Come closer (sorry for the smell), and I’ll tell you about the rather strange journey I went on last week. It might interest you, because there‘s a good chance you saw me carrying my belongings across the parking lot, a good chance I saw you doing the same.
New neighbors moved in next door: two L.A.-Mafioso types (black Mercedes, sunglasses, cologne suppositories), three attack woofers (pit bull, rottweiler and a breed I didn’t recognize) and one — most vicious of all — subwoofer. Having been placed conveniently against our shared wall and powered up, the subwoofer immediately began shaking my apartment with important rock-style commercial-radio.
I asked one of the hit men (politely, by even Nancy Reagan standards) to turn it down. She asked me to repeat the question, as she couldn‘t hear it (due to the subwoofer being, you know, obviously, an esteemed guest, a loud and respected old friend eclipsing evolution with such fawning enthusiasm that, well, we just can’t seem to turn him off); so I did.
“ . . . and I sure would appreciate it.”
“You mean this?” She removed her sunglasses so I could watch her raise her painted eyebrows. “This is too loud like this!?”
“Actually it‘s not that it’s loud, but that it shakes the walls, and then the stuff I have on my walls — a T-square, a lightweight framed drawing — they shake and the floor kind of also shakes,” I said, adding, “and the dishes, and the change in my pocket. And it‘s the same throb, over and over and over. One, two, three, four, one two three four. Mammals tend to thrive better when exposed to a wider range of rhythmic variations, don’t you think? So it‘s not so much that it’s too loud, per se, but that it violates my inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So if you could turn it down just a little, just lose some low end, fuggin‘ something, for gods’ sake, to indicate that you and I might belong to the same species, and yet still not kill me, thanks.”
It all made sense to her, I could tell. Her husband, behind her, twisted a silencer onto his freshly oiled .44.
So I returned to my apartment and they turned it up. Then I heard one of the attack dogs — I refer to them as attack dogs because the owners spoke to them and only them in German, the SoCal attack-dog trainer‘s language of choice, because it sounds so . . . reich-y — at the front door. I opened the door, and the pit bull lunged at me and in one bite had removed my face. The SUV-commercial music grew louder as the other dogs came over to finish me off. The pit bull crushed my skull, swallowed my brain and chewed at the stump of my neck as the other dogs ate my hands, forearms, upper arms and shoulders. With my torso and legs ready to go next, the Mafioso couple pulled up lawn chairs, sat and drank hard lemonade and watched. Within 10 minutes, the dogs had devoured me entirely, and two hours later shit me out into a life-size replica of myself. Eyes dangling by nerves, body oozing blood and bile and looking essentially like an immense feces-pate sculpture, I went back in my apartment, found my cat (who’d also been eaten alive and shit out again) and sat down at the computer to write a letter of 30-day notice to Wanda Muffkan‘s Cardboard Unit Motel, the company that owns but does not manage the building where I’ve lived these past four years.
I drove to the nearby Muffkan Inc. corporate headquarters and dropped off the letter with the armed Dalmatian at the front desk. “Have a nice day,” the guard said, half-sniffing my ass as I left.
Flies hovered and covered me as I got in my car and drove off to look for a new place to live. Everything was so small and cost so much. Who rents these dumps? Fourteen hundred dollars for one bedroom, no air conditioning, walls made of cardboard. Four hundred seventy-five square feet, no parking, $950. Corporate rectangles with cottage-cheese ceilings and shell-shaped ‘70s bathroom sinks — Welcome and thank you for fitting the demographic! — $1,200.
Finally, I found a place that cost exactly half my net monthly income and allowed the predigested remains of attack-dog shit-people as tenants. Six hours after I signed the lease, the people downstairs decided to watch a movie on the loudest theatrical-style sound system I’d ever heard without paying nine bucks. (In fact I‘d paid $1,950.) This new apartment shook and rumbled and moaned and screeched. Wumpuh-ta-bumpuh-ta, wumpuh-ta-bumpuh-ta. QUICHE! QUICHE! QUICHE! QUICHE! Wumpuh-ta-bumpuh-ta, etc., etc., QUICHE! QUICHE! QUICHE! etc.
That was when I fell apart. My body of shit grew tense and stiff and cracked like mud in a dry lake bed. Fell in shards to the ground, to ashes, to dust.
I returned to my old apartment to find that the attack hounds had eaten all the other neighbors and shit them out. The new neighbors were still basking in hard lemonade in their lounge chairs, toasting as the human-shaped packages of attack-dog shit roamed the complex in a collective daze, carrying heavy objects back and forth, out to U-Haul and Ryder trucks that filled the parking lot.
We the shit-zombies walking dead in search of new slums, as on-site manager Wanda Muffkan followed close behind, picking our pockets of loose change, digging through our shit-covered boxes to find photographs of our families to burn.
Suffering Roderick Usher’s “morbid acuteness of the senses,” I left the fallen houses for a city by the sea in the Western lands, the north country, where I‘m settling into a small but quiet room with skylights and trees. Sunlight drifts in with jasmine and lemon leaves; the air is empty and sweet. The dog shit of my body slowly grows skin. The smell subsides. My cat grows fresh fur and sleeps beside me.
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