Revenge is a dish
best eaten cold.

—lame old proverb

Joy and peace, Camper.

Revenge. Vengeance. Getting Even. Payback. Settling a score. To strike back at someone who has done you wrong is a primal instinct, and it is one Your Uncle Jerry recommends indulging as often as possible. But how often is that?

Uncle Jerry’s older sibling, Aunt Blue, was a pincher. And not just a pincher—a fingernail pincher. Aunt Blue lived mostly in the back seat of the family car on school days, from where she would often inflict, without ANY provocation, a most painful torture with two fingernails on the skin of Your Uncle Jerry’s thigh.

Did Uncle Jerry take revenge for this outrage? Dang right. He crushed her peanut butter sandwich.

This is deep biology talking. Don’t fight it. It is survival itself that drives us toward revenge. Why? Because revenge draws a line between us and the other person. It says “this is my side of the backseat; you stay over there, unless you like tread marks on your wonder bread.” It’s a beautiful thing, when you think about it. Even-ness is fundamentally democratic, and something we should all support.

Unbelievably, there is a certain class of persons who do not understand the fine symmetry of getting even. “Even” is not a concept they are interested in. "Above" is more what’s on their mind. "Over"—as in you.

Be careful of such persons; they have no sense of balance, and this makes them dangerous and unfunny. When tempted to settle a score with them, Camper, ask yourself two questions. 1) “Will I ever have to deal with this person again?” and 2) “Will I ever have to deal with this person again?” Uncle Jerry knows that’s the same question twice, but he doesn’t trust you to answer truthfully the first time. If the answer is Yes to either of these questions, your best revenge will be watching someone else take that person down.

There is another class of persons on whom you should never attempt revenge. This group includes those who look up to you, baristas, and honestly stupid people, especially those in elected office. Yes, yes, of course, they’re annoying. Yes, they deserve it. Yes, whatever. But listen, Camper. The only thing worse than NOT getting even with someone who is invincibly ignorant is GETTING even with them. Revenge is a dish eaten eye-to-eye. Which part of “even” don’t you understand? And you need the proper wine to serve with it. Duh.

Which brings us to: Uncle Jerry’s Six Persons Never to Pay Back.

  1. people who are truly evil
  2. people to whom you are important
  3. pets and politicians
  4. ex-spouses (see #1 and #3)
  5. writers
  6. people you might forget to watch carefully in the future

In our story, Molly sets out for revenge on Rhinehart. Let’s see how that goes.


Give us this day our daily mask.
—Tom Stoppard
lame old playwright

Joy and peace, Camper.

If you flip a coin once, the odds are 50/50 that it will come up heads.

But if you flip that coin 99 times, and it comes up heads every time, and you flip it one more time, what are the odds then? And what if it comes up heads 100 times? What are the odds that, in your excitement, you’ll turn a flip yourself, tail-over-teakettle, right there in the school hallway just to celebrate?

What are the odds that you’ll land in the hospital with your knee bent around your backside?

The adolescent brain, science tells us, is a very poor judge of risk. It always wants one more flip of the coin, one more handspring, one more text while driving. This explains why so many teenage campers never get to celebrate their 20th birthday. Once again, the mystery of evolution boils down to thinning the herd.

Your Uncle Jerry knows you hear a different message from Random Happy Adult Persons. Enjoy your youth, they say; do stuff; explore; try your wings. Life is short. Whatever. Look, they just want you to like them, so of course they’re going to lie to you. Life is short? So true. Listen to that stuff, dude, and you may find out just how short life can be.

Your Uncle Jerry is older than he looks. (Oh, stop. Really? 40-something?) Your Uncle Jerry left his adolescent brain behind him many years ago, and he hasn’t looked back . . . since breakfast.

Yes. Well. As it turns out, those of us who do make it past 20 without crutches are haunted by the suspicion that we actually didn’t have much fun in our youth. We’ve been careful, we’ve been responsible, like our parents told us to be; we’ve been playing it safe. And all we ever got for our trouble was safety and responsibility and with luck a little money. Cold comforts.

Every day we shower, shave, shine our shoes, and shampoo. Struggle into a grown-up mask, and slump out the door. That’s why they call it being adult—it’s dull. People depend on us. People will suffer if we pull off our daily mask and let the top of our head get some air. People will suffer if we get excited about the wonders of life and youth and handsprings, and forget that we’re supposed to be somewhere, doing something.

And that’s what you have to look forward to, young person, if you manage to make it past your idiot years. Responsibility. Dependents. People who look a lot like you, asking for the car keys. Be careful, you will say. Don’t get hurt. And they will or they won’t, and either way, you’ll be the one paying for it.

I’ve got one word for you, Camper: Retirement. It’s even better in Spanish: JubilaciĆ³n.

In retirement, your kids are grown, your job is done, your bills are paid (more or less), and people are suddenly very tolerant. Retirees get an incredible license to freak out, flake out, chill out. I mean, just look at what they wear: would they be wearing that if they cared what you think? Look at where they go; France, Panama, Taiwan, anywhere they want. And when they get there, they get a discount. Look at what they get excited about: Everything! Food, gambling, travel, burlesque, pickle ball, the Internet, wine, rodeo.

You think flipping a coin or waving a game controller is a thrill. You’re going to love retirement . . . if you live long enough.

Peace and Joy.

In chapter fifteen of Molly’s story, the “aunts and uncles” are setting a plan in motion they think will save their own retirements.