Experiment #15

The Parlor (Part 1 of 7)

“This is it,” he said. “It’s perfect.”

I lifted the abandoned shoe by its lace out of the bowl of the toilet. Someone had decided not only to store shoes there but that the toilet would look better in the main room. I lowered the shoe back into its place and looked around at my husband’s idea of perfection.

The mildewed carpet and a line of wrinkled and browned wallpaper ran along the wall about four inches from the floor. The long gone flood, possibly from the toilet relocation, had left black mold in its wake. It smelled of feet and urine. A few needles and other abandoned drug paraphernalia completed the picture.

I touched my rounded stomach. “Your father must be joking,” I whispered to it. Little Kenny didn’t move; I took that as agreement.

I looked over at him. He was grinning like a lion in a meat shop and he most certainly wasn’t joking.

“Can’t you see it, Constance?” he asked. “We’ll have seats along that wall, the counter will fit snuggly in that back corner over there, and we’ll get one of those old-fashioned juke boxes from the salvation army and stick it by the big picture window.” He spread his arms wide in front of the opaque wall. “And we can definitely get it done in four months.”

“Kenneth Xavier Thompson,” I said, “you are out of your ever-loving mind. I have heard two gunshots while we’ve been standing here and I think the rats are mounting an offensive in the pantry. I will not bring little Kenny into this world to live in this… this… crud hole. We are not building here.”

He came up behind me and wrapped me in his arms. I resisted, not wanting to make the realtor uncomfortable, but I couldn’t hold out for long.

“It’s on a main street,” he said, “not too far from the business district, it’s already zoned properly and it has quick access to the highway-”

“So when we get robbed they can make a quick getaway,” I said breaking away from him.

“Nonsense!” he said. A gunshot rang out, closer than before. He brushed it away. “It’s perfect,” he said.

“Perfect, Kenneth? How are we going to restore this?” I asked pointing at the toilet. “Our budget is tiny as it is and how can we even think about bringing our child into this? How can we call ourselves parents and bring our child, our baby, into this?” With a sweeping motion I gestured to the dirt and mold, the cracking foundation and, yet again, the living room toilet.

“How can we call ourselves parents if we don’t bring him here?” he said. “If we don’t restore and build in the broken places? In the places no one wants to call home? If we leave like everyone else, who will stand up for those who are left?”

“Kenneth, this place is just waiting to be condemned,” I said.

The realtor tried to interject, but when I’m on a role there isn’t much in this world that can stop me.

“And the Health Inspector?” I continued, “I’m not sure this place can even be brought up to livable, let alone health code. A place that needs some work is fine, but not some work that needs a place.”

“You really don’t see it?” he asked. His question was honest and confounded.

“Apparently not what you’re seeing,” I replied. It came out nastier than I meant it.

“Ok,” he said, “Close your eyes.”

I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Come on, close your eyes,” he said.

I closed my eyes. He began to paint our future in hues of hope and answered prayers. He walked me through the renovations, into opening day, and through to opening a second shop. He introduced the customers who’d come in just to say, “How ya doin’?” He walked me through where little Kenny would play and where he’d go to school and church. He took me from that dank and dirty room and showed me the world that could be ours for the taking, and I believed him.

And when we journeyed back to that room with mold growing at its edges, I knew that this dream, this world of wonder and exploration would probably never happen. This was a place of danger and uncertainty, and only my Kenneth could see beyond those facts. But I trusted Kenneth’s heart. I thought that a heart so full of love and devotion would not, could not lead us astray. Perhaps my trust was misplaced, perhaps I was a fool, but I think it’s more likely I was just naïve.

Experiment #16

The Parlor (Part 2 of 7)

We signed the paperwork the following week and became the proud owners of an abandoned crack house. I’ve never seen someone so happy in all my life as Kenneth was that day. He skipped and jumped about as he cleaned. He whistled and danced to a silent tune as we carried out the debris and found a new home for my favorite bathroom fixture.

We ripped out the carpet while little Kenny played soccer in my womb. We scrubbed the walls and mopped the floors while little Kenny danced a jig on my ribs. And Kenneth peeled off the wallpaper and painted the walls while I swept the stoop and “stayed far away.” Little Kenny got in on the action though and set up shop on my bladder. It took us nearly two weeks to get it somewhere in the vicinity of clean, but when we did, even I was proud of it.

