Kate, the crossing guard. Her saying
my name like that, from behind me, made me nervous.
I checked if the bus was coming before
This look she had, like she knew
something. Or wanted to. Nosiest bitch on the block, Bingo Joe always said.
“Georgie’s selling the building?”
“What?” I said. “No!”
Georgie, our landlord, was Bingo Joe’s
boss. Mine, too, since I wasn’t working. That bus I was waiting on was for a
temp agency’s skills test.
“Where’d you hear . . .”
“There goes your bus!” Kate said, as
it flew past me.
Against the light, I hurried across
the street. “Hey!” she yelled.
“Nah.” At the kitchen table, Bingo Joe
smoked a joint with his Fruit Loops. “Georgie ain’t selling.” He passed me the
joint. “Thought you had some test.”
“Would’ve said something last night,
on the phone. And, so what if he sells? Been down Florida two years now. I’m
doing the shitwork.”
“What if the new owner doesn’t want
A shrug, and deep toke, in response.
Like “’The Dude’ Lebowski,” ‘cept Puerto Rican. Nothing fazed him.
But that rumor sent my brain spinning.
“We’ll be . . .” I choked on the word. “Homeless!”
abandoned A & P, we’d
be camped out, our five cats the “new kids” in the feral colony. Eating out of
dumpsters. Sharing wine out of paper bags.
“Those big, red Salvy boxes?” he said, grinning.
“Where people shove
Itchy the gray tabby clawed his ankles, and he bent to rub
“Knew a guy lived in one. Didn’t like shit they
threw in, he’d throw it back
Almost crying, I ran out.
Upstairs, like some psycho, I touched the lobby walls so I’d
they felt like. We should’ve watered those dying plants more. Packages, mostly
from Pet Place, were piled up beneath the mailboxes. Two huge ones for old Miss
Roberts in 1C.
Kitty litter for Sunshine, her huge gold Persian.
“NO PETS,” the current lease said. We’d
all ignored it. The building was
crawling with cats, rabbits, even a snake. Laying on the beach in Florida, Georgie
But the new landlord . . .
“Stop crying!” Back downstairs, I flew into Bingo
Joe’s arms. “Aww, baby. It’ll
be OK.” I squeezed him so tight, I probably hurt him.
He grabbed the water pitcher before Noodles shoved it off
“The plants!” Bingo Joe said. “I was just
gonna . . .”
Sighing, I trudged upstairs with the pitcher.
Everything had to be done “just right” now. Hallway
floors should be
spotless and shiny. No waiting to mop till after the drunks puked. And buff, I
No leaving the trash till the last minute. Take the cans out
at 5 PM
sharp. And no mixing beer cans with cardboard recyclables.
Or with real garbage, I thought, cringing. Like eggshells.
Like Bobby-G, in 2-B.
I was watering a brown plant when the back of my neck felt
someone was watching me.
I looked around, but no one was there.
Bobby G., I thought. Lurking around, with those creepy eyes.
tenants dead, right after . . .
“You guys leaving?”
I screamed, and the pitcher went flying.
Out of nowhere, he’d appeared. Bobby G. picked up the
pitcher and handed
it to me. Both the floor and his jeans were soaked.
He was smiling. “So, Georgie sold the building?”
“No!” I backed away. “Says who?”
“La Roche!” The door to 1-D flew open. “That’s
who’s buying it.” Mrs.
Dietz kicked her laundry basket into the hall.
“Who?” I asked.
“La Roche.” Bobby G. jammed an unlit cigarette
in his mouth. “The ‘Roach
“Roaches?” Cradling Sunshine,
Miss Roberts came out of 1-C. “Who’s got
“Us!” Mrs. Dietz said, “If that slumlord
buys this place.”
“He’s buying up buildings all over,” Bobby
G. said, through the cigarette.
“Not ours,” I said.
“How do you know?” Miss Roberts asked.
Smirking, Bobby G. jerked his head toward the front door.
My heart sunk. “Kate?” I asked. “The crossing
“Take a shit on Mars, that bitch can smell it.”
I felt like puking. Would serve Georgie right, if I left it
could he sell to the “Roach King”? And not even tell us!
Footsteps, we heard, shuffling up the stairs. Still in his
pj’s, Bingo Joe clutched his phone. “Georgie just called.”
“Tol’ja,” Bobby G. said.
Miss Roberts asked, “When does the ‘Roach Prince’
Bingo Joe sat on the bench, next to the packages. “La
Roche don’t want
We looked around, relieved, but not meeting each other’s
eyes. How shitty
was this building, that even that scumlord didn’t want it?
