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The Apartment

A humorous tale..

The Apartment

The Magnolia Arms was a dilapidated structure of six apartment units sitting on the corner of Venus and Envy Streets. Today it’s one of those dead end streets where every morning you step over beer cans, Smirnoff bottles and rubbers. Someone with a propensity for large orders of fries from McDonalds had lined the curb with the bright red cardboard containers like tulips.

Built in 1930 by Foster Frieze it was an eyesore from the first day. Someone knocked down an old barn. Then someone tore down a shed. Next thing you know Foster is building this place little by little. Every time he found some extra wood he would add a room. In the end it was a truly horrible structure that neighbors attempted to set fire to on several occasions. With Foster in it.

Foster wasn’t the greatest neighbor. He often leased his property for weekend hog slaughters to his Samoan friends. On every other Wednesday his buddy Chi Chi Fuggeddaboutit repaired outboard motors in his front yard. At night. Less mentioned was his tendency to walk around all day in his open robe and his early morning yodeling.

After several years of being a social pariah, Foster showed up one morning with six gallons of paint and a 4” brush. He painted the entire structure bright blue. He sat down on the stoop, had a warm Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, leaned to one side and farted. Then he took 8 feet of rope, walked down to the corner of Venus and Envy and hung himself from the street sign. Just as the rope closed on his neck, his eyes rolled upwards and he could see that someone had spray painted over the ‘V’ in Venus and scrawled a ‘P’ in its place. His last thought was “Perfect. Just fucking perfect”.

The Proprietor

Sidney Loins was a fat little kid growing up. His bright red hair and thick glasses made him look like some sort of gizmo rather than human. When he climbed the stairs at school his tubby bohunkus butt reminded you of two Volkswagons trying to pass on a hill. He wore the same amber colored corduroy pants and blue and yellow horizontal striped rugby shirt to school every day. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any clothes, but more that he thought picking out a new outfit every morning and then doing laundry only to pick out another new outfit was a waste of time.

Of course the other kids made fun of him constantly and many days were spent prying himself out of lockers and pulling his underwear back out of his ass crack. Sidney didn’t help himself at all by singing show tunes during recess and lunch despite being pelted by dinner rolls and green Jello squares with those little pieces of pear in them.

For his ninth birthday Sidney got a set of Lincoln Logs from his Aunt Gussie up in Bismark. Following the enclosed instructions he built his first log cabin with them. Then in the midst of a highly rousing rendition of “Mame”, during which his father and sister sat silently in what could only be called complete despair, he was thunderstruck by an epiphany. He knew what he wanted to do with his life and he quickly skipped his chubby ass out of the room in search of a map.

Finding the map in his father’s nightstand, along with a flashlight, a stick of Juicyfruit gum, 3 rubbers, a comb, and something called “Big John’s Strap-on Wand of Pleasure”, he tried deftly to unfold it for viewing. After 10 minutes of opening and closing and flopping and swapping, he rightly deduced that anyone who could take 15 square feet of paper map and fold it in such a manner as to tuck neatly into a 3” by 6” sleeve was highly educated and obviously well paid. He took it to the kitchen for his mom to do.

Finally it was pinned up on his bedroom wall next to his Snow White poster and three photos of Shirley Temple and with great trepidation he anxiously placed a finger right where he envisioned his eventual career beginning. He would either hunt beaver in northwest Oregon or a career in real estate.

Several years later his first try at roping a beaver and clubbing him with a ballpeen hammer left him 3 fingers on one hand and an extreme fear of the woods. He vowed then that he would never venture off concrete again and began accumulating properties. One such property was the Magnolia Arms.

The Tenants

Unit One

Burk Landitch had never been to India, but as he lay on his back with half-lidded eyes staring at the ceiling, he knew that the humid, shirt-sticking, lung-searing, butt-crack miserable heat in the room could hardly be worse.

Rolling on his side, he stared at the pair of turquoise handled, .41 caliber Colt revolvers in their swing-away holsters with the wide band, velcro tipped leg straps. He knew that most private eyes were carrying Browning 9mm semi-automatics in shoulder holsters, and that he was openly laughed at for his western "two-gun" gunslinger look, but quite often he felt that the genuine Jersey cowhide often complimented his natty Italian cut suits and his white business socks with oxblood cordovan penny loafers with the shiny face up dime in the slots.

