The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter Eight - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter Eight

(Read the other chapters here.)

Even though I had a thousand things to think about before my B&B guests arrived, I couldn’t help but remember the kiss.  It had been two weeks since Jose kissed me ever so gently on the lips, the smell of sweat mingled with soap, the heat of his body radiating out toward my own, the sight of his face as he leaned back, looking into my eyes, all of it, continued to haunt me this morning as it had every day since we last saw one another.  So much so that when the doorbell rang, I quickly lowered my fingers from my lips as if caught doing something I had no business doing before heading to the door.

“Hello Miss Stella.”

Hello, Rudy.” It had been a month since Rudy first hurriedly introduced me to my “crew” who would do the work the seller had agreed to complete before settlement, work which needed to be completed before I’d even consider buying the property for the price he was asking. Taiwo had promised that Rudy would see that everything got done under budget, on time, and, most important, the right way. And he had.

Looking from Rudy to his empty truck parked in front of the house, and remembering the heat of Jose’s lips, I couldn’t stop myself, and so, asked, “What, Rudy?  Jose’s not working today?”

“No, Miss. Jose’s gone.  He went back home.”

“Really?”

“Si,  he said he missed his wife Ava Maria too much. Also, he wanted to be home for the birth of the baby. He was just here to get enough money to buy a nice house for them in San Salvador.”

I smiled. Good. Damn Good. The distraction was gone, and now I could get on with the business at hand – the Minnesotans, Mr. and Mrs. America arriving in just under a week.

I handed Rudy a check, the last installment for the rehab. Money I had agreed to pay him over what had been put into escrow for doing his best, making sure my job got done on time.  As I watched him put the check in his back pocket, the expanse of backside exposed, brown as rawhide, I couldn’t help but to think considering his superior delegation skills, I could have just as well given the money directly to Jose.

“So, did Jose’s wife have the baby?”

“Si, a girl. He sent pictures. She looks just like Ava Maria, beautiful.”

“Wonderful,” I said.

“His wife,” Rudy gestured, pointing to a black and white photo of me when I was nineteen on the fireplace mantle, “looks like you, yeah. Jose even said this after he first met you, ‘She looks like my Ava’.”

I didn’t know what to say, and was thankful the phone had started to ring.  “Well, Rudy, I should get that. Again, thanks so much.”

“No, thank you, Miss Stella.  You call me if you need anything. Don’t call anyone else.  I do a good job for you, like always.”

“Who else would I call, Rudy? Everything is perfect. Just the way I wanted.” I was just about to ask him to tell Jose I had said Hi, but decided against it, remembering as Benny had once declared when I asked about a certain crush of this that hadn’t turned out as hoped, “Stell, sometimes a kiss is just a damn good kiss.”

I waved as Rudy let himself out the door, running to answer the phone that had stopped ringing by the time I reached it, only to begin ringing again seconds later.

“Hello?”

“Hey big, Sis. How goes it?  All settled in da‘hood?” Dyson said, laughing his hearty laugh.

“All is well,” I laughed.  “I’m tired, but things are good.”

“Oh, really?  That’s not how Mother Glory tells it.”

“And how does she tell it, seeing how she hasn’t stepped foot one out of the swamplands of Florida in sixty-seven years?”

“Really, Stell? A bed and breakfast in Baltimore? Com’on.”

“I’ve done my research, and I know the idea of a “famous writers” themed bed and breakfast sounds a little off the mark, but it’s a good one.

“Okay, let’s say you’ve got things figured out. What’s all this business with the phone service? Glory said you couldn’t reach her because there aren’t any working phoneswhere you are in Baltimore.”

“Dyson, please.”

“And there was something about the neighbors, that part I didn’t get.  Oh, and your comportment, not particularly Christian, seeing how you hung up on her.  Please tell me you’re not still doing that fakeass Call Waiting dodge?”

Long silence on my end.

“Damn Stell, everybody knows you don’t have Call Waiting, so why bother?” he said, continuing to laugh.

“I didn’t hang up on her.  I gave her plenty of warning.  More to the point, if I had Call Waiting, with everything that’s going on around here, it would have surely beeped or buzzed, or done whatever the heck it is Call Waiting does.  And so, I still would have had to get off the phone.  As for my comportment – it’s always civil, no matter who I’m speaking to, this includes our mother.”