Miss Roberts shifted Sunshine to her shoulder. “Well,
that’s . . . good.”
“But someone else does.”
Except for the plants dripping water, it was dead quiet.
“Name’s Cowell. Georgie’s flying up to meet
I sunk to the floor. For Georgie to leave “Margaritaville”
. . .
“I hope Mr. Cowell likes cats,” Miss Roberts said.
“You kidding?” I wanted to kick Bobby G. “They’ll
be the first to go.”
When Miss Roberts squealed, he added, “After these two.” Meaning Bingo Joe and
“Think your pets are grandfathered,” Mrs. Dietz
said. “If you’ve been here
“Not them.” Again Bobby G. meant us. “And
if I read the lease correctly .
My head on my knees, I thought back to those two crazy nights.
February, right around Valentine’s Day, Looney Toons in 1-E hung herself. Then,
in August, Kissy-Face in 2-D drowned in the tub.
But maybe Kissy-Face had help.
Maybe they both did.
Six months apart, but both times
Bobby G. had been right there. Knew more than the cops, it seemed.
If you shit on Mars, I thought,
he would smell it.
Both were blondes. Maybe that
was his type.
If death came in threes . . .
Who would be Blonde #3?
Suddenly, Bingo Joe got up. “Gotta
mop these halls,” he said, “before they get here.”
* * *
Four o’clock, they would be
there, both Georgie, and Cowell, the new owner.
Bingo Joe cracked
our last beer.
At the kitchen table, we’d sat,
glumly, all afternoon. In his cereal bowl from this morning, two sad Fruit
Loops floated in milk. One pink, one blue.
“Georgie flying up,” I said,
“that’s not good.” He nodded.
Itchy jumped up on the table,
nudged my face. I buried mine in his.
Why couldn’t we be
When Bingo Joe’s phone rang, we
said. “Says can we hang out with Cowell till he gets here.”
Disgusted, I got up. “I’ll
Upstairs, the lobby floor shone
so, I saw my face in it: a nasty mug, with too much eye makeup. Those damn
plants had perked up. I wanted to spit in them.
Since the packages were gone, I stretched
out on the bench and shut my eyes.
Old Miss Roberts, I thought.
When Cowell took over, how much longer could she keep Sunshine? That fat cat
was her whole life.
And our cats . . . Itchy,
Noodles, and the other three . . .
And Bingo Joe . . .
They were my life. They were all
that I had.
burned my eyes, and I felt my mascara run. But I couldn’t stop
Why us? I thought. We weren’t
the worst supers. At the building I grew up in, those supers robbed all the
tenants. This young husband and wife, said the landlord wanted the rent in cash,
as of now. My Pop lost his whole paycheck to them.
We’d never screw anybody.
Neighbors were neighbors.
When the front door opened, I wiped
my eyes and got up.
Behind the glass lobby door was
a lady, in a Fruit Loop-blue suit. Blonde hair, like a golden waterfall. Rich-looking,
like she’d come here by mistake.
Not the way she strutted in.
“Who,” asked a voice from
me, “is that?”
For once, he didn’t catch me off
Before she could ring the bell,
I opened the lobby door, smiling. “May I help you?” I asked, in my grandest
“I’m Melody Cowell.”
As he came around, I realized
I’d never seen Bobby G. look so good. Almost handsome, in business casual: nice
jeans and a shirt that was the same blue as this lady’s suit.
He admired her long, blonde
hair. “I’m so happy to meet you,” he told her.
“Pleased to meet you, too,”
said, smiling. “George.”
When he glanced over at me, I
Looney Tunes had been a bottle blond.
When the EMTs cut her down, I bet her dark roots were visible.
And in that vanilla bath, Kissy-Face’s
locks would’ve trailed like a washed-out mermaid’s.
But Melody Cowell was the real
As she and “Georgie” went
stairs, I remembered I had a six-pack to get. Maybe I’d hit every liquor store in
town till I found the cheapest.
Or let everyone think I did.
Cindy is a Jersey girl who
looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her
noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun
Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash;
and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow
Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of
short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate
Publishing), is out, now! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights
Fawcett has been writing for fun or money since she
was able to hold a pen. A Jersey Girl at heart, she got her journalism degree
at Marquette University in Milwaukee and now writes mostly technical articles
about hydraulics and an occasional short story or poem on any other subject.