The things that go bump in the night used to include me. Me and my partner, marital or otherwise. Until bumping became more of an afternoon thing. Then a less frequent afternoon thing. And so on. I mention this because life’s course is hardly straight, wavering here, forking there. Utterly unpredictable in direction, but entirely reliable in general activity level, let us say. Let us say that again. Things keep happening. That is the point. They happen because what is really bumping in the old-age night is one’s neurons. What’s left of them anyway. They bounce against each other like so many billiard balls, careening and caroming. No wonder I can’t remember anything. Not to worry, for at midnight remembering isn’t necessary. Life remembers you.
My weekly meeting over, everyone has gone home, and I go to bed. Crashy bye and good night. It is raining, or beginning to, and I find this rather pleasant. It also rather remote, having installed double paned windows in my apartment. Storm sounds, splattering rain and gusting winds, now make their way through so much glass that they arrive diminished and distorted. Still, it’s quite pleasant to go to sleep with the muffled pitter pat of the first big rain of this autumn. This is California, a largely arid land, where precipitation follows a limited schedule. Lullaby and good night.
Bam. A slamming car door wakes me. This is too annoying for words. Neighbors. I want them close, for they provide a measure of safety. And I don’t want them…slam…making another noise, just like that one. Is it possible that David and Maria, the handyman couple currently refurbishing an empty upstairs flat, that these two are burning the midnight oil? They have worked late in the past, sometimes remarkably late. It is not past them to be throwing chunks of concrete into a pickup truck at, say, 10 PM. But no, they have better sense, and this is impossible. Neighbors. Loading or unloading…bam, another concussive blow, this one to the actual building. My building, if anyone wants to know.
You’re talking to me, bubba. This is what I am saying, or my colliding neurons are saying, to any interloper outside messing about with this, my rental property, a.k.a., home. Make my day, asshole, whatever you are up to. The latter being remarkably unclear. For…bam…it’s happening again. And, no, I’m not imagining the shock waves going through the building. Just like I didn’t imagine the rotating cube in front of New Scotland Yard, unmistakable as one limped down Victoria Street on the way to work in the early 1970s. We are still here, it said, modern and unapologetic. We have work to do, secret work. Any questions, you’re talking to me.
I’m talking to myself, of course, if one really wants to press the point. But no one does. The point comes slamming through the wall at regular intervals. Thing about walls is that they just sit there, mysterious, unquestioned. Just like floors. The refurbished apartment upstairs has both of these, walls and floors. Three new appliances…make that four, including the microwave…got schlepped up the steps just yesterday. Jane wondered why the refrigerator was twice the expected size. I didn’t know myself, having bought these with the help of a contractor…my contractor, bubba, and you’re talking to me…so aspects of the transaction remain unclear. Except that the pieces match, one was no longer in its carton and considerably marked down, and what the hell. That was my response.
The upshot now being this massive double-wide fridge. Whatever. The what and the ever now sharpening their focus, as I consider the consequences. Three new appliances, including a steel cooker, complete with ovens and stovetop and enough steel to give one pause, all this is now upstairs. Sitting on one kitchen floor, double the load now that the fridge has doubled itself. Is it possible, just barely possible, that the boards beneath these appliances are collapsing?
Call me crazy or call the police, those seem to be the current options. Too many appliances with too much weight on too few boards in this flimsy apartment house dating from 1955, an era when building codes were only half evolved from cave dwellings. The floor is giving way, I can just feel it. Boom. That’s why these crashes keep happening, shaking the building. As one joist splinters apart. Boom. Another beam cracks, then another. Bam and, okay, that one didn’t shake the building, and also it sounded like it was coming from the carport. Well, that’s how structures are, and that’s why they invented engineers, to figure these things out. How forces get transferred from one end of the building, down its structural supports, to another. It’s that massive fridge, cracking its way through the floor, and on the verge of plummeting into the apartment below. Tom, my deceased landlord, wouldn’t want this, I am certain. Defiling his mother’s memory, in particular, by crashing a big Whirlpool fridge down on top of her dinette. How could I do this, allow this to happen?
This is my building, and I take responsibility. The buck stops here. The rain doesn’t stop, that is the other thing. In the Scotland Yard tradition, there are suspects, and one rules them out. Active theft has now acquired that status. Yes, it was once high on the list of possibilities, but it has lost popularity, dropping to the very bottom. No one would be stupid enough to rob my carport and its treasures, noisily, over the course of…now, a good hour. Which it isn’t, as bad an hour as I can recall. Actually, well into the second hour, and what is there to do but begin the kicking and leg hurling that proceeds…if one is fortunate…sitting up. Then getting up. I motor to the office, look out the window in search of robbers or mayhem or storm damage. Problem is, with my desk in the way all I can see is the rear fender of one car. Which seems to be intact, by the way. Back to the bedroom. Another bam.
Odd things happen. That is the way of stuff, isn’t it? Rain, rain, and it won’t go away. But it must go somewhere. And it may be filling the carport roof, making it go concave, then releasing this roof-lake in sudden bursts. Here a water overflow. There a crashing wave of water overflow. Something getting full, then giving way. My bladder functions this way, so why not the carport roof? I know this is a stretch. But I am in an investigatory mode, and one has to do this, no suspects ruled out. As for the police…well, but what are they there for? What do I pay taxes for? One doesn’t have to call 911, just the actual station, talk to whoever answers. I have a booming and a crashing and, being in a wheelchair and scared, more or less, of the dark…never mind the dark end of a 22 revolver…I don’t want to go outside and see what’s happening. Can you come over, please? No. I can’t do it. This is the height of suburban effete. No way. Crash. Well, maybe. After all, this can’t go on. But it is going on. And on and on.
Wind. Might be blowing one of the doors open and shut in the carport. Every apartment has its storage space. Each space has its door. And in the midst of construction and refurbishing and general toing and froing of apartment contents, it is very likely that one of these doors hasn’t been fully shut. That, coupled with a little wind, and things would go slamming and bamming in the night. I am the landlord. I am the guy who should put on his trousers, turn on his wheelchair lights and venture out into that good night.
Good night, indeed, is what I tell myself. Even managing a few hours of uninterrupted sleep until the alarm goes off. I am in the shower when Lorna arrives. I instantly direct her outside for a damage report. And I wait. Shampooing, rinsing, and still no sign of Lorna’s return from the carport. God only knows what she has found. Theft, storm flooding, the back fence collapsed, a metal rain gutter swinging free. But no, all she has found is a wooden door without a padlock. Banging in the night. Which considering that all my detective work was done indoors, keyhole-surgery style, the laparoscopic results…well, they are just fine.