Friday, December 11, 2009


I always liked this story about one of my earlier closet-sized-NYC-apartment experiences. You'd be surprised how much of this story is factual. I think I wrote this around 1999.

"Look Scribs it's not such a bad place... for Brooklyn. I've been here about a year and nothing bad's happened. Well, least not to me." Dan took a quick sip of his red-hot black coffee with six packets of Equal.
"Shit, don't get all mysterious and crap. I’ve already gotten half my stuff moved in this morning. I’m here to stay, so what's the deal?" Scribs continued torturing the soggy diner fries, apparently trying to make a happy face with the grease trails.
Like a rabbit darting a quick look to check for sustenance, friends and predators, Dan looked at his reflection in the tarry black substance. "Well, a year ago Sol, our neighbor, the one on our floor, got his place broken into. His shit was all over the floor. The door was pried open with a crowbar. The wall had a pretty bad dent. I mean check it out; according to the cops, first they sledgehammered through the wall next to his door. They wanted some kinda opening to reach in and unlock the door or something. When they saw a shelf on the other side, they decided to just sledgehammer the door. After a few shots, they finished the job with a crowbar."
"That sucks balls! Was the guy hurt?" Scribs sounded concerned, but as his happy face neared completion, the neighbor really couldn't have mattered much less.
"Naw, Sol's fine. Was at work." Dan took another sip, and made a face as he ran into the sugary goo at the bottom of the chewed up foam cup. "Actually, I was really worried after that shit, cause the boiler controls for our floor's in our apartment, so Sol's got our key."
Scribs' happy face flew into the backseat, "Why? Geezus! That SUCKS! Wait. Do we have his key? I mean it's only fair. . . right?"
Dan broke into a medley of empty wheezing and laughter, "Gotta smoke less. Ugh." At this, Scribs joined in on the laugh. "Well, ya paranoid, we do have Sol's key. Only cause he's got the circuit breaker for our floor in his apartment. The apartments used to be one place, but they chopped it up to get more rent. Smart landlord huh?" Finishing the last of his ice-water, Dan flagged down one of the over-worked though obviously well fed waitresses, and asked for a check.
"Hmmm... well I can deal, I guess. I mean if anything's missing, me n' Louieville Slugger'll pay Sol a little visit." Scribs wore an evil-lunatic-three-year-old-with-a-Ginsu smile, as he did unmentionable things to his happy face with a pickle and some coleslaw.

The quiet of the street was almost unconscionable for Brooklyn at 3am on a summer evening. The streets were piled with lumpy sacks of ripening waste, and all the parked cars were huddled on the opposite curb. Arranged to better to avoid a plague of tickets rather than to help with street cleaning or garbage pickup. Despite the nearness of the onramp to the Williamsburg bridge, South Fourth Street could complain of no noise from evening traffic.
The door to the apartment was nicely wedged between a pair of dumpsters. The stenciled letters on the left dumpster marked it as "Property of Gaea Importers, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc." and the other was thoroughly plastered with playbills, club announcements, and postcard sized stickers for various aspiring labels and their gun-totting artists.
Pulling open the front door of iron lace and supporting iron grills, Dan turned around "Oh... one sec." He fished through his pockets, while Scribs held open the door with one finger. "Oh don't be such a baby! It's only rust if anything... Here." So saying, Dan tossed a small clump of keys to Scribs, "Those're yours." A smirk telegraphed some event of wit, "The funny looking one that looks like the history of Apple stocks is for the front gate. It doesn't work very well, so you gotta keep jiggling till it opens.” Inserting a key, Dan began fidgeting with the solid gray blast door, “This next door isn't so bad cause its newer."
Scribs held one of the toothy bronze keys to eye-level, "This one it?"
"No, that's upside-down, doof. It’s for this next door inside. The other one's for our door upstairs." So saying, the lock on the second door opened with a greaseless squeak.
The climb was silent only in terms of a lack of words. The loud thrums of sneakers and boots on the hollow wooden frame would have made conversation difficult. The steps were cracked, and in some places, panels jiggled enough to make anyone consider going on a diet. The handrail was a combination of spare pipe segments and garden fencing. They looked strangely contemporary against freshly white washed walls and ceilings that joined at all the odd angles of an Escher creation. Though well lit, the stairs seemed fit for only the labored pace of dark work boots on the feet of exhausted men.
Scribs hopped up the stairs two steps at a time, shuttling left and right with each ascending leap. Dan only shook his head, as he engaged in a more leisurely, handrail dependant climb.