“Okay then, now that that’s done with, and I can report back to Glory that you’re safe, can we get down to the real deal business of this call?

“Yes, please do.”

“Did you see It’s My Business, But You Can Take It, last night?”

“No, but I’m getting all my important updates on the show from Benny.”

It’s My Business, But You Can Take It was the reality show Dyson pitched to Channel 45, Atlanta’s local station, which, unbelievably, their execs decided to run with.  The premise revolved around black business owners, having failed at making a go of them, turning these businesses over to celebrities like Snoop Dogg, who then have one month and $100 to make the business a success. The hitch? They can’t take over a business they have any background in running.  Snoop’s business?  A tanning salon in the heart of Watts — which Dyson assured me he had not even the remotest background in operating. The pilot—with all Snoop’s off the chain antics—was an instant hit with thirteen episodes ordered.

“So, my Lil’ bro is now a big time TV mogul?”

“Naw, it’s nothing like that.  I’ll always do law, but this TV thing, that’s something different, and I like it.  I like it a lot.  Who knows, I may pick up a couple of new tax clients along the way.  Moneyed people are always looking for ways to shelter income.  It’s all coming together, Stell, right according to plan.”

“It’s great when a plan comes together,” I said wistfully.

“Yeah, but on the real, Stell, do try to catch the show.  I want to know what you think, not what Benny thinks.”

“I will. I promise. The first B&B guests are coming sometime next week, so maybe I can sit them down in the media room and do some bragging on our family’s best and brightest.”

“Media room? Girl, you don’t even have Call Waiting and barely know how to program a remote.  Never mind your guests, I want you to watch. That’s the demographic I’m interested. ”

“I’ll watch if only to see your name on the credits.”

“Okay, I’ve got to go, because as you well know, heathens with no guidance…”

“I know, I know. Bye,” I said in time to hear scratching at the door.  Someone was shoving something through the mail slot too big to go.  I opened the door.  The UPS guy, startled, and looking as if caught doing something forbidden, handed me his clipboard to sign.

“I thought nobody was home,” he said, smiling sheepishly. I took the package, along with two other mail slot appropriate pieces of mail that had been put through. The return address on the package read: Towson Signage Company.  It was the sign I ordered to be mounted at the house’s front entrance. Brass engraved with black lettering, the 4 by 12 inch plaque read: Wordsmith Bed and Breakfast, and directly underneath the name it continued, A Baltimore, Maryland Establishment.  Without thinking, I started jumping up and down, right there in the open doorway, so excited and concentrated on my gyrations, I didn’t notice the men across the street who had slowed their milling—as if it could be any slower–to watch me. Nor had I seen the mailman until he thrust the white envelope with a green certified mail sticker attached at me.

The letter was from the Baltimore City Housing Inspection Unit.  I calmly opened the envelop remembering as I did that Ida P. Rubinstein had said at settlement that I should be receiving something from the City once the deed had been recorded.

“Please be informed,” the letter began.  “Your property at …is currently in violation of Baltimore City Housing code 23.344…condemnation of property due to code violations …if you do not correct this violation within five days of receiving this correspondence, you will be charged $300 for every day the violation continues…If you have any questions, please contact….Kenyatta Malthrope, Senior Inspector, Housing Dispensation Unit.”

If I have any questions?  I sat down at the dining room table and read the letter again, this time slowly. I noted the time listed to call with questions: 8:45 to 10am and then again 1:45 to 3:45pm.  I looked at the clock, it was now just four. I took several deep breaths, laying both my hands flat on the table to stop from trembling.  Fine then. Tomorrow at 8:45am sharp, coffee cup in hand, I would place a quick call to unravel what was clearly a mistake. Tomorrow everything would be made clear, tomorrow, without a doubt, Kenyatta Malthrope, or perhaps someone even higher up at the City’s housing department, would be giving me one heck of an apology.

to be continued… 


About the author

Willett Thomas

Willett Thomas is the president of Write of Passage, Inc. She earned her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins. She has received artist fellowships from Blue Mountain Center and the Millay Colony. She was selected as a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation fellow for the District of Columbia, and is the recipient of the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award for fiction. Contact the author.
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