The owner wanted to dump the property in the worst possible way. It would have been too kind to describe it as a fixer-upper.
I had hastily rented the first-floor apartment in a rush to get away from a toxic roommate, and I was beginning to regret the decision about the time the owner started pressing tenants to buy. A not too diligent inspection exposed multiple building code violations. The inspectors smiled, shrugged their shoulders, and somehow reports never got filed in City Hall. All very encouraging for a potential buyer.
The first-floor apartment I had hastily rented was elegantly outfitted with beer bottle labels as wallpaper on bare plaster walls. The young woman who had lived there before had excellent taste in foreign beer and a prodigious ability to consume it. Because I could remove her mosaic of brew, paint the walls and repair the flooring, I got offered the custodian’s job. I took the job because I was desperate for the rent cut. This did not last because the terms of the job and the amount of rent cut rapidly became very mutable. Things changed every month as the owner tried to sell, decided to keep, and then decided to renovate.
At last, he decided to gut the house and rebuild from the inside out. To do this, he needed the tenants out of the house. Not one for legalities, he hired a nephew to act as his “rental agent.” As he was known, Elio came around weekly collecting rent, disparaging tenants, and being annoying. Most of the tenants got the message and departed for better-quality quarters. I was left alone for the time being; Elio was not big on putting garbage cans outside on Friday.
I was desperate again to find a new apartment for myself and my sizeable gray cat – AKA the Grey Menace. But the one I found was not available until the end of the month. I had to stay put. Deciding to ride out the security deposit on my luxurious current quarters, I did not give Elio an envelope with my check. On Monday morning, Elio was pounding on my door with an ax handle and threatening to bust my head open. Like everything else in the “Fleabag Arms,” the door couldn’t take punishment, and soon Elio was through the door. I met him with a bowie knife in my hand, but I soon realized that I did not need the blade; Elio was extremely Ailurophobic – afraid of cats. Seeing the ax handle, noticing the break-in, and sensing fear, the Grey Menace took a moment to lick his paw. Sensing the proximity of O negative blood, he began howling. He next moved between his prey and the broken door. Elio began to beg me to call off the “kitty.” I sipped my coffee. Dropping his ax handle, Elio dove for the door as the Grey Menace leaped for his hand. As Elio retreated down the street, the cat started what could only be a Victory growl.
Sometime later, Elio showed up with the police in tow. The Grey Menace had reverted to kitty cat mode and rubbed against the officer’s leg while purring loudly. Elio flinched when the officer reached down to pat the sweet kitty. The purring got louder. The look given Elio seemed to say, “you wasted my time for this?”
For some reason, the Gray Menace had always liked the police; we never saw Elio again, the next place we lived had issues of its own, and I now owned a hickory ax handle.