“I noticed you put a lock on my utility shed. I need to get in there and get some of them window panes.” Ricky’s covered in sweat, mopping his brow with a dirty t-shirt as he approaches us from the now empty unit across the lot. Between the heat and his unhealthy appetites, I’m surprised he hasn’t dropped dead yet. I’d given him the benefit of the doubt when we’d met, but quickly learned, once again, that I should’ve trusted my instincts.
“Utility shed?” I replied quizzically. “Oh, you mean our laundry room; the room in the car port with the washer and dryer in it — yeeeaaahhh — you don’t live here no more, and we rent this place, including that room. You meant our laundry room, right?”
I’ll never tire of the look people get when they realize shit isn’t going the way they’d anticipated. Ricky has that look; like he smells something odd, but can’t quite decide whether it’s a good odor or a bad odor.
“Well, whatever you wanna call it –”
“We call it our laundry room,” I interrupt. “I’ll get that glass for ya, come on.” We (meaning S. and I, I’d intentionally blocked him from coming into the lanai) step out into the car port and I wait for the door to shut completely before heading for the laundry room. I remove the combination lock and throw the door wide, presenting the room to him. “Here they are,” I say, tapping the stack of narrow glass slats, “take as many as you need. Hell, take ’em all, I’d prefer that.”
He grabs one pane, then quickly gives the room a once-over. Turning to S. he says, “Uh, there was a bunch of stuff in here; buckets of paint, rollers, drop clothes, some wood; where’d all that go?”
I start talking before she can respond. “Well, Richard (different guy. Richard is the property manager, Ricky is the maintenance man) told us he’d get all that shit out of here ASAP. We waited about a month, then I got a sweet deal on a washer and dryer, so we got rid of it.”
“What’chu mean you ‘got rid of it?'” He’s starting to get a little snappy now, no sense in continuing to be polite.
“I mean that shit was taking up space that we needed, and I figured we waited long enough. It was all garbage as far as I was concerned, so we took it to the fucking dump. That’s what I mean.” Still smiling. Always smiling.
“That was good stuff, Richard ain’t gonna like that.” Sweaty, nervous, eyes darting around looking for an out.
“Richard had plenty of time, especially considering you’re here every weekend for some reason or another. It’s gone, it’s done. Excuse me, I need to lock our laundry room back up.” I begin gently closing the door, forcing him to move out of the doorway. He sees one more opportunity and grasps it.
“That my screen? I need that roll of screen.” He points to a large roll of window screen that we’d decided to not throw away, figuring it may be useful at some point.
I continue to push the door until it’s physically touching him, then re-open it. “Watch out.” I shoo him to the side, out into the middle of the car port, and grab the screen. “Here, take it. Find somewhere else to stow it. Thanks.”
As he heads across the driveway, S. and I smile and snicker to each other. It turns to full-blown laughter when we hear him ask the neighbor if he can store the screen in her shed. “NO,” she replies.
THE NEXT WEEK
There’s a loud knock on the front door. It’s my day off, I’m home alone and in the middle of a raid, so I do the only thing I can.
“WAIT.” Loud enough to make the cat wake up and haul ass from the couch to the bedroom.
I’ve got my headphones on, fully immersed in defeating Mr. Miracle and Big Barda; it’s all I can spare. Five minutes later I open the door wearing nothing but a pair of boxers with Batman’s face plastered on the front and a black t-shirt that says “Chaotic Evil Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry”, and there’s Ricky. I step outside and pull the door shut behind me.
“Why you knocking on my door like a cop, Ricky? What’chu want?” I’m not smiling. I don’t much care for Ricky now.
He’s annoyed, apparently he didn’t expect to be kept waiting. Maybe he thought S. was here, and he anticipated a “little girl” answering the door. Lucky him, he got a misanthropic asshole in his underwear. “You said there’s no paint left in that shed? I need to check.”
“There’s no paint in the shed, Ricky; I guarantee it. Everything left in there belongs to us…’cause, you know, our shed.”
It’s pretty obvious from the look in his eyes and his body language that he knows he should just quit while he’s ahead — well, if not ahead, at least not too far behind. He pushes. “Show me.”
“Ha. No.” Now, I’m smiling. “Look man, I’m doing shit, so…”
He doesn’t take the hint, and it’s getting pretty uncomfortable on the porch, so I light a cigarette to ratchet the tension up another notch. He scratches his head, and I can see the gears turning. I imagine he’s thinking, “Why won’t this guy just do what I tell him?”
“Just let me take a look in the shed and I’ll be on my way, Richard told me to check.”
Now, I’m pretty sure Ricky’s lying to me, and I don’t really appreciate that, so it’s time to quit fucking around.
“Ricky, I know it must be frustrating. For months, you haven’t had anyone to contend with except timid, middle-aged women who jump every time you get loud. And you’re always loud. You show up here every weekend and strut around the place like you own shit — even if you’re not doing any work. You just…show up. I ain’t timid, and I ain’t here to take shit from you. So, unless you’re performing maintenance on the space we rent, stay the fuck off my property. You can tell Richard if he’s got a problem with me, or something we do or did, he can shoot me an email or give me a call and we can discuss it personally. We’ve been in touch with Richard a few times, and I believe he don’t give a fuck what happens here as long as he’s getting the rent. Now, we’re done, I got shit to do, and I need you to get the fuck off my porch.”
Not moving, still smiling, still smoking.
“Alright. Well, you have a good day.”
“Get the fuck off my porch.” I followed him to the screen door and locked it behind him.
I pull up on my bike just in time to witness S. confronting Ricky about a hose that’s gone missing from the front of our house. Rather than intervene, I sit back and enjoy the show.
She’s short, but feisty. “Richard told us that everything left here came with the house.”
“That’s true,” Ricky’s using his best “aw shucks, missy” voice, and he’s wearing a condescending smile that I’m sure S. is just thrilled about, “but that’s my hose.”
“So, everything that was here came with the house, that hose was here, but that hose is yours? Is that what you’re telling me?” S. gets very logical when she’s pissed off, and I can see that Ricky has no idea what kind of trouble he’s in.
“It’s my hose, I left it when I moved out –you know I used to live in your unit. I’ll return it when I’m done with it.”
Hands on hips, head cocked, S. sets him up for the kill. “Everything that was there came with the house, you used to live in the house MONTHS AGO, and you left this hose. Everything came with the house, but that hose is yours and you just leave it there and take it when you need it, is that what you’re telling me? Our house is where you store your hose?”
“If you want the hose, I’ll give you the –”
“Keep the hose, Ricky, but understand this; I’ve already spoken to Richard, and I’ve made it clear to him that the next time something goes missing from our property we’re just going to call the cops. If we need to call the police, you — as the ever-present maintenance man — will have to speak to the police. You got it?”
“Yes’m.” He looks in my direction like he just noticed I was standing there. “Hey man, how you doing today?”
“Oh no, dude,” I say, raising my hands and shaking my head, “don’t try to drag me into this shit. Not my circus.”
He turns around and starts to walk away, muttering to himself. “Alright, alright.”
S. turns and smiles at me, “Baby…fucking people.”
“Ha, lemme tell ya about last Tuesday…”
Did I mention how much we love our new place?