After all, the satarist was obviously among them, and they knew not which. Best to take no chances. They drove their limo out the gates and returned as the occasion demanded, both sitting up straight and looking neither right nor left.
Various attorneys who lived at Sereno Knolls volunteered their services to the tribe, pro bono. The case went forward. During the Interrogatory and deposition of the publisher/editor, not one further word did he offer to the demand for the identity of the artist who so cruelly caricatured Val and Stu than: "I don't know."
The case was dismissed with prejudice as a silly waste of time and resources, and Val and Stu were sanctioned to the tune of the court cost and attorney fees for causing the trouble. But even that wasn't the last straw.
While they had been able to dodge all the lampoons around the clubhouse - the faux-Folderols with ever-more-grotesque caricatures - they could not ignore the one strung a hundred feet up all around the water tower. It featured one of the more cartoonish of the modified hedshots, with the question lettered above it:
DID YOUR CHILD DO THIS?
The townhouse of Val and Stu was on the market within three weeks.