Crossing the room to the window, Burk looked back at Roxie Fazool as she slept. Her chunky leg had slid off the edge of the bed and dangled precariously like a flesh glacier in early spring. Her snoring was loud and gargly and reminded him of someone punking a dolphin. He had known Roxie only a short time, but she had proven to be a top notch "gal friday" and didn't let their close relationship get in the way of her performance.

As he stood at the window, his senses sharpened and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Over the years, he had learned never to doubt his uncanny ability to recognize danger before it engulfed him. The thumping noise from the dark living room prompted his backward leap towards his twin sisters of death. His right knee clipped Roxie just above the ear, jerking her head to the right and forcing nasal drainage onto the pillow. His left knee came full force down onto her lower rib cage causing a "whuuumpf" to expel from her sleeping torso. Falling forward, his hands gripped the turquoise butts, springing open the holsters and releasing the weapons he had so often relied upon. Whirling in one motion, Burk emptied both cylinders through the slightly ajar bedroom door.

Crouching behind the Victorian valet, which he picked up at Uncle Ed’s Used and Abused Furniture Warehouse because he felt the persimmon and maroon velvet motif went well with the black vinyl couch and goldenrod fringed pillows, Burk reloaded his pistolas with the Wesson speedloaders given to him by Dorsey Suggs, his former P.E. coach in high school.

The smoke from his pistols had barely risen to the ceiling as the banging and yelling at the front door began. The thumping in the living room continued as the air conditioner kicked into full gear. This probably meant that the usual courteous and inane banter that one develops with other tenants was about to end and that his presence elsewhere would be highly desired. That was O.K. Burk didn't want to stay there anyway. The door had holes in it.

In the bedroom, Roxie was regaining consciousness. As she shook her head to clear the cobwebs the pain in her chest and jaw made her flinch and she thought “for the love of God.. sex with Burk was getting more and more like surviving a train wreck”. Even through the pain she recognized the god-awful heat in the room. Roxie had never been to India either.

Unit Two

There it was again. Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo... Night after night the same shrill squeal wafted into his apartment and ruined his dinner. It's not enough that his spam and beet casserole was getting cold and his raisin and date frittata was also going to waste, but Ferd Futz was just convinced that his late night projectile constipation was a direct result of this assault on his senses.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Christ!! Doesn't this bother anybody but him? Probably not. Nobody likes him anyway. Who cares, they're saying. It's only Futz and he don't matter.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Maybe a night out would do some good. A walk in the park. A movie. Maybe just sit on the curb and lure cats into traffic. On the other hand, he might just stay home after all and practice making hand shadows on the wall.

Ferd continued to sit in his chair in only his T-shirt and his boxers with pictures of smiling M & M’s on them as the squealing eroded the boundary in a person’s mind where good and evil meet. Where sanity and perversity compete for dominance. Where the last vestiges of all that is civil protect one from societal carnage. Ferd lost. No longer was he renting a studio apartment in Alhambra. No longer was he the senior night manager at Guadalupe's Discount Shoes and Passport Photos. He was...

…Jack Rabbitt, lethal warrior and covert operative who answered only to Wally down at Hop Sing’s Drycleaners and Button Parlor. Slowly, Ferd applied shinola to all exposed areas of his body. He tied his dinner napkin and formed his headband. Then he stuck bay leaves into the straps of his wife-beater T-shirt for additional camouflage. Ferd slammed down the last of his chocolate milk, stuck the butter knife in his shorts and turned out all the lights.

The darkness was his friend. Except when he did hand shadows on the wall. Then he needed light. Who the hell could do hand shadows in the dark. You’d have to pretend and that’s just fuckin’ crazy. So he needs light for that for Christ’s sake. But not now… Now he needs dark. Anyways… Ferd is now in the dark.. got it? OK then..

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Ferd slid silently off his chair and moved serpentine fashion across the floor. Pausing only once as he found that cherry lifesaver he dropped last week under the edge of the sofa. There was also a Cheeto and he wondered why no one ever thought to blend those flavors before. Slowly he worked his way to the door and creaked it open slightly.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

It would end tonight. His torment. The constant invasion of his senses night after night. He could see his target less than 10 feet away. He coiled his body like a panther. Well.. maybe an old trolley pony.. ok.. ok.. it wasn’t coiled but he was at least standing by the damn door. Suddenly he flung it open and bounded out like a hippo in heat into the light making smacking noises into an old toilet paper tube he kept by the couch when he watched TV. Ferd was in mid-stride charging down the hallway as his elastic waistband broke and his boxers slid to his knees causing his legs to tangle and he tumbled like a trout doing cartwheels down the hall.

