Something terrible has happened in Friendswood. Before we get to that, let’s try to remember what Friendswood is. It’s probably been a long time since our last visit.
Friendswood is the place we live in as children where everything is cognizant and nothing is more special than anything else. We all spend a little time there, some more than others. When I was around four years old, I saw a television show called Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Pee-wee lived in a house where all the furniture and pets spoke to him. Whenever he needed a friend, he just turned to Chairy, Mr. Kite, Mr. Window, or Globey. Even Exercise Belt could be counted on for a bit of fun and games. That idea seemed pretty swell to me, and from then until age nine I worked hard to be kind to all things, animate and inanimate. I slept curled in the fetal position so that none of my stuffed animals had to sleep on the floor, I made sure each marble had a turn rolling through the plastic obstacle course, and I apologized to tables I carelessly bumped into.
After a while though, I decided to leave Friendswood. My best friend and I had spent hours at sleepovers holding our favorite stuffed animals up to the windows so the moonlight would bounce off of their plastic eyeball discs and bring them to life. It worked in the Care Bears, but it failed us every time. Then one day I overhead a classmate say, “I don’t watch Barney. It’s stupid.” It was time to move on.
Almost everyone leaves Friendswood eventually. Some adults try to use Friendswood as a way to teach their children the importance of caring for personal belongings, thereby dooming them to a life of insatiable consumerism and a disproportionate affection for electronics. Other Friendswoodians are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia, and live the rest of their lives secretly wishing they could use each of their forks during dinner to make sure they all receive equal attention. The ones who stay the longest often suffer a long and arduous struggle to assimilate to normal society. At age thirty-eight Pee-wee was arrested for touching his no-no place in a darkened theater. Steven Burns, better known as “Steve” from Blue’s Clues, left his jovial assortment of kitchen utensils only to spend nearly three years composing the album Songs for Dustmites. Likely desperate for companionship, he then formed the band Steve Burns (and the Struggle), which helped him to complete his second, even more depressingly titled album, Deep Sea Recovery Efforts.
Sometimes there are warning signs that a person has stayed in Friendswood too long, which brings us to the recent disaster:
A disagreement over a cockroach has led to an assault charge against a Friendswood man, police said.
Investigators said 23-year-old Zachary Paul Thornhill flew into a rage during a dispute Thursday over the fate of the bug in the 900 block of Knights Court in Friendswood.
“After refusing to kill the cockroach, Thornhill became enraged and is accused of kicking his stepfather and throwing objects at him, then hitting his mother across the back,” according to the Friendswood Police Department crime blotter.
Thornhill also is accused of breaking a window at the residence, police said.
This is a classic case of the Friendswood culture gone wrong. Sometimes, after being surrounded by potted plants, goldfish, shower curtains, and parents who all have a stake in every decision you make, it becomes too much. Your father wants to sit in the yellow armchair because it’s the most soothing to his rheumatoid arthritis, but you haven’t sat in that armchair since last week, and how will your neglect make her feel? Prioritization becomes impossible. Zachary was faced with a difficult decision: his family’s comfort, or the comfort of a helpless creature that communicates with its brethren by leaving behind trails of feces steeped in bacteria. Cockroaches are alive after all, even by normal people’s standards, and they have homes and families to look after. How could he abide by his stepfather’s request to snuff out such a life?
For those of us who’ve been away from Friendswood for a while, it would be easy to dismiss Zachary as just another run-of-the-mill lunatic, but let’s try to empathize with him in his time of need. I have no doubt he acted with the best of intentions and that his outburst was only the result of too much compassion. Let us wish him a swift recovery and a gentle relocation process. He clearly needs help. He broke Mr. Window, for god’s sake.