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The Dogs of War

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Drop It Like It's Hot


September 2016
Corvallis, Oregon

It was the end of the second week of school at Oregon State University, where Nicolae Dooku taught as a professor of ancient history. He liked his job, but the beginning of the school year was always a bit hectic, and Dooku was looking forward to relaxing with a nice home-cooked meal, a glass or two of red wine, and watching opera. His tastes in music gravitated towards classical, opera, classic rock and heavy metal. He had the classical music station on now as he worked in the kitchen, having his first glass of wine.

And then, there it was. At least once a week, Dooku's next-door neighbor Sören Sigurdsson - a man in his early thirties, who taught studio art at the university - could be counted on to drive into their cul-de-sac playing rap music on full blast. It wasn't simply that Sören played rap music on full blast, but he had a souped-up soundsystem on his car where the bass shook his house.

When the pimp's in the crib ma
Drop it like it's hot
Drop it like it's hot
Drop it like it's hot
When the pigs try to get at you
Park it like it's hot
Park it like it's hot
Park it like it's hot
And if a n**** get a attitude
Pop it like it's hot
Pop it like it's hot
Pop it like it's hot
I got the Rolly on my arm and I'm pouring Chandon
And I roll the best weed cause I got it going on

Dooku put down his glass of wine and pinched the bridge of his nose. Most of the time it was a brief endurance - annoying to be sure, but not lasting more than a few minutes, once Sören was parked. Today it sounded like Sören was parked and still had his soundsystem going in his car.

And it was enough that Dooku could hear it over his own music. Drowning out Mozart. Dooku finally came out as the song was coming to a close - a clicked tongue and a call of "Snooooooooooooop", which seemed fairly idiotic.

Sören drove a neon green Mitsubishi Lancer with a spoiler on the boot. Just the man's car was obnoxious, an ostentatious display of someone who had newly come into money, probably seeing a teacher's income as lavish compared to whatever he'd grown up with back in Iceland. As Dooku came out, he saw Sören had the trunk of his car open and was unloading groceries... while he still had the stereo on. The bass thumped even more outside. The song changed to another Snoop Dogg track.

I was chilling right around my way
21st Eastside at the beach
This motherfucker ran up on me
Talking shit with his homies
Like he was a straight G!

Asking where I'm from while he running up
Gangbang my set on everyone of them
Some things, sons they just won't change
Fools don't respect nothing but the gangbang

Sören was continuing to transport his bags of groceries from the trunk to the welcome mat of the front door of his house. Dooku folded his arms, and Sören didn't even look at him in acknowledgment. Finally Dooku cleared his throat and said "Excuse me." Sören's soundsystem was loud, but Dooku could project his bass voice, and it did catch Sören's attention.

Sören stopped in his tracks. His body language got defensive, but Sören was six feet tall and of a slim, willowy build. Dooku was close to six-five and while lean, he was muscular and powerful - the sixty-seven year old took care of himself, with regular trips to the gym, membership at a sport fencing club.

Sören finally said, simply, "What."

The surly expression on his face would have been sexy if the man wasn't such a nuisance. Sören had nape-length curly dark hair, a beard and mustache, heavy-lidded dark eyes with long lashes that usually were behind glasses, and full, pouty lips. He also had those ridiculous gauge plugs in his earlobes that the kids wore these days, though Sören's weren't stretched very much. Today Sören was wearing khakis and a cardigan vest over a button-down shirt, a preppy look - apart from the Doc Martens boots he always wore - and about as casual as he could get away with at the university. He did not look like the sort of person who listened to Snoop Dogg, but there it was, thumping away in his car.

Dooku wore a suit and tie every day to work, wanting to look professional. Now at home, he was relaxing in pajamas and a bathrobe. That he'd actually stepped foot outside his house in his pajamas and robe said a lot about how much he'd been disturbed.

"What do you mean what." Even after decades in the States, Dooku still had a London accent, and his enunciation was especially crisp now in his annoyance. "Is it bloody necessary for you to have that noise on?" Dooku asked.

"Do you ever listen to music when you work out?" Sören was soft-spoken, a deep, smoky voice with a lilting, breathy Icelandic accent. That, too, would have been sexy if he weren't such a nuisance.

"That... that's not relevant." Dooku rubbed his beard, caught a bit off-guard.

"Yes, it is." Sören picked up the last bag of groceries from his trunk. "I've had a long day. I'm exhausted. Like someone listening to music when they work out, I needed a little jolt to be able to take care of business here."

"Well, Professor Sigurdsson, next time you need a little jolt, have a care that there are people in this neighborhood who... don't."

"It was just a few minutes. It's well before 9 PM. You'll live." Sören turned off his car.

"Surviving and living are two different things, Professor Sigurdsson. You rather interrupted the latter with this... I won't call it music."

Sören grinned, showing his teeth. It was not a pleasant grin. It was predatory. "Well, you'll get over it, anyhow."

With that Sören turned on his heel, carrying his groceries to the door. Dooku thought he saw Sören wheezing a little, as if just that bit of exertion was almost too much for him. Sören put the bag down and fumbled with his keys, and started coughing. Dooku watched Sören pull out an inhaler and take a puff, and then Sören opened the door. After he brought his first bag in, Sören looked over his shoulder to see Dooku was still watching him and he said, "Wow, don't you have something better to do than watch me take in groceries? You need to get a hobby."

Dooku's face burned. He didn't know why he was still even looking at the man, he ought to get back to his cooking. His nostrils flared and he said coldly, "Goodnight, Professor Sigurdsson."

"Whatever," Sören muttered under his breath.

Whatever. For some reason that flippant response annoyed him just as much as the obnoxious rap music, if not more. Dooku slammed the door as he got inside.

It alarmed his cat, Beowulf. The elderly cat was given to sleeping a lot now, and Dooku felt a bit bad for disturbing the cat from his rest. As Beowulf hobbled to the kitchen to his food bowl, Dooku decided he'd reserve the giblets from the chicken he was roasting and make Beowulf a little treat.

As dinner cooked and Dooku checked his e-mail, he heard another car drive down the street, also playing music loudly - some sort of 90s alt-rock - but not as loudly as Sören's earlier choice of music. The car pulled in front of Sören's house; Dooku knew this was Seth, Sören's boyfriend. He felt another stab of annoyance - a reminder that he was very much alone in this world. Like Sören, Dooku himself preferred men, but unlike Sören, Dooku was the product of an earlier generation that had been rather conservative about the subject and he'd been closeted and wary of anything that would breach that closet until he was of an age where it seemed rather too late to come out and try to find a partner.

So it was he and his cat tonight, as it was every night. And though the earlier interruption hadn't been all that long or even that awful in the grand scheme of things - people are dying, Dooku scolded himself at how much he was getting worked up over something so small - it also felt like a microcosm of what was wrong with his entire life. Too old, too set in my ways, does not play well with others. Dooku sighed.

"At least you like me," Dooku said, petting the cat.