Once both the apartment upstairs and what would be our store below were spotless, we moved the last box, over my father’s objections, out of my parent’s house and into our new home. We had sold most of our things to follow this dream, but we had picked up a used bed for us and a small crib for Kenny at a garage sale. I’m not even going to mention where we got the mattresses. We had an ugly but sturdy dining room set from my Aunt and a few beat up dressers from Kenneth’s cousin. It wasn’t much, particularly compared with our former life, but dreams are things on a whole different scale of value. How far do you go to make it happen? As far as you can and then one step more.

Kenneth’s innate handyman skills made the renovation project smoother than I expected. He had me decorate and set the atmosphere, but he built that place with blood, sweat, tears, and love.

Kenneth hired some workmen to install that big picture window he’d envisioned. He danced around the dinner table when it was complete.

One week into our renovations and just after the workmen had installed the glass, a large stone flew through the pristine window and glanced off the Salvation Army jukebox. I was in the back and Kenneth was behind the counter installing the ice cream freezer.

He picked up the rock and pulled off a note that had been attached. “Compliments, The Duke,” it read.

Kenneth smiled. “They can’t wait for us to open,” he said.

“Why?” I asked. “So they can kill us?”

“Nonsense,” Kenneth said.  This seemed to be his typical word for ignoring all forms of danger and imminent threat.

“Why would they throw a stone if they want to kill us?” he continued. “They obviously only want to scare us. If they wanted to kill us there wouldn’t have been a note, it would’ve been a Molotov cocktail.”

“Wow, that pep talk made me feel all better,” I said.

“Oh come on, Constance. It’s just the local drug dealer or crime boss trying to assert his power.”

“How is that not a problem?”

“Really? What is he going to do?”

“Send thugs to kill you, and me, and our unborn child.”

“Nonsense. That won’t happen.”

I walked over to the window and gestured toward the broken glass and general destruction.

“How are you okay with this?” I asked.

“I’m not okay,” he said. “But I expected this. Not everyone screams for ice cream, Constance.”

It was a really stupid joke, but I laughed and shoved him.

He grabbed me and kissed me long and hard. When we came up for air, we found a boy looking in through the broken glass. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open. Kenny did a few somersaults in my stomach as we turned to face him.

“You like ice cream?” Kenneth asked him.

The boy nodded. Kenneth picked up a pile of coupons and handed them to him. “We open in two weeks,” Kenneth said. “Tell your friends. Everyone gets a free scoop.” The boy took the coupons, nodded and hurried off. That’s how we met Oscar.

Experiment #18

The Parlor (Part 3 of 7)

That week we hung the sign outside: Scoops. It seemed a little hipster for my taste, but Kenneth had his heart set on it. This had been his goal for more years than I’d known him. He wept when the workman bolted it in place. I teased him pretty hard about it, but he didn’t flinch or even get defensive. The tears just flowed. I hugged him.

Rather than simply replace the big picture window, Kenneth spent the last of our building fund on an artist from up town. She put two stained glass ornamental ice cream scoops in the center of the window with large stretches of clear glass all around it and an alternating stained glass border around the edges. I know it sounds gaudy. Heaven knows I thought it would be, and, I was right, it truly was gaudy, but somehow it worked. It set just the right tone.

On a Saturday in July, three months before my due date, we opened. They trickled in at first in two’s and threes, but soon they began to swarm. Oscar had brought the whole block.

People laughed and talked and sat out on the stoop with their free cones. Kenneth took orders at the counter while I waited on tables and Kenny practiced his soccer kicks. Free ice cream is always a draw.

At about the height of the noontime rush they suddenly vanished. Kenneth looked up from the ice cream buckets to find not a soul in the place. I walked out of the back room to find an empty house. It’s like someone came in and told people they could get paid to eat ice cream down the street. Then we heard footsteps on the stoop.

A tall, thin man in a pristinely white suit and a red tie pushed open the door with his cane. He was in his early fifties, with graying black hair he’d unsuccessfully attempted to die and a well-oiled mustache. Two gruff men flanked him.

“No one invited me to the party?” he asked. He placed his cane on the counter and crossed his arms.