Arriving at the top of the stairs, and barely glancing at the door to the apartment which mirrored the gray blast door downstairs, Scribs yelled down the three flights of stairs to Dan, "So what exactly did they take from Sol's place?"
Coming up the flight, Dan replied, "Don't have to yell, I'm not that far behind. I think they got his VCR, some ashtrays, his CD's and his phone."
"Ashtrays?? Are you serious? What can you do with ashtrays?"
A bit annoyed at how undisturbed the apartment door remained despite the keys dangling from Scrib's right hand, Dan reached into the pocket of his worn khakis. "I don't really know. Sol said something like 'They just takin' the shit they can sell for crack.' or something weird like that. I can't imagine what kind of crack you can buy with ashtrays."
Scribs had made his way to Sol’s door, and was inspecting the metal plate nailed onto the segment of wall beside the entryway. The sound of Dan opening the apartment door coincided with Scribs’ pointing and exclaiming with some wonder, “They did this... This without ANYONE noticing???”
At that moment, both men sounded a hymnal plea for strength or perhaps just believability “CHRIST!”
Scribs continued “... this must be Brooklyn.”
Dan came into the hallway, his face expressing considerable annoyance. “What did you do to the phone?”
“Phone? Me? What happened?” Scribs brushed past Dan to inspect the damages.
The tidy two-room apartment was really nothing to look at. It was decorated in the sparse style of college life. There was a stereo, an amiable CD collection, several milk crate formations, topped with a plentitude of alarm clocks, a shelf thick with overpriced textbooks, several bottles of alcohol, piles of flattened boxes leftover from the morning movie, clothing and other used items strewn here and there... but no phone.
A brief inspection of the apartment left no doubt, “The phone’s missing!” Scribs sat down on the couch, and chewed on a corner of his thumbnail.
“Did you move it while you were moving in this morning?” asked Dan as he walked into the room, and opened a few of the cabinets in the kitchen corner of the living room.
“Shit, I remember making a call just before we went to dinner.” Then Dan looked through the refrigerator and even checked briefly in the oven, and then the broiler. “Yep. Phone’s officially MIA.”
Scribs continued to sup on his thumbnail.
Dan walked into his room, the only place of privacy in the apartment aside from the bathroom. Picking himself up, and examining the shelf for absentees, Scribs seemed almost reluctant to touch anything in the room.
From within the room, Dan called out, “Nothing else of mine is missing. Think we should call the cops?”
“Yeah, and report that one cruddy looking phone’s been stolen. It wasn’t even new. It looked like something from the early eighties.” Just then Scribs let out a sound of more than audible surprise, “Get out here!”
Rushing from his room, Dan had an optimistically lifted right eyebrow, ”You found the phone??”
Scribs shook his head and then pointed to a shirt lying on the floor. Whispering like a prisoner after lights out, “No, but its about the size of a phone.” Looking around, and gingerly grabbing a broom that was leaning against the shelf, Scribs lifted the shirt with the NYPD end of the broomstick.
A mouse sized roach that was no doubt the voodoo-love-child of Giger’s Alien creature and some promiscuous New York vermin, skittered across the floor to the safety of the large black void beneath the kitchen cabinets. Through all this neither man had been able to do more than stare in a nearly obscene stupor of gaping amazement.
“Holy shit! Dan! You didn’t tell me you had roaches big enough to mug little kids!” Scribs cautiously peered at the void beneath the cabinets, but could see nothing but large dust bunnies and other obscure shapes that just couldn’t be bugs.
“I’ve never seen a roach that big in my life, let alone in here.” Less amused than stunned, Dan seemed decided on something. He grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote something, then turned towards the table beside the bookshelf. “Damn.”
“What’s wrong? Find something else missing?” Scribs was holding a rolled up newspaper and was in the act of dropping some old cheese on the floor before the cabinets.
“No. I just forgot that the phone was stolen. I wrote myself a note to call the exterminator.” In frustration, Dan threw his keys onto the table too hard and they slid over the edge making a pissed off New Yorker noise. “DAMN! What kind of sicko breaks in and only takes the phone?” Glancing over at Scribs for a moment Dan snapped, “Get off the goddamn floor. Go check the door, will ya? I’m going to have a look at the windows.”
Completing his inspection of the windows, all of which were neither disturbed nor open-able, Dan went to the front door. “Scribs?” The bathroom was empty, and there really wasn’t any other place to hide. “Have the roaches got you or something?” Opening the door, Dan stuck his head out into the hallway, and saw Scribs in front of Sol’s door again. “Anything interesting there?”
“Nothing. I locked myself out, and figured I’d have a look at his door. His door was pried open, and the door’s really banged up. I bet his lock wasn’t working afterwards. Ours works fine, and there isn’t a scratch. Funny thing is I remember you locking the door before we went out. What was that? Like an hour and a half? Two?” Shaking his head, Scribs crossed the threshold and closed the door. “So how about those windows?”
Dan shook his head, “Didn’t find a thing either. Shit, this means some bastard’s got our keys. You think Sol might’ve? Maybe we should have a talk with him.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. We don’t know Sol was the one. Besides, it’s 3am.”
“Yeah... I guess. I mean he’s had a year to take something. Still...” Dan shook his head and muttered something pleasant about the nature of castration.
Scribs went through the dresser and pulled out a clean t-shirt and some PJ’s. “Okay. We’ll talk to him tomorrow. I gotta get some sleep. You wanna take first watch?”
Looking up from his seat, Dan looked confused, “For the thieves? I don’t think they’ll come back tonight.”
“No nadboy, I mean for roaches. I don’t want one of those suckers to rip out my throat while I’m sleeping!”
Dan gave another lung-chunk loosening laugh.

