Two nineteen year old boys, Sean and Danny, move into a San Francisco apartment one thin wall away from a couple of terminal alcoholics who seem to hate each other with a passion. Each and every evening these unseen neighbors erupt in orgies of belligerence and loathing: harangues and rants, crapulous soliloquies, death threats, occasionally even wrestling and fist fights. The drunken louts battle with raging abandon and total disregard for everyone else in the building. They are Pete Haskett and Raymond Lee Huffman.
At first Sean and Danny are unnerved by the outrages next door—it's like living next to Oscar and Felix from Hell. When they bang on the wall demanding silence, ray, who sounds like a big guy, responds with blood-curdling death threats.
Eventually, made desperate by sleeplessness and Pete's incessant refrain of "Shut up little man!", Danny takes his life in his hands, knocks on Pete and Ray's door, and gets his first glimpse of the men behind the voices. They are shorter than expected, and about fifty years old. He asks them to be quiet. Ray threatens to kill him.
Sean decides to tape one of Ray's sinister rants, in case he or Danny ever need supporting evidence for a charge of criminal assault—or murder. The next morning, listening to the tape, not even prolonged sleeplessness can hide the fact that it's pretty amusing.
Sean lends the tape to a friend who also finds it entertaining. A couple of months later, the tape has spread like wildfire and become an underground media phenomenon. The boys produce more recordings, and in the weeks and months that follow, Pete and Ray's vile discourse crosses oceans east and west, spawning plays and puppet shows, T-shirts, CD's and movie deals.
Meanwhile, Peter and ray, oblivious, never stop arguing, and the inexplicable chains of human need that bind them are only strengthened by the challenges they encounter: a sociopathic houseguest, a hospitalization, a burnt pizza. In fact, the purity of the older men's relationship is so powerful that is gradually possesses the boys' minds, too. Finally, Pete and ray's phraseology and curious logic come between Sean and Danny's, and the real, private conflicts between the boys begin to mirror their neighbors'. Sean and Danny, each in his own way, battle against oblivion and despair, confront terror and pity, and come face to face with the humanity of Pete and Ray.
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