“You didn’t get your invitation?” Kenneth asked. Kenneth leaned back, scoop still in hand, and crossed his own arms. “Rock mail just isn’t what it used to be.”

“Oh, so you did receive my letter,” the Duke said. “Here I thought that we might not be having this conversation if you had received it.”

Kenneth turned his most charming smile on the man before him. “I felt it would be worse to rob you,” Kenneth said.

In one swift motion the Duke’s hand shot to Kenneth’s throat and pulled him over the counter. I screamed, but it did little good.

“And what is it that you think you’re doing now?” he asked. “This is my neighborhood. These are my people. I own this place.”

“Not,” Kenneth said in a choked voice, “according to the dee-”

The Duke squeezed harder. “There is more to ownership than paper,” he said.

“Forgive me, good sir,” replied Kenneth through a strained voice box. “Might I offer you the best ice cream you’ve ever had?”

The Duke let out a laugh and relaxed his grip just a little. “You’ve got cahones, friend.”

“May I?” Kenneth asked. He pointed with the scoop.

The Duke released him. Kenneth righted his shirt and apron and began scooping.

The Duke took off his jacket and laid it on the stool next to him. Next he undid his cufflinks and rolled back his sleeves. His arms seemed small and spindly without the cover of fabric.

Kenneth set a bowl of our finest work on the counter and slid it over to the Duke. For the final flair Kenneth added a spoon and a maraschino cherry.

“What? No whipped cream?” the Duke asked with a chuckle. To this day I have no idea whether he was joking or serious.

“I don’t believe in it,” Kenneth replied. He grabbed the rag and wiped the counter clean of drippings. He finished and threw it over his shoulder. “It dilutes the flavor.”

The Duke smiled and filled his spoon. “Now you realize, my friend, that if this is not the best ice cream I have ever had there will be… Well, let’s just use the word: consequences. You sure you want to take that chance?”

Kenneth squared his shoulders and looked him in the eye. “If it’s not the best ice cream you’ve ever had,” he said, “I don’t deserve to own this shop.”

“Good,” the Duke said, “because I’m not only going to reclaim this rat hole, I’m also going to make your wife a widow just for lying to me.” He smiled. My blood ran cold.

Before Kenneth could reply the Duke put the spoonful in his mouth.

He rolled it around with his tongue. He smiled and spat it on the counter.

“You’re a good liar. I hate chocolate but this was almost palatable.” He patted Kenneth’s cheek. “For your courage: Today, you live.” He grabbed Kenneth by the back of the neck and slammed Kenneth’s face down on the counter and held it there. I screamed and jumped towards him, but one of the Duke’s bodyguards put up a hand and I froze.

The Duke leaned in close to Kenneth’s ear as he held him down on the counter. “Tomorrow, well…” he said.  “Tomorrow may be different.”

He let Kenneth go, then stood up, fixed his shirtsleeves, and put his coat on. As he walked toward the door he said, “Dan will be by tomorrow to collect the rent. I guess we’ll see then how different it is.”

The Duke and his goons walked out. The door whispered shut.

I slapped a pack of ice on Kenneth’s face. Luckily he’d turned his head as the Duke threw him down. It saved his nose, but his face looked like a bear had slapped him around.

“We never should have moved here,” I said.

“Nonsense,” he said.

Experiment #19

The Parlor (Part 4 of 7)

We stayed open, but the only person who came back was Oscar. He still had a fistful of coupons and not even a neighborhood crime boss can come between a seven-year old and free ice cream.

Between spoonfuls his mouth spilled out information, almost as if getting it out would make room for more ice cream. He had no parents to speak of and his aunt barely got out of bed anymore. She owned a beauty parlor a few blocks away. The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with her, but “she don’t believe them.”

“What happened to your face?” he finally asked Kenneth through a mouthful of ice cream.

“I looked at another woman,” Kenneth said, “and Miss Connie went Kah-pie-yow,” he demonstrated his best high kick, “and kicked me in the face.”

“Really?” Oscar asked.

“And if you want to keep that pretty face of yours intact, you better watch yourself,” I said.

Kenneth pointed at me and whispered, “Feet of fury.”

Oscar giggled.

After he’d polished off his third cone, he held out his coupon for another.

I took the coupon from him. “You eat dinner?” I asked.

“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied. He patted his tummy. “Three ice cream cones.”