His neighbor, Tawanda Bickle was just returning from the grocery store and coming down the same hallway. She looked at the demon who just leapt from Ferd’s door and was coming at her in full flop. She dropped both bags, shit her pants and fainted face first into her tomatoes.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Ferd laid still for a moment trying to figure out why his foot was covered in yogurt and he thought “damn.. my wiener looks small”. He jumped up and slashed at the ceiling where the smoke detector was hanging.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Then in a continuation of frustration and failure which populated his entire life Ferd could only stare in complete despair at the two AA batteries in the detector. Ferd only had a 9-volt.

Wheee-ooo… wheee-ooo…

Unit Three

The postcard he sent to cousin Jed came back undeliverable. Evidently he was still in solitary confinement at the North Dakota sect of the Church of the Lamb and Mint Jelly. Some sort of horseshit he had to go through to become a franchise operator of their waffle houses. No matter though, Jed usually kept in touch over the years.

The last time was two years ago when Jed needed $750 to make the last payment towards one of the nun’s breast augmentations. Jed had always been a hooter man. Even on the high school football team, they were known as "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside", Jed Pumphandle and Arlo Pipes. It was usually Jed inside one of the cheerleaders and Arlo outside the window taking Kodak moments and looking in.

Life wasn't especially exciting for Arlo after Jed left. Oh sure, being the swing shift manager at Rube's Regal Pharmacy has its moments, but mislabeling home care products has its limits. Plus the blackmailing the cheerleader thing was getting old. Besides he could barely see their faces in those faded pics anymore. The last time he tried to collect Wanda Jean Peach kicked him in the nuts and emptied a can of hairspray into his eyes before he could run away. Even then he ran blindly into the street and got hit by three Hispanic guys driving a techno-painted low rider. Who by the way didn’t have the courtesy to speak one word of English as they took turns stomping his ass. They evidently knew enough English to get Wanda to go for a ride and the obligatory gang bang though. Crawling home Arlo knew there had to be a better life.

Browsing through the latest issue of "Christian Beliefs Through Arc Welding", Arlo spotted a small ad in the lower left corner of page 163. "Bored with your life?" it read. "Now's the time, call 555-6472, and never be the same again." This was it. Arlo would take the plunge, no matter what it was. As Jed himself would have said, "Geez, I hate pantyhose."

Two weeks went by since Arlo called that number. He was still picking random pieces of asphalt from his backsides. On the other hand, his eyelashes still had great spring and bounce. The day his package arrived, he could hardly contain his excitement. He got a slight chubby and his fingers trembled as he tore at the wrapping encasing the key to his escape. His escape to a new and exciting life. He would prove to Jed Pumphandle and all those people in high school who said he would never amount to anything, that they were wrong.

Arlo sat back on the couch with a wry smile as he admired the contents of the package. Some big. Some small. Some very small and some medium. Different colors. Different shapes. They thought of everything. He marveled at the person who could envision great success from minimal beginnings and package it for others to share. Yes indeed. This was the chance of a lifetime.

Arlo was finally on his way. For only $2,475 of his life's savings, Arlo was assured that he was the only person in the whole world east of Rhode Island who bought a franchise from "Julio's Do-It Yourself Herbal Suppositories". He was done being the butt of their jokes.

Unit Four

It was always the same time of day when Tawanda Bickle started her daydreaming. Twenty to five, day in and day out. Except for those two years in junior high school when her folks decided to acknowledge their African heritage and rename all of the family members, Tawanda has led a very generic life. Besides, other than being cause for a lot of dates, being named Bigga Bigga Titta Kumali wasn't all that hot.

Working two jobs was beginning to take its toll. From her day job at Corky's Hardware and Palm Reading Kiosk she went directly to Doggie Doo, a fecal recycling firm. It was O.K., but she could hardly wait to get transferred to the output end of the line. Right now she stood mid-section of a long conveyor belt which transported pile after pile of dog crap from a hatch covered by a plastic drape. She often wondered if it came from a truck or did people just come drop it off or maybe even the damn dogs are trained to just sit up there and shit when the belt starts moving. On the far side of the belt across from her were several bins marked ‘poodle’.. ‘dane’.. ‘boxer’.. ‘lab’.. and on and on. She hated the process. Sort. Sniff. Toss. Tawanda hated poodle doo the most.

Needless to say, the thought that her high school reunion was only three weeks away was somewhat troubling. How would everyone look? Would they remember her? Who was successful? Who wasn't? Who's the fat guy in the corner? What's that smell?

