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continued excerpt from

I don’t live here so why is this posted here? Ten pages, no envelope. Everyone in the building must have read this. The sum on the three charges adds up to about $10,000 plus attorney’s fees for the plaintiff. Jee-sos. Why should I pay his attorney fees?

I do not believe it. Not as in denial but as in ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ Van left a dozen cigarette burns in the new carpet, two broken windows, filth from floor to ceiling, and suspicious-looking aluminum foil tents in the closet. What those were for I don’t even want to know. He and his live-in and their fellow squatters annoyed every other tenant in the building as well as two neighbors. You name it: they did it. Peed off the fire escape. Threw private garments in the neighbor’s yard. Filled the apartment with underage monkeys who dangled their toe rings out the third floor window. Broken bottles, cigarette burns on the porch, on my new rug.

The only thing they didn’t do? Pay rent.

Oh sure, they were polite enough about things. For every complaint or request I made, I got a “yes sir, it won’t happen again” or a “no sir, I didn’t do that” or “I’ll have it for you tomorrow sir” back. Then the remedial behavior would kick in as soon as I left.

Loud. Lewd. Just my luck someone would have got hurt. What choice did I have? Liability. If the shit fits, you must evict.

So maybe I didn’t do things by the book. Who made the book anyway? Suppose, legally, I should have given him and the girl more notice. Don’t know about the squatter just released from the southern prison. Suppose she had rights too? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to change the locks. Drag their crap downstairs to the porch, then out to Sam’s ugly ledge by the street.

Why the hell didn’t she take it? She walked by how many times? My damages are more than his. Fool. What is Van thinking?

Over the course of the week, every tenant in the house mentioned the lawsuit. Apparently the police showed up outside on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving with sirens flaring, lights flashing, banging on the door.

“Moses started barking and it scared the wits out of Susan,” Kent said.

Matthew in the penthouse said, “You seem to be taking this well. I’d fall to pieces if that was my name on those papers.”

Melissa said, “I meant to say ‘hi’ yesterday but you were busy on the phone. Figured you were talking about the court case with Van.”

David looked at me all pitiful, and Nader made more eye contact than usual. He watched me like you watch a caged animal with the door open.

I didn’t say a thing. Learned long ago how to zip it. Sounds travels faster than the usual 600,000 miles per second around here.

Instead, I read landlord tenant law for a couple nights straight. And wrote. Compiled the sequence of events leading up to the ouster. Gathered the notices in my folder. Spent one morning in my office calling people. Several in fact.

“$185 per hour? I see. Well, I’ll see how this first hearing goes, and I may be in touch.”

“You don’t say, $200 an hour?”

“You’re kidding -- $250 an hour?” I put the phone down on my folder. Even for a guy like me, the thing is pathetically beat-up. Grungy case.

LW waltzed in and found me staring. “Is it broken?” She picked up the cell and lowered her reading glasses, hovered. “Hnn. The numbers are smeared out. What happened?”

The blue sweatshirt again. “You know how this happened, don’t you? It was right after Carson disappeared, and I was left to dispose of all his junk. His family didn’t do anything to help. Remember how I filled a 20-yard dumpster with his crap?” I said. “My back hurt for days.” If I had gone by the book, all that stuff would still be there. “I could have waited longer to dispose of Van’s things I suppose. I was kind of on a roll.” Not like I had a coach. Russ wasn’t there yelling from the sidelines like he did when I’d power stack my opponent into the mat. Careful John, his neck, watch his neck. Time seemed to pass so quickly; I may have lost track of what I was doing. Got a little carried away.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Just don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this. You won’t lose." She snapped the phone shut. "I mean you can’t afford to lose, can you?”

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