“You have reached Smart Beep.”
“His this is Dan’s mail box, press one to blabber pointlessly, two to give me a number I can ignore without any feelings of guilt.”
“I’d say call a locksmith, but its a little bit late now, and we still don’t have a phone.” Dan waved a hand in front of Scribs, but failed to penetrate the thick catatonia. Shaking his head, Dan put down his keys, and opened the door.
“I’m gonna go talk to Sol, and see if he heard anything.”
From his seat on the couch, Scribs just chewed away at the ragged remains of his thumbnail. He heard Dan knock on the door, and enter Sol’s apartment. He heard the sound of drinks being poured into glasses, then after some quite dialogue, the unfamiliar voice sounded sympathetically shocked.
A few drinks later, he heard steps in the hallway, then Dan appeared in the doorway. A lean man with a clean white t-shirt and jogging pants followed Dan into the room.
“Come on Scribs. Say something will ya? This is Sol, he said he hasn’t heard anything”
Sol extended a hand with the civil intent to shake, but Scribs only regarded it cautiously with one rabid eye that widened as it approached. Scribs snapped his teeth at Sol’s hand as it got too close for comfort.
“SHIT! The fuck’s up with him??” Sol quickly retrieved his hand for a quick head-count.
“Oh, he just gets like this when he can’t get alcohol or cigs. He writes for a living.” Dan rushed into the other room, and came back with a glass of brandy. “This’ll fix ’im.”
Dan cautiously handed the glass to Scribs. A half second later, the brandy was gone, the ice eaten, and the glass was slightly chipped.
“Ahhhhhh... b-better.” Scribs curled up on the couch, and remained motionless.
Sol stood from his inspection of the lock and entryway. “Holy shit. Maybe you guys oughta get a new lock. No damage, so ‘less your window’s shot, some bitch’s got a key.”
“No, the windows are fine.” Glancing at Scribs again, Dan added, “Sorry about the glass.”
Scratching a bug bite on his left arm, Sol kept staring at the door. Lost in some wild train of thought, Sol talked on with no notice of the apology, “It’s so fuckin’ odd that they taking it easy like this. I mean when they hit me, the place was sacked. Sure they took weird shit, but stuff was just thrown all over. Plus they took valuable shit too. Shit!” Still scratching absentmindedly, Sol’s arm began to bleed.
Dan snapped his fingers, “Yo! Sol, your arm.”
Barely stopping to look Sol continued, “I mean takin’ just the phone, then only the vodka... It’s like they just messin’ with you.”
Sighing to himself, Dan nodded. “Yeah. I’ll call a locksmith in the morning. Or... uhm... go to a locksmith in the morning.”
Glancing at Scribs, Sol smiled, “Weird roomie you got. He can keep the glass for now. I ain’t reachin’ at him again. G’night man.”
“Heh, yeah thanks. Goodnight Sol.” Dan closed the door behind Sol, and locked the door. He reconsidered for a moment, and then decided locking the door would be an undeserved victory by his paranoia, especially since both roommates were going to be home.
He unlocked the dead bolt, and said “I got to look around Sol’s one room apartment. No vodka or phone. Probably wasn’t him anyway.”
Turning around, Dan saw that Scribs was very much asleep. A look of amusement and pity crossed Dan’s face while watching Scribs suck his thumb, still holding tight to the chipped glass.
“Goodnight Scribs.” Scribs replied by sucking his thumb some more, as Dan reached for the light switch, and quietly closed the door to his room.