“Sakes alive,” I said, “that’s no dinner for a growing boy. You’re gonna have a stomach ache.”

“Better than nothin’” he said.

“You like pancakes?” I shot back.

“For dinner?” he asked. Clearly this was the greatest form of heresy I could have suggested.

“Oh, you wouldn’t like them for dinner,” Kenneth said with a smile and an exaggerated shake of his head. “No, siree.”

“Why not?” Oscar asked.

“Cuz if you’re not here there’ll be more for me,” Kenneth said with a wink. “Pancakes are Miss Connie’s specialty.”

“There’ll be plenty for you,” I said, jabbing him between the ribs with my finger. “Besides are you sure you’ll have room in there? I think you’ve been tasting your wares a little too much, Mr. Ice Cream Man.”

“I’ve gotta make sure it’s good enough for the customers,” he said. “I’ve got customers with very high standards. Right, Oscar?”

Oscar laughed and nodded.

“All right you two. Go wash up for dinner.” I said.

Kenneth turned the open sign around and helped Oscar off the stool, then raced him to the bathroom. Little Kenny squirmed inside me as I headed up to the apartment above. It had been a wonderful, terrible, amazing, disheartening, encouraging, bewildering, lovely, and scary day.

We laughed all night together till Oscar fell asleep in the chair. Kenneth woke him up enough to get his address then carried him home.

We made love that night. I tried to keep the night from ending, but the dawn came long before I was ready and with it the Duke’s crony.

From the back room I heard Kenneth say, “This’s all I got.” He’d gotten up just after dawn “to make preparations” as he put it.

I leaned against the wall just outside the door to the back. Everything inside me told me to run, but I couldn’t move a muscle.

“A hundred bucks ain’t gonna please the Duke,” Dan said.

“I spent my last two grand fixing the window,” Kenneth said.

“Maybe,” Dan said, “you should have taken a hint, Idiot.”

‘Idiot’ was not the word he used but I’m too polite to repeat what he actually called my husband.

“Give me a few days,” Kenneth said. “Once I get some customers in here, I’ll have your bribe ready.” Kenneth enunciated the word “bribe” extra carefully.

“The Duke don’t take bribes,” Dan said. Dan must have shoved Kenneth as I heard someone bounce off our shelves, and I later found a dent in the freezer door. “But he’d be glad to take any gifts you might wish to freely offer. You’ve got a week before the collection plate comes around again. I suggest you be ready.” Dan headed for the door and slammed it shut on his way out the back alley.

Experiment #21

The Parlor (Part 5 of 7)

Kenneth was quiet for the next few days. His brow seemed to be constantly knit in thought. Customers came in pretty steady and Oscar was never far from the shop. It wasn’t long before he started helping out and became our unofficial bus boy, paid in denominations of chocolate, vanilla and pistachio surprise.

On Thursday, Kenneth slipped out after we closed for “important work.” He came back to Scoops a few hours later dejected.

I asked him what was wrong but he wouldn’t answer. Normally I would have barreled on through his melancholy till he answered me, but something pulled me back and I waited for him to make the first move.

Much later, once we’d lain in bed for almost an hour in the sweaty heat of the summer, he got brave enough to lay his heart on his sleeve.

“I don’t know what to do, Constance,” he said.

For only the third time in the twelve years I’d known him, I saw tears in my husband’s eyes. The first was our wedding. The second when he found out he was going to be a daddy. And now this. I scooched my swollen belly toward him and took him in my arms.

“There’s no way out,” he said. “The Duke’ll destroy this place if he doesn’t get his ‘gift.’ He’s already scared the whole neighborhood. No one will cross him”

“Your ‘concerned citizens’ meeting didn’t go so well?” I asked.

He looked at me with surprise.

“Mr. Thompson, you’re going to have to do a lot better than whisper if you want to hide something from me,” I said.

He smiled and shook his head. “You’re quite the nosy girl aren’t you?” he said. He reached over and poked at me playfully. I punched him in the ribs. He held me close.

“You going to pay him?” I asked, trembling just a little.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve spent three-quarters of my life trying to make this dream happen. I don’t want to lose it all because of some jerk who thinks he can waltz in and demand protection money.”

“But Kenneth,” I said, “Kenny needs a father.”

