Minding my own beeswax, I was. On the couch, wrapped around a guitar, whence a knock came to the door. It was my friend Tom’s door- he was kindly allowing me to squat at his apartment for a spell. I was commencing a lengthy couch tour after I had an epiphany that if I pulled stakes and had no place to live, somehow that unfettering would cause enlightenment, stoke a greater fire. Rip me violently from the complacency that I was too young to be wrapped in. Ha! However, in this case, couch tour was merely a term as I actually slept in a closet. No sheep needed- I just counted the coats & shirts swinging above…
Tom shared the apartment with a chatty cockatoo named Elvis, who he’d taught a few stock phrases. Pauly & I doggedly tried to teach him to say “Lick me, I’m a dick”. We got nothin. His cage was frequently open so he could mercifully fly around at will- always following the same flight patterns. He pecked & gnawed all the kitchen cabinet trim. But if you turned out the lights and forgot to cage him, he was screwed. You’d come home and find him on the floor- disheveled & despaired, frequently behind the couch. Good ‘ol bird- years later he died of a heart attack caused by Tom’s girlfriend’s cat Greycat hanging on his cage.
The door knock belonged to an angry & burly little fella who ran the bar/dance club across the street. He came to berate me for putting my garbage in his dumpster. Huh? Somehow he determined the rubbish trail led to our 2nd story porch. He was pissed, and I’d better go over and reclaim my refuse. I denied the trash trespass, told him that earlier I’d noticed 2 kids dragging a big ‘ol bag across our parking lot. I really had. He refuted my denials, said he’d call the Law. Oh my- shades of Alice’s Restaurant! I said Go To Town, Brown. I think a little smoke came out his ear.
I sat back down after squirting a little Ozium -y’know, to be safe- and by God, soon there came another knock. I repeated my denials to the policeman, who’d come alone, and told him of mystery kids with mystery bag. He seemed completely perplexed on how to proceed. Stumped by this befuddling violation. After some prickly silence, I had me an idea: I invited Officer Fife in to inspect our waste receptacle, which I knew to be…overflowing. Surely if I’d bothered to drag our garbage over to Surly Joe’s, I’d have emptied the stinky kitchen trash.
I opened the tiny, sticky pantry where the wastebasket lived. The mice also took a shine to this area, which was disconcerting ‘cause the apartment was above a doctor’s office. The Doc was a great ‘ol gal- real old school medical mentality. No leeches or creosote or nothin, but no nonsense. I stumbled down there one dark day -and mind you, the only visit to a doctor since high school (streak still stands- piss tests don’t count) –for to get stuck with a shot of cortisone to fix a brutal case of poison ivy that I’d been waiting out. I lost. Fever dreams, sleep scratching, all that.
Now Tom is a live & let live sorta fella, so he took a catch-and-release approach in regards to the mouses. (Though he’s not opposed to sticking an arrow through a deer or turkey, but THEY’RE tasty…) I concur, except when critters come IN the house. Sorry, boys. Except for hornets & wasps & the like. I catch ‘em and let ‘em out because I like to keep good bee karma, in case they end up as our Overlords down the road. So in the garbage pantry, Tom puts a little peanut butter bait in a jar but them slippery devils were absconding with the fatty prize and making a clean get-a-way. So he adds a bit of water to the jar- not enough for drownin’ but no jumping out now. One morning I come falling bleary-eyed out of the closet and he’s got a mouse in a sock and he’s blow drying it before he sets him out somewheres away from the house. Perhaps Tom likes to keep good mouse karma…
So now Officer Barney is staring at our trash, actually shining his flashlight on it- illuminating the absurdity of the situation. He’s wordless, flummoxed. In a flat spin. So I wonder aloud the (seemingly) obvious: Had anyone tore open the offending garbage bag for…clues? He stumbled back out into the night. I heard his crappy police-issue shoes shuffle down the wooden stairs. How DO they chase anyone in them damn shoes?!
Reclaiming my seat I took it all in. Outside the Saturday night hum was kicking up, like a hungry dog from an afternoon nap. This apartment had played host to alot of closing time revelry due to it’s (dangerous) proximity to many watering holes. I recall one such night hearing the exact moment when Tom’s speaker blew, as if scissors were plunged through the cone. An inebriated debate on Best Guitar Solos Ever was taking place, and I’d put on “Dogs” from Pink Floyd’s “Animals”. That song doesn’t end well…”Dragged down by the stone…” On this night, it took a speaker with it.
And now door knock #3 shows up. Have they sent the Swat Team? Should I hang from the balcony, drop to the bushes, cut & run, do a moonlight flit, make a hunched-over beeline through backyards to the nearby river where I’ll follow the muddy shore three towns down and jump a bus South –suspiciously luggage free- and in 6 months I’ll send my mother a postcard from dust choked Terlingua TX, at the foot of the Christmas Mountains, tell her all’s well and I met a girl named Vanessa (Hot Vanessa) and we’re about to melt over the border when in actuality we point towards windy North Dakota where Hot Vanessa (real name Hot Maria) and I live above a small engine repair shop and I wear a hat and stop shaving and play Creedence songs at a crappy sports bar on a garage-sale Hohner flat top until Hot Maria, smitten with a small engine mechanic, gives me up and I’m finally taken down on a trumped up garbage crime?
But it’s no Swat Team, just Surly Joe and his thick neck bouncer buddy. Turns out they put their big brains together with Officer Fife and processed the crime scene (tore open the bag of trash) and there was plenty of evidence incriminating a house down the street, yep. Nice sleuthin’, boys. He apologized and told me drinks were on him if I came over to the bar. Yeah, well, not really my kind of joint unless I already got a snoot-full and I’m not so averse to punishingly loud bass grooves and…gyrating. Think I’ll just sing a little song to the mice. Hey boss- could ya grab the garbage on your way down…?