29 January 2010

Friday Fiction: Pardner, Everyone's New Friend

We all have had the experience. You befriend a man, let's call him "Pardner." Perhaps Pardner is a new neighbor, you work with his spouse, or he simply seem like a guy in need of a friend. But then someone who initially seemed normal enough destroys every shred of good will you might have felt for them. And it's not just you: one after another they alienate everyone they deal with.

I know a man like that. We all do. Or have. When people meet Pardner, he is initially friendly and outgoing. Oh, perhaps a little too obsequious or ingratiating. And there's that business of asking rude personal questions or removing a woman's shoe at a party in order to "study" her feet. Certainly those are just little eccentriticities. Nothing terribly harmful, right?

You invite him to a party at your place. And he invites several other of his acquaintances to your party. Or you take him hunting or fishing to some special place. And next time you go there, you meet these other acquaintences that tell you how their new best friend Pardner told them all about it, as if he had discovered it himself.

Of course, these are the mild symptoms of dis-ease in your new frienship. When Pardner tells you about killing the neighbor dogs because they "trespassed" on his property, things begin to feel, well, ah, downright creepy.

Pardner has told you about his family, and yet there are no photos on the mantle or walls at his house. Hmmm... "And why is it," you ask yourself, "that he has moved five times in the past six years?"

He meets John (an old friend of yours) at some public function, and tells John what a great guy you are and how he and you are best buddies who do everything together. Yes, Pardner tells John all about your wonderful virtues. He also tells John some wild tale of how your parents abandoned you as a child, or of a mental diagnosis derived from some pop seller on psychoanalysis. John tells you about this as if it's funny, but you don't laugh.

At this point, even for those of us who (as my therapist spouse likes to say) are "clinically clueless" in our easy trust of others, the creep-o-meter is in the red. You suddenly sympathize with women that talk about certain men as "stalkers."

By this time, when you invite friends to a party they ask, "Will Pardner be there?" When you say, "Sure, why?" they politily explain they'll be out-of-town that day.

Even as you distance yourself from Pardner, it's hard to contain the creep-factor. There are emails. Never one for paranoia, still you wonder who is sending you these cryptic bizarre notes about your colleagues or disparaging criticism of your political interests. They come from senders with names like "Forest Green" and "Justice."

Gradually, time and distance make the whole Pardner thing feel less threatening, more distant. Still, there is that vague queasiness when you go past his drive and see it piled with snow. The retired neighbor up the road no longer plows it, though he continues to confer this small favor on everyone else. When your other neighbor tells you yet another of his family's pet dogs mysteriously disappeared, you decide to sell your house and move.


Should Fish More said...

Glad it is fiction, ER. Otherwise I'd be looking at everyone in town wondering....

Be glad when March get's here, and the pre-runoff fishing on the Big Hole starts.

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

I'm hoping this a work of pure fiction!!!

Gives me shivers.

Do I need to check under the flagstones of your patio for a body?! Hee hee

tsduff said...

Scary story.

Maria said...

There might be at least one Pardner in every town!
What do you think!?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eco, I knows this guy too. Wait till he borrows your truck.

Janie said...

Pardner does sound creepy. Unfortunately, the story is not entirely unfamiliar...