Scribs sat up, and squinted opened one eye. He quickly shut it as a three hundred watt window discouraged him from any further peeking. The persuasion of gravity brought him back to the couch after a few wavering moments.
“SHIT! What the FUCK am I going to tell them at work?”
Scribs sat up again. Having learned from the last time he woke up, he kept his eyes shut, and just spoke to the red-laced orange that half-blinded him, “Wha?”
“They took the fuckin’ alarm clock! We were here. Then they were here. The alarm’s gone. I know it was here cause I set it last night before going to sleep.”
Scribs thought Dan sounded a little bit upset. “Huh?”
“What really REALLY bothers me is the fact that they were here while WE were here.” The door to Dan’s room opened, and a hastily dressed Dan burst out.
Testing the waters, Scribs pried opened the far corner of his right eye with one pinky. The light returned, and he thought better of opening them again. Scribs fell onto the couch again.
“I’m going to the locksmith right now, since I missed an entire morning of work.” After a quick trip to the bathroom to give his hair any look other than the “traumatized hatchling,” Dan went into the living room, and looked around. Dan immediately noticed a large bottle of Taylor Port had been taken, but decided against telling the sleeping Scribs.
Putting on a pair of old sneakers, Dan reached for the door handle, and to his great annoyance, the door was still locked. “Fuckin’ A! They locked the door too! FUCK THIS! I’ll be back.”
Dan opened the door, and found Scribs sitting at the table with several bottles of various household cleaners, and a new bottle of Vodka. “I guess you found out about the Port huh?”
Scribs just nodded without saying a word. He seemed engrossed in the mixing of bleach and Draino.
“The locksmith said soonest he’d be here is next week. He said he had to go to some kind of locksmith’s convention for tomorrow and the weekend. Shit, we’re not going to be able to get a locksmith here for a goddamn week.”
Scribs barely nodded, as he downed a fifth of the bottle of vodka in one gulp.
“HOLY SHIT! What’re you doing!” Dan stepped forward, but thought better of touching the questionably stable Scribs.
Scribs only gasped and wheezed appreciatively. “... *cough* good *choke* stuff... *wheeze*.” Before he fully recovered, he stuck a funnel into the bottle neck and began emptying the contents of the glass into the bottle.
Dan hurried over to the kitchen to start a cup of coffee for Scribs, and cursed over his shoulder, “You fuckin’ gonna kill him or something? Christ!”
Scribs just smiled lovingly at his creation, and set it on the shelf in the spot occupied by his beloved bottle of port. “Thank gods for frosted glass.”
Dan handed Scribs a cup of water. “Here.” Inspecting Scribs’ handiwork for a moment, “Shit. I can’t even tell. Were you gonna tell me about that in case I wasn’t here when you prepared this crap? I mean aren’t you being a little drastic?”
“The cops won’t help a couple of guys who are missing a bottle of Absolut citron, a bottle of GREAT port, an alarm and a phone. Why the fuck shouldn’t I do this? Hell, I’d have told you when you got back. Let’s just go to a bar or something and wait out the bastard.”
Eyes still wide with amazement, Dan took a seat. “Okay wise-guy, but what makes you think he’ll take this bottle?”
The corner of Scrib’s left eye flinched for just once. Then a sad desperation filled them as he suddenly grabbed the two remaining bottles of un-tampered alcohol. At the kitchen counter, he poured two tall glasses of scotch, and the rest of the contents were donated to the creatures of the NYC sewer system. He tossed the bottles onto the couch without bothering to cap them.
Handing Dan a glass, Scribs downed half of his glass and flung the caps on the floor. “Let’s go. I’m gonna be sick.”
Dan reluctantly took the glass, glancing at the water spots that covered the outside of the glass. “You might wanna consider AA, or at least a vacation after this.”
Scribs was already two flights down. Dan set the glass in the basin, and stepped outside. He locked the door, and then looking at the unmarred lock for only a moment longer, quickly followed Scribs down the stairs.
Inside the apartment, a pair of large roaches crawled out from beneath the kitchen cabinets. Speeding across the un-mopped floors, they stopped at one of the caps. The larger roach’s feelers dipped into a droplet caught on the spiraling grooves inside the cap, shook its feelers with alarm.
The smaller roach just pushed the other aside, and picked up the cap with its two front legs, and signaled with a third leg for the larger roach to go towards the couch.
The large roach quickly scaled the cloth cover of the couch, skirted beneath the cushion, stopping briefly to nibble on a somewhat fresh booger, he quickly climbed up the arm, and waved an antennae at the distant roach.
Revving up a few half turns, the smaller roach tossed the cap to the larger roach with practiced ease. The large roach caught the cap with only his mandibles. The smaller roach leapt twice, and then ran several tight circles. The larger roach held up an antennae to signal for attention. Then he hefted the cap onto his back with his four front legs and flung it into the blackness beneath the cabinets.
The smaller roach resumed leaping and circling on the floor. The big roach bowed awkwardly, then using its left foreleg, made the universal motion for thirst, which consisted of pretending to tip a tiny glass to its mandibles. On the floor, the smaller roach immediately ceased celebrations, and made a roach-line for the vodka.
Once again holding up a foreleg to signal for attention, the bigger roach made a complex series of signals. Finishing, both roaches scrambled for the basin.

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