This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.
She had asked him not to park on the lawn, but he just did not listen.
He was the kind of bloke who smiled a lot, and said yes a lot, but never took any notice. He figured that he could do what he liked as long as he smiled; often and long.
It had worked pretty well for him up until now.
He discovered that people were powerless in the face of a smile, as long as you got that smile just right.
A little bit this way and people got angry because they thought you were laughing at them.
A little bit that way and people thought you knew something they didn’t, and no one likes that.
A little too high with the smile showed contempt and could result in a thick lip.
A smidgin too low with the smile and people thought that you were a sandwich short of a picnic, and this made people nervous, especially if you lived in the same block of flats.
But all these false smiles were in his past. Smiler McNulty had it down pat.
His place in the underworld was a minor one but constantly lucrative, which explained the swish automobile and the expensive apartment.
Smiler was always on the lookout for attacks from rival gangs but he never saw old Ma Wilson coming.
She was quiet and no one paid her much attention. She had a past but it was unknown to all who inhabited her part of the world.
She loved grass and didn’t like to see it damaged, especially crushed, and a car tyre was apt to do a bit of damage.
Smiler just smiled when she asked him to park his car on the street, like everyone else.
Friday afternoon saw Ma Wilson waiting across the street behind a convenient tree; waiting for Smiler to come home. He always came home early on a Friday, and he always parked his car on the lawn.
On this particular Friday Ma Wilson opened up with the Thompson Machine Gun that her late husband had bought her as a present.
“You never know when you might need to protect yourself, Ma.”
“Are we expecting Lucky Luciano?” She asked rhetorically.
Her husband didn’t know what rhetorically meant so he answered, “No dear, it’s meant for burglars and that sort.”
As she opened up on Smiler she wondered what her husband would have said had he still been alive.
Quite understandably, the police were wondering why she had done it and the large policeman who was asking most of the questions nodded in complete understanding when she explained. He too had wanted to ‘open up’ on the bloke down stairs who trampled his Petunias and who constantly played Keith Urban songs on his radio.
Ma Wilson’s trial took about a year to come up on the docket, and the Department of Public Prosecutions decided to charge her with manslaughter because they felt that if they went for murder she might get off due to the public sympathy that had swollen up around her. Many folks felt that people like Smiler should be ‘opened up on’ and they were glad that one among them had decided to act.
The DPP’s fears were realised when Ma was convicted of the lesser charge of ‘Justifiably Opening Up On a Person Who Deserved It’. The jury took only an hour to reach this verdict, which would have come in sooner but it was close to afternoon tea time and the Criminal Courts in Melbourne were famous for their tea and cream biscuits; so the jury didn’t think that anyone would mind if the verdict was delayed for a bit.
Everyone was full of Earl Grey and Arnotts Cream Assorteds when the verdict was read out. The judge decided to render a sentence on the spot, which was most unusual.
He sentenced Ma Wilson to time served and the only person in the courtroom who did not cheer was the prosecutor, but he was cheering on the inside.
After the verdict Ma Wilson went back to her quiet life and the sales of Thompson Machine Guns went up dramatically.
Smiler’s friends vowed to get revenge but it was mostly for show. They didn’t like him much either.
“The motherfucker parked on my lawn as well” said the leader of the West Street Wanderers during a particularly aggressive game of Pool at big Eddie’s Pool Emporium. Those who were present nodded in agreement. Many of them had had their lawns parked on as well.
Lots of cool stuff happened in that neighbourhood over the next couple of decades but, understandably, no one ever parked on Ma Wilson’s lawn.