Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome to Our Home

Figures: on your first day as supers, Bingo Joe finds someone dead. That crazy bitch in 1-E.

“A bad smell.” One tenant calls, at 6 A.M. “Can you check it out?”

“Yeah,” Bingo Joe mutters. And rolls over in bed.

“I’m not going,” you say.

The garbage, you think. Looney Tunes lives right by it. Raw chicken, diapers, cat litter. On your floor alone are eight cats.

But if it’s just garbage, you think, Looney Tunes would be the first to call.

“José,” she would whine, using Bingo Joe’s real name. “There’s this . . . smell. A real bad one. Like maybe a rat died in the wall.”

No rats in this building, bitch.

Always walking around half-naked, sticking loose tits in tenants’ faces.

Two of your cats stare down Bingo Joe. This super’s gig’s his only job: Cleaning hallways, hauling garbage twice a week, for half-rent. For both of you, a sweet deal. . . .

That could stink up, fast.

Bingo Joe gets up and trudges downstairs. “Back in a few.”

A half hour later, the shit’s kicked up. EMTs, cops, neighbors. The whole world’s here.

From the landing, the smell hits you. “Oh, my God!” someone says. Another gags.

Puke, you think. Gotta mop up puke, now.

In the doorway of 1E, Bingo Joe looks like a kicked puppy. Cops and EMTs bump into him, on their way out with Looney Tunes in a bag .

“Suicide!” says Mrs. Dietz from 1-D. Never sleeps, washes clothes all night. One load of whites right in the EMTs’ path. She was in the closet!” she says. “Hanging!”

“Oh, my God!” someone says.

“Yeah?” says Bobby G. from 2-B. “S’ not what I heard.” He jabs an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

Heard?, you think. Already?

“Who’s the landlord?” a butch cop demands.

“Him!” People point to Bingo Joe.

“The super,” he says, shuffling slippered feet. “My . . . first day.”

Mrs. Dietz edges toward Bobby G. “What’d you hear?” He just smirks.

“Landlord lives in Florida,” Bingo Joe tells the butch cop. “Miami, or Dallas.”

“That’s Texas,” the butch cop says.

Bingo Joe grabs his cell, calls the landlord. Paces, waiting for him to pick up.

“Heard she was in bed.” Bobby G. speaks through the cigarette. “Scarf tied around her neck. . . .”

Suddenly, it’s dead-quiet. Neighbors’ eyes are on Bobby G.

Heard?, you think, again. From who?

“Scarf, or some shit,” Bobby G. says.

Voice mail, Bingo Joe gets. Leaves a message: “Yeah, hey, Vince. Hope I didn’t wake you. . . .” The butch cop paces with him.

Bobby G. shrugs. “Some people like that.”

“Being . . . strangled?” Mrs. Dietz looks at the others.

Bobby G. takes out the cigarette, looks at it almost lovingly. “Sure.”

“That’s murder!” says the tenant who puked.

“Nah,” Bobby G. says. “Not if it’s done right.”

Like preschoolers, listening to a story, they hang on his every word.

Only you get what he’s getting at.

“It is murder,” you say, but they all ignore you.

Over by the mailboxes, Bingo Joe looks pained, listening to the butch cop.

Later, he’s got to clean the hallways on each floor, plus the cellar. Water the dying plants here on the ground floor. “Welcome,” says the floral cardboard sign, “To Our Home.”

In your mind, Looney Tunes wanders from plant to plant, late at night. Talking to them. Maybe singing to them. She’s that nuts. Made up names for them, you bet. “Hula” is the browning palm tree, “Alice,” an aloe vera plant, looking like a tiny Loch Ness monster.

Smirking, Bobby G. comes out with a beer.

You try to catch Bingo Joe’s eye, but now he’s on the phone.

Mrs. Dietz shakes her head. “Accidents can happen,” she tells the smirking Bobby G.

Who carries her whites inside.