And now, for your reading (and third-grade philosophy) enjoyment: Part III of Fire in the Hole.
Downstairs with Denny
So, I was downstairs, smoking and scoping out an access point so I could drive across the lawn to my apartment, when I ran in to my downstairs neighbor, Denny. Don’t know Denny’s last name. Don’t want to know Denny’s last name. Don’t want to know Denny. But there we were, two victims of the same fire, commiserating.
Denny was already ramped up into full-litigation mode. Somebody was responsible for the fire, and the law firm of Denny So-And-So, Esq., was going to make sure that 1) they were going to pay, and 2) they were going to pay Denny.
The, for lack of a better word, conversation, turned to replacement living quarters. I mentioned that management had already set me up with one, and Denny grew even twitchier.
“They haven’t even fuckin’ talked to me yet. Fuckin’ cunts.”
“I went to the office, and they were right on the job.”
“Fuck that. I shouldn’t have to go to the fucking office. They should come to me. This was their fucking fault.”
“Actually, they said the lady behind me started the fire with her grill.”
“Bull-fucking-shit. She was cooking meth in there. I know for a fact.”
“Yup. She invited me up to smoke some.”
“No, this was a couple weeks ago. Didn’t do it. Kelly—” So that was his wife’s/girlfriend’s name… “—wouldn’t like me up there with a young woman. Plus, that methhead, she’s a blue-gum.”
Ah, how splendid. More keen insight from Team Troglodyte.
“Well,” I said, “better get back up there. See what I can save.”
“Hey!” he shouted over his shoulder into his apartment. “Where’d you put my beer?”
A woman’s voice sounded from the inner depths. “It’s on the coffee table, where you left it.”
“Dumb bitch,” Denny muttered. “Take it easy, brother.” And he clapped me on the shoulder.
Dude, you are about as far from being my brother as it is possible to be. I’m talkin’ FAR. Like from here to Betelgeuse far.
Dopey fuckin’ redneck goon.
The fire department had cut the power to the entire block of 16 apartments, hence no air conditioner, and my place was a stifling hellish armpit. Not a molecule of air moved, and the apartment reeked of smoke and old water.
The sheer scope of the project got me down. No way was it going to happen with me working alone.
People You Can Count On
I’ve made a few friends in the short time I’ve lived in OKC—not many, mostly due to my rather irascible nature—but now I wondered if whatever bond existed between us was strong enough to ask for their assistance with this ugly tedious project. Well, no way to know stuff unless you ask about it, so, armed with my cell phone, I lit another smoke, sat on the steps and started calling people.
Any trepidation I’d felt about calling my friends evaporated 30 seconds into the first phone call, made to my gaming pal, John. He, his fiancé Dawn, and their roommate, Matt, immediately agreed to leap in and get things done. All they wanted to know is where and when I needed them. And less than an hour later they were there, calling up the stairs. They had brought a case each of bottled water and beer, all of it on ice in a cooler, as well as an enormous pile of collapsed cardboard boxes (harvested from Dawn’s workplace) and several rolls of packing tape.
Over the next three days, working in breathless heat and foul stink, these three excellent, wonderful people essentially packed up my remaining crap and moved it to my new digs. They invited me to stay in their guest room for as long as necessary. They fed me, and Dawn, angel that she is, did a couple loads of my laundry.
I don’t know how I can thank them or ever repay them, but suffice it to say that, whatever they need, between now and the end of time, if I can provide it, it is theirs.
And help from John, Dawn and Matt, not to mention some 9th Inning assistance from another friend, Adam, became even more vital on the third day of the move; events we will get to shortly.
Rich Goes Completely Batshit
Early in the morning on day two of the move, about five days after the fire, I rented a U-Haul and, joined by Dawn and Matt, started moving all the big heavy things that were worth keeping. I’d driven across the lawn for the load-up, and after driving around to the new building, I drove on that grass too. My new door was way too far off the parking area to drag oak book shelves and big metal file cabinets.