She hoped her best friend Raksheeda Mustafa Halilik would come despite all the people there. Besides they must have all forgotten that thing with the keg of Budweiser and the school crossing guard by now. Hell, nobody knew it would fit. At least she knew Betty Cankles, Peter Shanks, and Festus Boils would be there. Party animals all. She remembered the time Festus puked in the punch at Huey Shingles birthday party after eating a rancid beef pot pie. He was so cool.

Yes, it was all coming back to her now. The teasing, the shame, the ridicule of being named Mattress Queen of 1974 by the Benbrook Volunteer Fire Department and that complete misunderstanding with that vice cop. She closed her eyes and shook her head. Hopefully a plague would strike her dead before then.

Unit Five

Mrs. Abercrombie Duphraine Schittsplitts had been a high school physical education teacher for over 42 years. Except for those two years in solitary confinement at the women's detention center in Holyfield, Texas, she has led a quiet life of solitude. Heck, nowadays she wouldn't even get 6 months in a local jail for wiping boogers on a pay-phone earhole. Even if the mayor did use it.

This year was it. Retirement was on its way. Yep.. Yep.. Yep. No more putting up with these spoiled little turds. Besides, you couldn't teach 'em to sit up without drooling. Forty-two long years, day in and day out of these little buggers. The worst ones of course were Jolene Phucks and Carmine Fister. She didn't hate them but if something bad were to happen, so who's the worse off? Ever since Jolene Phucks shaved her favorite cat, Longfellow, spray painted him a putrid florescent green and taught it to take a dump in her shoes, she had these daydreams of her drowning in a huge vat of K-Y Jelly. Of course Longfellow’s fur eventually grew back, and a steaming warm shoe in the winter time wasn’t all that bad.

Not to be outdone, Carmine Fister ran off several hundred copies of her previous arrest warrant and gave them out as Valentines to all of her male students with the statement "Give an old lady a throw" at the bottom. After she beat the ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ charges, all she could think of was retirement… and revenge. With the exception of those eight or nine boys who took the Valentine seriously the whole incident was just another sore spot in her life. Although that kid from fifth period math, Jesus Chipotle keeps calling her.

They would pay. Both of them. Class reunion was only a few days away. Yep.. Yep.. Yep. They would pay big time.

Unit Six

Buster Cherry had worked at Buffalo Bill’s Bowlerama as a pinsetter for years. Thirty six lanes, a grill, and a bar where every Friday night they sponsored a talent show. Usually he would be in the setup area at the end of the lanes putting up 3-4 pins for an old lady on lane seven when some young punk asshole would get a strike over on lane thirty four and he would have to run his ass across the building to re-pin the whole rack. He often wondered what kind of a game it would be if however many pins got knocked down, he got to stand up and throw them back at the bowler. He bet there would be more pinsetters than bowlers.

Tonight though, he was sitting at the bar watching the contestants on stage. Right now there was a fat gal and a skinny gal tumbling on stage to the Theme from 2001: Space Odyssey. Both were wearing pink swimsuits over black leotards. The fat gal was sweating and looking like doorknobs tucked in a sack. The skinny gal turned sideways, stuck her tongue out and looked like a zipper. Neither could tumble for shit. Just a lot of grab-assing and grunting. However, Buster did pause mid-slurp of his root beer and crème de menthe cocktail as the music reached it familiar range and the fat gal stood way over to one side.

Duuuuuuuuuh-duuuuuuuuuh… ta-duuuuuuuuuuh.. boom-boom-boom-boom.. ta-duuuuuuuuuuh duuuuuuuuuuh.. duh duh duh… boom-boom-boom… and then she started running.. like a derailed freight train she launched herself in full flight.. spread eagled.. she was supposed to leap high enough for the skinny gal to catch and twirl her, but she clobbered her somewhere around the knees and both went skimming across the floor like a nose down 747 on a waterslide. The skinny gal was screaming the whole way and sounded like a siren. The fat gal had a face full of muff and couldn’t say anything. Tables crashed.. glasses broke.. people were cursing and dodging debris. Someone bowling out in the lanes heard the commotion and saw bodies running and yelled “bomb!!!” Everyone started screaming and running for the doors. Bodies were falling and being trampled. The place emptied out like sand through a funnel.

Strange how silent a bowling alley can be. Buster never moved. He sipped his drink like a grizzled veteran. Over in the corner a table moved and a chair tipped over. He watched her hobble over to the bar next to him and sit down. “That went well,” he said. “Ya’ think,” she said. Buster bought the fat gal a drink.

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