Notes From Underground: The Screwtape Leaseholders

Illustration by Mike Lee

DEAR LANDLORD,

Thank you for the recent rains. You're right -- the pattern on the ceiling just gets more and more interesting each year.

Our cousin Delbert Nemoyten, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, sends his gratitude as well. He mentioned, in a postscript, that the temperatures along the banks of the River Styx have dropped into the low 30s and are expected to drop another 8 to 10 degrees overnight. The Acheron, Cocytus, Lethe and Phlegethon, too, have been frozen solid for 10 days, and all yet-unfrozen surrounding terrain is expected to freeze over by Thursday night.

We're hoping you might consider attending to the repairs you offered to undertake when such conditions arose. For your convenience, my wife and I have collected some of our repair requests from the past few years and pasted them at the end of this e-mail at no cost to you.

Love,

The Schechners, Apartment 11

the_schechners@kittymail.com

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July 15, 1926

Dear Landlord,

Thank you for your recent birthday.

With respect to our last request that the shower provide not only cold but hot water, we thought it might interest you that Delbert Nemoyten, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Medicine, recently conducted a study of the genetic material of over 400,000 property owners and non­property owners and found no significant differences.

On a related note, while we both admire your Washer & Dryer sculpture in the room downstairs and definitely consider it an amenity, we've come up with a novel idea: The same space might be converted to an actual, functioning laundry room, wherein tenants whose rental agreements list on-site laundry (under Amenities) might wash and dry their clothing, thus giving them more time to work at their three jobs to pay rent. As it is, the sign on the door already says "LAUNDRY ROOM"; if you installed a working washer and dryer, all you'd need to do is remove the quotation marks. That shouldn't cost much.

Love,

The Schechners, Apartment 11

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August 19, 1882

Dear Landlord,

Thank you for raising the rent the day after two mustachioed convicted rapists entered unannounced, sprayed half a can of Raid in the hole in the wall, got stoned, spackled and left. And for replacing the old worn-out gray cut-pile carpet with old worn-out beige cut-pile carpet. We've been thinking about saving up for some food. Please let us know when the refrigerator might be working again.

On a related note, while we both admire your Permanently Locked Storage Area sculpture in the parking lot and definitely consider it an amenity, we've come up with a novel idea: The same space might be converted to an actual, functioning storage area, wherein tenants whose rental agreements list storage area in parking lot (under Amenities) might store their effects.

Love,

The Schechners, Apartment 11

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August 14, 1882

Dear Landlord,

Thank you for the lovely weather, and for posting a "24-Hour Notice To Enter Dwelling" on our door three full hours before a pair of mustachioed convicted rapists entered unannounced, sprayed half a can of Raid in the hole in the wall, got stoned, spackled and left. At last you've rid the building of termites.

On a related note, while we both admire your Air Conditioner sculpture in the living-room window and definitely consider it an amenity, we've come up with a novel idea: The same space might be converted to an actual, functioning air conditioner, with which tenants whose rental agreements inexplicably list air conditioning (not yet invented) might cool off.

Love,

The Schechners, Apartment 11

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October 9, 1600

Dear Landlord,

Thank you for nailing our firstborn son to an inverted cross and disemboweling him with your Spyderco pocket knife after we were two hours late with the rent. While we Schechners aren't religious folk ourselves, we certainly appreciate you property owners' right to practice as you choose.

Love,

The Schechners, Hovel 11

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So far this year, my landlords have been putting most of their work into three pieces of amenity: Phone Lines Exposed to Water, Slapdash Electrical Wiring and Falling Stucco That Just Sits There. I tried to capture the overall effect with the following multimedia facsimile:

Download and open in your registered QuickTime Player (unregistered ones won't play simultaneous files), (1) George Washington singing about the joys of capitalism (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/movies/OKOKLsing.mov); (2) an MP3 of Bob Dylan performing "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" last year in Vienna www.lacreperie.at/hardrain.mp3); and (3) an instructional video extolling the inconvenience of suffocating in a trench (www.trenchsafety.org/trench/sample/suffocate.avi). With (1) on the left, (3) on the right and (2) stretched beneath them, lose some volume on (1) and (3), set them to Loop and select Play All Movies. Charge a thousand bucks a month to watch.


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