“Yes,” he replied, “but how could I call myself a man if I didn’t stand up to injustice, if I didn’t try to protect him and his mom and his neighborhood from creeps like the Duke. Creeps who take what they want and don’t care who they step on. If I don’t try to stop this he’ll have a father, but there won’t be a man in his life.”

“Kenneth Xavier Thompson, you’re an idiot,” I said. Maybe it was the pregnancy talking, but I got mad. “You think the Duke is going to just take being crossed? No, he’s going to kill you and burn down your stupid dream of an ice cream parlor. Is this more important than us? Do you care more about this dream than us?”

He laid in silence for a long moment while I cried.

“Quite the contrary, my love. Quite the contrary.” He turned over and soon I heard the rhythmic sounds of his breathing. I sniffled long into the night. Little Kenny turned over and over again, trying to find some way to hug me from the inside. And with that reassurance I finally fell asleep.

Experiment #22

The Parlor (Part 6 of 7)

On the appointed day, Dan returned. When he stepped up to the counter, Kenneth pointed to the back room and motioned me to take over the counter. They were gone only about five minutes, but they were some of the longest minutes of my life. At one point I heard a raised voice: Kenneth’s. But Kenneth emerged a few minutes later unharmed. Dan had gone out the back. Kenneth’s eyes wouldn’t meet mine. “It only bought us a month and I don’t know how we’re going to pay the mortgage.”

“At least you’re alive,” I said.

“Then why do I feel half dead?” he asked quietly.

I didn’t have an answer. There was part of me that wanted to keep him away from danger forever, to keep him home and keep him safe. But somewhere deep down I also knew that if I succeeded in keeping him from all harm, he’d no longer be the man I love.

Business was good and by the grace of God alone we made our mortgage, and payroll, but a bus boy who works for ice cream isn’t hard to pay in an ice cream parlor.

The next few months passed much the same way with a quiet back room meeting early every month. Kenneth would wander around like a zombie for a few days after, as if it wasn’t so much his money as his soul he was handing over to the Duke.

Oscar’s Aunt got somewhat better and she came down to the parlor every now and again to check on him. I swelled up till it looked like I’d pop any moment and my feet hurt for hours after a hard day’s work. Luckily, I married a man who could have taught at a masseuse school. If not for his foot and back rubs I never would have made it through pregnancy, I doubt I ever will again.

About two weeks before my due date, Kenneth got a call on the back phone. He didn’t talk very long and spent most of his time agreeing. As soon as he hung up the phone, color came back into his face and his eyes danced in a way I hadn’t seen since we bought our crack house turned ice cream parlor.

Dan came the next day. There were raised voices. Kenneth came out of the back with a black eye and the widest smile I’d ever seen on his face.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I told him I wasn’t paying anymore. These guys have been running this neighborhood for too long,” he said.

“What happened?”

“He punched me, but I grabbed the fire extinguisher and whacked his knee. He came up for another swing but I let loose the extinguisher and he ran out the back.”

“Kenneth Xavier Thompson, you numbskull,” I said as I pulled a bag of crushed ice out of the freezer and shoved it toward his darkening eye. “He’s gonna come back with the Duke and all his thugs and murder you.”

“Nonsense, Constance, I came back to this neighborhood to provide a place for kids and families to congregate in safety, to make a haven for people away from the crime and violence of the street. And that’s why you came here too.”

I hated it when he was right. And I was wrong about the Duke. He didn’t come back with his goons that day or even the next. By the fifth day he seemed like a lonely bully who went crying to his mother when somebody finally stood up to him. But I was wrong about that too.

The next night Kenneth headed to the grocery store after we closed to pick up a few items for us. Somehow we’d run out of milk. I don’t know how you do that in an ice cream parlor, but we did. I finished cleaning the counter and locked up for the night. He called me several times to check about prices and brands; he was helpless in a supermarket. On the walk home he called me yet again, “Hey beautiful.”

“Hey,” I said. “You finally make it out of the store?”

“Yes, surprisingly they only sell twelve kinds of lettuce there. I’ll have to write a letter to the manager about increasing variety.”

“Is this your way of saying you got the wrong lettuce?”

“No,” he said, “It’s my way of saying I probably got the wrong lettuce, but I’ve got a one in twelve shot- Connie, I gotta go.”

