Idea by Tom Austin Edited by Meg Sorick Improved by Meg Sorick, Author Part four in the story of Panooksa
After unlocking the three locks on his apartment door, Brad strode through, nearly tripping himself on the small mountain of mail on the floor. As was his habit, he gathered up the lot of it, and after glancing at each piece put them piles according to priority.
“And what do we have today? Let’s see,” he said, sorting through the envelopes and flyers. “The cable bill, the water bill …” These he stacked on the left. The junk mail he set off to one side. “And what’s this? A letter from the charming folks who own the building?” More than a little curious, he opened this envelope first. He never had one before, and was decidedly intrigued. In his haste, he tore the paper with his thumb, giving himself a paper cut. His thumb now left a great big crimson dot on the pristine white paper.
With a sigh, he sat in his favorite chair. He had it since his first years of college. It definitely looked worn. And the fact that the springs were bent to his frame meant only he could sit in it comfortably.
Sucking his thumb like a six foot tall infant, he read the letter. It was a form letter. He disliked form letters, as he found them cold and impersonal. As he scanned the words on the page, he grew increasingly alarmed. “No. No, no, no, no…. Please don’t say it!”
According to the letter, the apartment building had been sold, and all apartment units were being converted to condominiums. Current residents would be allowed to bid for the condo should they wish to. Since Brad didn’t have the money to purchase the condo, he would have no choice but to move out. Cursing under his breath, he muttered, “Now what?”
He stood and began to pace. “Just once, just once, you’d think I’d get a bloody break. But nooooo! I bet the person in charge of this ‘refurbishment’ is having a good laugh right about now. Well, at least they can’t stop me from having a beer!”
Brad stalked to the kitchen, yanked open the fridge door only to discover he had forgotten to restock his favorite brand of beer. He slammed the fridge door shut, stringing together a few choice expletives as he did. He walked back to his favorite chair, plopped himself in it, and looked sadly around the apartment. “I’m going to miss this place”.
The next day, he called Milly to see how she was. When she asked how he was in return, she got a most unexpected response.
Not quite sure she heard correctly, she asked, “You mind repeating that? This time with clarity!”
Brad told her about the letter explaining the conversion to condos. “And to top it off, those kind hearted souls are only giving me thirty days to either buy in or find some new digs and get out.”
Milly could hear not just the sarcasm in his voice, but also the desperation, and instantly offered her apartment. “You know you could stay at my place till you found a new apartment.”
“Thanks, Milly, I appreciate it but I really can’t.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“I’m the kind of person who hates change in their personal space. When I put a book in the middle of the table, I expect to find it in the middle of the table.”
“Okayyyy,” she said, not quite following him.
“How to explain….” he began. “Do you remember that TV show, ‘The Odd Couple’?”
“Oscar and Felix —the two roommates. Felix was obsessive compulsive about order, a real neat freak. He just went crazy if something wasn’t in its proper spot, or if the coffee grinder was used to chop walnuts.”
There was silence at the other end of the line, then Milly asked, “Are you saying you’re like Felix?”
Brad answered quickly, “Not to that degree! But… I have been known to put my compact disc collection in chronological order and alphabetize my record albums.”
She chuckled. “Oh, Brad, everybody does that! The only difference is the level or the degree.” She was quiet for a beat. “But it does sound like you need your own space. For now, at least….”
They talked for a few more minutes, then Brad said he had better get busy with the apartment hunting.
He checked out a couple of possibilities. Armed with a tape measure —Brad measured everything— he made his way to the first building on his list. Upon arrival, he found a large crack in an exterior wall which could mean serious problems with the foundation, or that the building was not settling evenly. Either way, it spelled big trouble for the apartment owner which could translate into big headaches for the renters. This was such a huge red flag, he decided not to look at the apartment.
The next apartment had no air conditioning. The old window casing had bowed so that it was nearly impossible to move, and the scarcity of wall sockets throughout the apartment, was a clear indication the place was poorly wired, and a potential fire-trap. To make things worse, the apartment looked like it hadn’t been painted in decades. Check another one off the list.
Dejected, he called Milly with a progress report.
“Are you going to see anything tomorrow?” she asked.
“I have a couple of prospects,” Brad said. “But the ads don’t sound too hopeful.”
“Would you mind terribly if I tagged along?” Milly asked. “I’d like to see what you’re seeing.”
Brad was surprised, and pleased she asked. He was just about to ask her to join him. They made arrangements for her to come to his place about an hour before the first appointment.
The next day, Milly arrived about a half an hour early. Brad was startled by a ferocious pounding on the door. When he opened it, Milly was in the hall, with a look of determination on her face, carrying a small pillow. He raised an eyebrow as she charged past him.
“Where’s the bathroom?” she asked.
“First door on your left,” he told her.
When she returned after a few minutes, Brad’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull. Milly had been transformed. She stood before him looking about six months pregnant. If he didn’t know better and hadn’t just seen her moments ago, even he would have been thoroughly convinced. “What the …?”
She said, “I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but I look at it this way… Landlords are never going to tell you the complete truth, but having a pregnant wife beside you might make them a little more honest. If they withhold something that could affect an unborn child or a newborn, it could be really bad news for them.”
Brad laughed and shook his head in amazement. “You are devious!”
“Come on dear, we’ll be late,” she ordered. “And stop staring at me,” she added with a smile.
Further musings of Meg Sorick can be found at https://megsorick.com/
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