The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter Three

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(Read the other chapters here.)

Benny pulled up behind the movers, who were already standing on the sidewalk, hop scotched as it was with weeds straining up in between the cracks, along with several crack vials nestled among the dandelions. He looked up, mouth agape, his facial expression hovering somewhere between disbelief and apprehension, before finally finding a home at the edge of fear.

“This it?” he asked, stepping out of the car, only to mutter at my nod of confirmation, “I don’t know if those servants of yours are gonna like this.”

“Hush,” I told him, keys in hand, their pointed ends protruding through my clinched fingers just as the women’s safety instructor had demonstrated. I stepped over the pile of trash pushed up against the curb, past the trail of chicken bones dotting the sidewalk in front of my new home.

“Look, Stell,” Benny said, his head cocked to one side, “they’ve spelled ‘get gone’ in chicken bones, and used the balled up Popeye’s napkin for the period on the exclamation point.”

I ignored him. One of the movers, the clipboard’s skinny stepson, ran back to us from the corner fellow who had waved him over, a guy whose oversized jeans were miraculously able to stay up without aid of belt.

Swallowing hard Poe, gasped, “Daddy, that man just asked me if we wanna buy drugs! He sellin’ drugs right out in the open, Daddy! Like he don’t care,” he twanged, his drawl making me dizzy with each syllable he spat.

“Hush, Poe.”

Benny, close at my side, whispered, “It’s gonna be all right, Sweetie,” as he applied soft circular rubs to the small of my back. I pushed his hand away and slowly mounted the three rail less stairs leading to the landing–my stoop, and put the key into the lock. But before I can turn the key, the door jerked open.

“Good God, you scared me.” The man, Jose, I recognized as one of the workers hired by the contractor to do finish work on the house.

“What are you doing here, Jose?” Behind me, I heard Benny let out a soft, yet audible sigh, and then a longer, “D a m n.”

“Mr. Rudy, said for me to stay, watch house til you come,” he answered.

“Watch things not walk off,” Benny mumbled under his breath, smiling sweetly at Jose.

I turned and gave him the fisheye, signaling he should be quiet until I instructed him to do otherwise. Then to my amazement, he did become quiet, moving stealth-like from where he had stood behind me to my side, content for the moment to remain what he referred to as ‘sexy, quiet, cool.’ Thankful, I did a quick survey of the work. What I hadn’t seen since my walk through earlier that week. Never mind the surroundings, the house was beautiful.

“Look, Benny,” I said, my arms extended, “this used to be an anorexic, sickly shell of a rowhouse. Now she’s all plumped up, regal, Rubenesque.”

Benny smacked his lips, “Estella, you know I don’t play that, so don’t even go there. The only thing Rubenesque I’d be remotely interested in would be the sandwich, and even then I’d have to be near starving.”

“You know I’m talking about the house, right?”

“Chubby gals, chubby houses, whatever–It don’t play here. Not here.” I ignored him, continuing to marvel at what Rudy and crew had been able to accomplish in such a short time.

The movers moved quickly, clearly peeved at all the structural impediments they had to navigate. I tried my best to ignore their grumblings and Benny’s eye rolls.

“What’d you pay for this piece of crap–I mean, palace in the making, Sweetie?”

“A pittance and it will be a palace, you wait and see, Sweetie. It’s going to be so fabulous you’ll be begging to spend the night whenever you’re in town.”

“In town? You’re all of forty minutes away. This may be Baltimore, but it ain’t Beirut.”

The sound of a bottle crashing caused both Benny and me, along with skinny Poe, to run to see to the commotion. The beer bottle missed my house, but hit the house next door, leaving shards across its crumbling stoop. The thrower appeared to be among several others males congregated on the vacant lot across the street.

“Can I do a quick retract?” Benny asked, moving quickly back inside.

“Retract what?”

“Maybe this is Beirut, Little Beirut,” he said, putting his fore finger and thumb not quite together for emphasis.

I was tired, too tired to argue the merits of my purchase with those not particularly in the know about such subjects. Benny had lived in the same upscale condo for the last ten years. He didn’t have a clue about neighborhoods in transition. His ideas about gentrification all had to do with horses and stable boys.

“Ma’am, Ma’am!?”

I followed the voice down the center hall, toward the house’s main staircase.

“Yeah, what’s going on?”

“This,” the mover with the clipboard answered, his arms looped around the stair’s banister in what looked like a romantic, yet highly possessive embrace.

“Okay?” I asked, looking from the man back to Benny, who looked as perplexed as I was.

“Back stairs for servants or not, ma’am, you’d be lucky to get half this stuff up these stairs,” he said, pulling out a measuring tape, “They’re too narrow, no clearance.” I looked up at the staircase. It had a weird L shaped angle. I poked my lower lip out; it appeared my Rubenesque baby had extremely narrow hips.

I looked at Moe, Larry, Curly, and Benny, too, searching for any sign of intelligent life that might hold the solution to what could make everything fit. Then just as Benny opened his mouth to make what I’m sure would have been yet another smart remark, Poe, walking slower than necessary to cover five feet, looked over at him and said, “Mistaw?”

“Yeah,” Benny answered, happy to have his focus diverted from my dilemma.

“That man outside, the one sellin’ drugs, he wanna know how long you gonna be?”

“How long I’m going to be what?” Benny asked Poe, his agitation clear.

“He give me two dollars,” Poe said, shifting his weight from one skinny hip to the next, “to find out how long the one with the pretty brown car and the greasy hair goin’ to be stayin? And, for me to give him the ‘heads up’, he said, when you’re ‘bout to hit the door.”

 to be continued…