As I rounded the corner of the building, slowly and carefully so as to minimize the damage to the grass, a guy looked up from where he was collecting trash with one of those aluminum grabbers. He was probably 60 and stood, estimating generously, around five-five. He stared at the U-Haul like he thought it might be an alien scout ship and he was first in line for some ass-probing. I gave him a friendly wave and rolled to a stop a few mere feet from my front door. I hopped down from the cab, and raised the truck’s rolling door, as Dawn and Matt came down the walk from the other direction.
“You ain’t s’posed to drive on the grass,” said a voice from right behind me. The trash-grabber had snuck right up on me, the sneaky little bugger.
“Well, I am now,” I said, climbing into the truck and wrestling a book shelf to the lip of the bed.
“Yer gonna get charged,” said the guy.
“Oh no,” I responded sarcastically, and continued working.
“They will charge you,” he repeated.
“Yeah, well, they have to catch me first.”
“Oh, yer already caught, buddy.”
I turned as he whipped an iPhone from his super-duper groundskeeper utility belt.
“You’re pathetic, man,” I said, and I could feel myself heating up.
He was poking buttons on his phone and said something I didn’t quite catch, but it almost certainly ran something like: “Yer a [mumble-mumble].”
And that’s all it took. My vision whited over as five days of anger, worry, grief and tension billowed out of me in a toxic cloud.
“I’m a what…? I’m a what? What am I, motherfucker?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Yeah, you did. Go call whoever the fuck you want, just get out of my fucking face.” I got a hold of another bookshelf and hauled it roughly forward. The guy stood there, apparently flummoxed by his phone (probably one of my callers at work). “Get outta the fucking way, motherfucker.”
“I’m not in your way.”
I rocked the bookshelf back and forth. “See this? Get out of the way. You’re a sad little rule follower.”
“I’m doing my job.”
“No. No.” I stepped from the cab of the truck, and stood towering over him. He took a few steps backward. “You’re a sad, sad little man. Go make your pussy call over there.”
“Asshole,” he muttered.
“Go pick up your trash, Trashman! Get a real job! Or is this all you can do cuz you’re too fuckin’ stupid to do anything else? FUCK OFF!”
Yeah, so I’d worked myself into a proper lather.
The guy wandered away, blithering into his phone. Dawn, Matt and I unloaded everything and went back for more. Then again. And then again. I parked on the grass every time. I’d been, up to that point, a real nice guy about the whole fire thing and the moving thing, and everything else. Fuck their grass.
The Third Day
“Fuck their grass,” is very much what I was thinking on the third day of the move. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before—floors and my fat ass do not play well together—and so, after lots of tossing, I got up around 4:00 AM and started shifting things around in the new place to make room for the final few items of salvage that I was going to collect after breakfast.
Among the things that required shifting was a big bitch of a legal-sized file cabinet; one of those government-issue Limbaugh-sized motherfuckers that weigh in at about 12 tons when they’re empty, and mine wasn’t empty. It was stuffed to the brim with about everything except files. I don’t keep files. They depress me.
Anyway, the file cabinet was on one side of the bedroom and I wanted in on the other side. I could’ve slid over on the carpet. I could’ve grabbed the handtruck and rolled it over. But, because I’m something of a fucking idiot, I did neither of those things.
I picked it up.
And got it about two feet off the floor when someone speared me just above my nutsack with a knitting needle wrapped up in a small radioactive cactus. The cabinet hit the floor with a thud, and I hit right behind it with an even bigger one. I laid there groaning for at least 10 minutes before I was able to get to my feet and deliver myself to the emergency room.
The negatives: I limped around for the next 2 weeks and missed way too much work. The positives: no surgery was required, and they gave me wicked-good pain meds. After a few hundred milligrams of codeine and 4 shots of tequila even Will Ferrell is funny.
And the further negatives: I had to get out of that burned apartment, but I could barely lift a pack of cigarettes. So, I placed a call to Dawn and John and to my pal Adam. In no time they, and Matt, were on the scene and the last load of my lame-ass shit was in my new place.
It’s good to have friends. Good friends. They make life livable,
Sound like a Hallmark card? Too bad. Kiss my ass.
And that’s how my apartment got all burned up. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Wait… That didn’t come out right.