The trouble all started when Marjorie Johnson spent an entire afternoon muttering to herself about how much she hated her neighbors, the Roswells. It wasn’t the first time Marge had used a day off from work to create vitriol; there were a dozens of targets on her list and she derived great pleasure in pointing out the shortcomings of the valley’s willingly ignorant. But the Roswells were a special case. They were Catholic. It was hard enough to enjoy Christmas as a Secular Santaphite (SS), what with all the references to Bethlehem and mangers and other such nonsense barging into newspapers and television commercials. But the Roswells had the audacity to have placed a crèche atop their television, which stood near the living room window, in plain sight to anyone who just happened to pass their house while walking their dog, which Marjorie Johnson did at least five times a day.
The sidewalk was owned publicly, there was no room for open displays of any religion on or within view of public property. The Roswells were clearly breaking the law, and making Marjorie damned mad in the process; and yet when confronted about their rudeness, Mr. Roswell would only say “If you don’t like it, don’t look through our windows.” The nerve! Why the constitution specifically grants the right to peer in neighbor’s windows, and somewhere else in it, the constitution forbids placing within eyesight, or speaking within earshot, anything that might be deemed offensive to anyone who happens to be passing by while treading on non offender owned property.
She’d tried to reason with the family. Once her appeals had all been denied, she’d alerted the valley council. A fat lot of good that had done. It was obvious what was happening to her home town. The council was made up of people not really like herself, for if it were otherwise, they could not possibly have been bought off by the Catholics, as they obviously had been…. for they refused to take up her banner and force the Roswells to cease and desist.
There was only one thing that could be done Marjorie figured. She’d have to punish them physically, in secret of course, to let them know they weren’t welcome here, in hopes they’d take their dogma and its damnable Christmas crèches elsewhere. So she waited until just near dusk on Christmas eve, and then stepped into her backyard, perusing her garden for a hefty stone that might be heavable by someone as slight as she. An hour later the perfect rock sat patiently in her lap as she poured herself another cup of tea, and peered from her kitchen window toward the Roswell’s front sidewalk.
Catholics were so predictable. At exactly 11:15, as in every Christmas eve previous, the Roswell family in all their holiday finery stepped out of their house for the walk to St. John the Baptist where they would join other papists for Midnight Mass. Marjorie waited until after midnight, when anyone not chanting foolishness within a house of worship would be fast asleep, and then she snuck from her house and ran to the opposite side of the Roswell home, where she heaved her stone through the Roswell’s west wall. The crash was deafening, the glass seemed brittle and aged, and the three pound granite rock collapsed the entire wall, both floors and attic dormer. (Luckily for Marge, she’d had to heave her ammunition discus style, as it was far too heavy to toss; and in the flurry of spinning around and around she’d become slightly dizzy. So when she let loose, her body continued spinning away from the target, saving her from being crushed by a ton of shattered glass.)
Marjorie was stunned by the result of her hatred. She’d only wanted to send a moderately strong message, a little hole perhaps, a terroristic post-it note of sorts. Yet because of unforeseen complications, (the Roswells had probably hired a Communist Chinese engineer to design their home, or perhaps had bought their building materials from a Mexican factory) her little message had become a blaring diatribe. Marge ran home, washed her now muddy hands and slipped into bed, skipping her normal routine which would include leaving a glass of milk and plateful of cookies for the Jolly Old Elf. After all Santa would know she’d been a bad girl and wouldn’t be delivering a present in any case, so what would be the point of souring milk?
When the Roswells returned home they were amazed. Amazed only that a single rock would have blown an entire wall from their home, not that someone would perpetrate this violence on them. In fact, Mr. Roswell figured he knew who would have thrown the stone; it would be their Jewish neighbor, Matthew Finkle. Jews hate Christmas, and they hate Catholics because Catholics like Christmas. And because of that, Mr. Roswell hated Jews, especially Mr. Finkle. So Ben Roswell found a chunk of broken concrete in his yard, as he was a mason by trade, and he heaved it into the Finkle house in retribution for his own house’s injury.
Mr. Finkle woke from a deep sleep in which he was spinning dreidles and eating gefilte fish, and when he opened his one good eye he saw remnants of his bedroom window scattered about the floor of his bedroom, accompanied by a chunk of broken concrete. “Oy!” he said as he picked up the chunk and ran outdoors so as to send it back to where it obviously would have come from, the Mubarik’s house next door. He’d known he should have moved when Muslims moved into the neighborhood, it was only a matter of time before he was attacked. So with a Yiddish curse he let fly the concrete and smashed his neighbor’s parlor bay window, and then went back to bed.
Mr. Mubarik, the dark skinned Jew who was often mistaken for a Muslim was furious that his house had been damaged by an obviously Jew hating Venezuelan neighbor Mr. Vasquez, (who had once said the word Islam as if he didn't have a care in the world) and immediately flung a handful of class five gravel from his driveway through the front door of the Vasquez residence.
Mr. Vasquez, sure that his neighbor Mrs. Fong, (with her high and mighty “we came here legally and didn’t ask for welfare when we immigrated” attitude) had disrespected his private space, grabbed a spare two by four he’d had left over after building a new garage, and heaved it through the back porch of the Fong household.
Mrs. Fong smashed her Somali neighbor Mr. Williams home, Mr. Williams went after the French American family Duquette’s pool house, the Duquettes peppered a truckful of small stones into Mr. Anderson the fundamentalists house, first smashing the front lawn sign that proclaimed homosexuality an abomination, as they had a daughter Jenny who was lesbian and nobody should talk about their daughter like that.
Mr. Anderson of course smashed the Berthammers home with a baseball bat blessed by the Reverend Billy Cheezers. He’d assumed Fred Berthammer to have thrown rocks at his house because Fred was openly gay and hated openly fundamentalists.
And on and on it went throughout the night, the light skinned against the trash talkers, against the atheists against the conservatives against the apologists against those monsters who’d had the unmitigated gall to name their children Harry or Gertrude, until every home in the Valley of Glass Houses had been damaged if not destroyed. Every house except Marjorie Johnson’s home naturally.
For who could hate a lonely old woman who talks to herself and loves Santa?
Certainly not the Amundsens; they hated the Burlygigs who hated the Nergs who hated the Finkles who hated the Mubareks, who hated the Vasquezes, who hated the Fongs, who hated the Williamses who hated the Duquettes