The tone in his voice was unmistakable.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”

“Nonsense,” he replied. There was a breath of silence, and then he said, “I love you.”  Click.

That’s when the contractions started.

Experiment #23

The Parlor (Part 7 of 7)

From what they can piece together, five men attacked him, three from the front and two that he probably never saw behind him. One of the men behind him grabbed his arms and one of the three in front brandished a knife.

Kenneth kicked the man behind him hard enough to let go, then fought for all he was worth. No, he fought for his wife, his unborn child. He fought for his neighborhood. He was beaten to a pulp and then stabbed in twenty-nine different places. Twenty-nine. Once probably would have been enough, but they had to make certain he was dead, had to make sure no one else would ever be as courageous and stupid and brave and loving as my Kenneth. They could not stand in the burning light of his passion; they could not measure up to his love.

The police had to identify him by his teeth. They even stole his wallet and cleaned out our accounts, and to add insult to injury, tried to make it look like Kenneth had been at a strip club and paid for some unmentionable things.

But even after all of that, he wasn’t dead. After twenty-nine stab wounds, he dragged himself for half a block, on his hands and knees, till he got to the street we lived on, the street our son group up on, the street our dreams were built on. And there he wrote words of defiance. With his own hands and in his own blood he wrote, “I love you.”

For years I thought he wrote that to little Kenny and me, but that too was naïve. He wrote that to his neighborhood. He’d already told me over the phone. He didn’t need to make sure we knew, but he did have to tell the neighborhood. He had to let it know that this was all for them, that his death and his life were for a purpose higher than ice cream. He loved this neighborhood, and whatever the cost, he was going to make it better than he found it.

And he did.

The last fool with the knife chucked it in the bushes a few blocks away. There was enough fingerprints and DNA to link the knife-in-the-bushes kid to Kenneth’s murder. When they got him in the station he gave up everything. Dan and twelve other members of The Duke’s gang went down. The Duke had planned well and they couldn’t pin anything on him. Even when Dan turned state’s evidence they couldn’t pin enough directly on The Duke to get more than a six-month sentence.

The Duke tried to retain his empire, but with heightened police focus and without Dan and most of his thugs to enforce his law, he was all pomp and circumstance. He couldn’t entice neighborhood kids or even low wage thugs without the promise of riches, and the police had seized all his assets. He packed up shop and headed to a different part of town. Last I heard he was running a numbers game north of Fifth Street.

The shopkeepers felt safer than before and took more risks to bring in customers. They also wouldn’t settle for anyone picking up where the Duke left off.

Elderly Mr. Yamamoto, who owns the electronic store on forty-second, beat off four hoodlums with a broomstick then showed us the security tapes just to prove it. Mr. Ginarski, the grocer, has seen shoplifting drop by a factor of five. He used to lose more apples from the street side displays than he’d sell. Oscar’s aunt found opening her hair salon on Saturdays profitable again, since she didn’t have to pay the Duke or give free haircuts to his cronies. There’s a park now where a street full of brothels used to stand and the community center is actually a community center instead of a drug dealer hang out.

And things are kind of like that gaudy ice cream scoop window. The Duke may have destroyed our original plan, he may have even made us want to give up and go home, but out of that blow, out of being cut down, we came back stronger, better and more beautiful.

Oscar became a full partner in Scoops once he got back from college. His marketing and business whiz let us open a second shop about six blocks over, 2 Scoops. I came up with that name. The original Scoops is still run out of the same building with that same gaudy stained glass window vigilantly watching the neighborhood.

And then there’s little Kenny, born the same night his father died, a stab of the knife with every contraction. He barely waited till the ambulance got us to the hospital before he popped out to see everyone. He’s like looking at a photograph of his father, and as honest as the day is long. He has kids of his own now and they play in that park I mentioned. He runs our second branch and he and Oscar are like brothers. I have the best sons any woman could ask for.

I miss Kenneth more than I can say. I never remarried, never even really dated. When you lose your soul mate, every eligible bachelor looks the same: not Kenneth. I still live in the apartment above Scoops and I still make pancakes once a week for dinner.

After all these years, a lot of thought and a lot more prayer, I’ve finally figured out the truth about Kenneth. He was a fool and an idiot, but he’s exactly the kind of foolish idiot this world needs.