Cisco watched my house and dog for me one week while I traveled. He checked in two Airbnb guests and watered the plants. That was our agreement. He was also supposed to finish some work on the carport.
I was quite pleased and surprised, when I returned, to find the house spotlessly clean and the landscape in the yard significantly improved. This was work I had thought about tackling, but was waiting for the time to do it. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. The backyard had been pretty disorganized, with river rocks scattered and buried haphazardly. Without asking, without saying anything, without communicating at all, Cisco dug out some buried river rocks back there, leveled a section of sloping yard, and built a nice one foot-tall curving stone wall.
Upon returning, I asked Cisco how much I owed him. He did not answer and disappeared for two weeks. Then he showed up unannounced in my office, gave me a long and rather pathetic song and dance, and asked me how much his work was worth to me. I had no idea. I was stoned and did not realize this was an opaque plea for generosity. In any case, I don’t work that way. I don’t mix charity with work. I prefer things clearly defined. I did not make the correct opening bid and the ensuing rage was ugly.
I offered $300. In retrospect, that was a low offer, but it did not warrant the shitstorm that ensued. He flew into a rage and threatened to punch me out. On further thought and out of sympathy I wrote him a check for $1,000 but he ripped it up in a theatrical show of righteousness and stormed out.
No one other than Cisco has ever threatened to punch me out, not in the last 35 years,anyway. But Cisco, in the past year, threatened me three times. Each time I invited him to follow through on the threat but he has wisely backed off. I don’t take that shit lightly. If he punched and hurt me he would be arrested and charged within hours.
I played tennis that afternoon but this drama occupied my mind and worsened my game. I didn’t sleep for two days. Sunday I prepared an invoice on his behalf to accompany my new check to him for $800, after deducting $200 for “Mind game set-up and histrionics”. I thought that was fair. I thought he should have some consequences for his behavior. I included notes which were no doubt insulting but to the point in diagnosing his mental illness and advising appropriate treatment. There was no way his labor was worth that much, but I wanted to be fair to an old acquaintance yet deliver a message about his inappropriate behavior.
My next move was not very smart. He had been using my old Toyota pickup truck to facilitate his work. On impulse, because I had a ride, and because my adrenaline was still pumping three days later, I sent him a text informing him that I was picking up the truck and wanted no contact with him now or for the next two years. Ten minutes later I was at his house picking up my truck.
It was not pretty. I found out later he had not gotten my text yet. He came out of the house. I told him I’m done. He says yeah, I’m done, too, and starts to launch on some diatribe. I told him to put it in writing and I get in the truck.
He says, wait a minute, and starts to remove his papers from the glove compartment. I don’t remember the brief exchange that followed except that he lost his temper, threatened to punch me out again, and swatted me with his hat. I had to drive off with the passenger door open, leaving him cursing in the street outside his house. A witness described him as pure hatred and rage.
I went home, opened the envelope, which was not yet mailed, and rewrote the check and invoice, charging him another $100 for the disturbance with the truck. I called him on his anger, blame, victimhood and failure to communicate clearly. My girlfriend advised me to remain “heart-centered” in my communication with him, but I think perhaps I failed that test. I wrote bluntly what was true for me, that he was not a charity and I was not a charitable giving fund, that he needed therapy to deal with his anger and self-esteem issues, and in so many words, that he can go fuck himself and then kiss my ass.. Perhaps it was cruel and insensitive, but it was honest and direct. I did not threaten to punch him out.
I mailed the check, letter and invoice the next morning. He texted me with sarcasm and criticized me (fairly, I admit) for causing a scene in his front yard. I apologized (by text) for taking back the truck on inadequate notice.
His diatribe continued by text as he compared me to Donald Trump, born with a silver spoon in my mouth, narcissistic, and without compassion. Unlike Donald Trump, however, I could not just stiff him completely without a second thought.
He asked me to send him his check and I told him I already mailed him one for $700. He texted back, send him the other $300 or he would make my life miserable.
As it turns out, I had already written a check for $500 to his son’s college, thinking that his gifted child should not suffer due to the mental illness of the father. That was probably a delusional thought originating in a bowl of cannabis.
So I texted, sure, I would replace the $500 check to the school with a $300 check to him. I was being honest—Donald Trump honest, I guess— naively insulting. It was okay. He played a game and insulted me. I had employed him for a year and was sick of his crazy games–his mishegos– and his chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. I was done.