Moving boxes at the door still had to be unpacked. An inch of grime and dust lay on the floor. It wouldn’t be very long until he moved again. This was just a temporary situation. As soon as he could convince his friend to hire him in the city he would be repacked and ready to go. From the nine months he spent in county lock up he had very little to move. Two boxes worth of things his last landlord had packed up and sent to his new apartment.
A few picture frames with pictures of his ex he needed to destroy, a boom box, dirty clothes, some nick-knacks, a Nintendo Wii, a stale bag of chips, a briefcase with his medical degrees, five chipped plates, three dirty glasses, five car-safe coffee mugs, 16 assorted shot glasses, ten beer mugs, two champagne glasses, some cooking stuff, and the rest would have to be unpacked later. The TV and Wii had to be plugged in. To make sure the TV, Wii, and couch were not damaged in the move he had to use them. For about an hour he sat playing a shoot ‘em up video game online. But after a friend gave up their position by leaving the game to go to the bathroom he got up to use the bathroom himself. In the parolee placement apartments the bathrooms were shared along with laundry. The bathroom was occupied at the moment.
Leaning against the wall outside the bathroom he could easily see the discontent of tenants to the shared bathroom. All over the walls were messages in ink, Sharpie, and spray paint. Most stated the hate for the landlord. Looking over the entire wall one particularly long message caught his eyes.
“Beware, Beware of the downstairs down in the dungeon a demon lurks and is hunting for its prey. Pray you never stray beyond the borders of the caution tape…” He laughed as he read on about the dangers of a certain locked off basement, but at the end was something that made the hairs on his arm stick up, “stay away stay away people of the day the devil only knows what happened here in the yesteryears. Rest in peace tortured souls of the hidden graveyards and morgues. Do not worry anymore for the days of DeWitt are no more. Praise be that your torture has ended, Amen.” Directly under the ‘Amen’ was a cross written in blood, or so it seemed.
Skeptically he touched the cross. It was still wet. Sniffing his finger it was surely blood. To himself he thought, holy…
A man had been standing behind him unnoticed. The man all of sudden, causing him to jump, blurted out ‘shit’ at the top of his lungs.
“I just took a HUGE SHIT!!!” Hysterically laughing the man stood terrifyingly close and blinked at him.
“How are you doing today I’m doing fine and yourself my name is Michael what is yours?” The man said without punctuation and without taking a breath.
Mat didn’t respond for some unknown reason.
“How are you doing today I’m doing fine and yourself my name is Michael what is yours?” the man said again getting even closer this time. Staring aggressively at him he expected an answer.
Slowly the other man answered, “My name is Mat Cain.”
“Well, actually it’s technically Doctor Mathew Cain.”
A wild look came into the man’s eyes as the word doctor was spoken. He slowly backed up as though the other man, the doctor, might harm him.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,” He said short and abruptly. “I knew it I knew it I knew it,” His voice became shrill. “You, you, you’re a, a a duh doct…doct…tor…tor…tor…doct…”
“A doctor…” Looking confused at the fear in the man’s face.
A small voiceless shriek came from the man. “I…I…I be good be good be good… don’t don’t don’t need medicine.” Quickly the man almost ran down the hallway away from the doctor. In a high pitched voice he repeated, “I be good,” and “I knew it he’s a doctor.”
Mat slowly turned around.
The bathroom door shut closed.
Mat tried to giggle it open.
“Un Momento Senor!!!” A ladies voice rang out as he could hear three children with her. She had cut in front of him and he could hear the shower turning on.
No longer needing to go he decided to go back to his apartment. A bit shaken by the wall more so than the crazy man he sat in his couch staring at a window. The window looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since it was put in. From what the landlord said over the phone, the building had been around since World War One if not longer. A church visible from the lawn in front of the building had supposedly been around since the Gold Rush. The apartment building had once been a part of a huge complex. It was a military hospital that was named after the man who founded and settled the area. Until recently the whole area was named DeWitt.
Opening the fridge Mat found his beer still warm because he forgot to plug in the fridge. After a few profanities for the spoiled ice cream he now had in the freezer he decided to plug in the fridge. He pulled out a warm beer and shut the fridge door. Popping the top he made up his mind to take a walk around. He also noticed he had left his phone charger in his SUV. Leaving his apartment he locked the door behind him. Anxiously he checked the hallway for the crazy man. Two stairs led to the first floor. He chose the stairs that were furthest from the bathroom. It was very unlikely that he would bump into that crazy man again but he wanted to be safe. Most likely, whoever watched over that mad Michael would notice him gone. From his years interning Mat knew types like Michael were closely watched by professionals, as surely they should be. They were a danger not only to others but to themselves. He saw what types like Michael would do and how they acted. It was lucky there were doctors around like him.
Finding his way to the parking lot he hadn’t seen the part of the building he was now walking. It looked like the rest of the building, nothing much to see. An early 1900s cinderblock building was now being used for low income housing. The paint was peeling and fading. It looked like it came straight off one of his granddad’s old black and white war movies. He was shocked that there were no apparent bunkers or any bullet holes. If the building was renovated it would a quite handsome building. On the front as Mat now noticed to amazement was red brick. Probably hundred year old brick, his dad, a contractor would smile and say, “The kind of stuff that doesn’t break. Stuff that new stuff can’t even compare to makes new stuff look horrible and cheap.” Behind cobwebs, dirt, dust, grime, and peeling paint the building was a handsome marvel. Most likely it would be demolished soon. It was apparent the city was remodeling the whole area. They were taking out old buildings to make way for new buildings. Next to the one he was standing outside of was a year old building. With plaster, new facer brick, artistic sidewalks, architecturally designed, and looking like something off of MTV or CSI it was blatant that the old buildings did not fit. The lawn around the new building was watered, mowed, and maintained. Bright green and fashionably manicured it mocked the lawns around the old buildings. The brown yellow lawn had weeds all throughout it. Water hadn’t touched that lawn since last rain. One sprinkler leaning against the back door was used to water the whole lawn. Comically enough the water faucet that was out on the lawn had a lock and key. The one sprinkler had a chain and bolt lock.
Grabbing his phone charger out of his truck he could see the buildings behind the one he was staying in. Along with the one he lived in there was a whole slew of other unattended, unrepaired, unmaintained dilapidated pre World War Two buildings. One lot in-between the old buildings were vacant. It was flat and was most definitely the site of a demolished set of buildings. A couple trees that hadn’t been taken out stood shivering in the wind. Trembling on the edge of the empty lots the old cinderblock buildings stood in proof of a long forgotten past. The buildings would be demolished and forgotten just like the history and stories that went along with them.
Mat didn’t even notice or care. All he saw was an old dilapidated building in need of a bull dozer. Marveling at the building next to the apartment building he walked back. The new building was absolutely architecturally and artistically designed. Even the landscaping was engineered. He couldn’t wait till he could get back to the city. It wouldn’t be too long. Soon as he got off parole his friend would rehire him. On his laptop already he had a list of available houses to rent. The area he was now was a new booming suburb. It was quite nice but there were still not enough restaurants, the shopping was minimal. Worst they didn’t even have a Wal-Mart. He preferred a town with optimal shopping and night life. There was from what he gathered going to the local bar after he got out of jail very little transit only a municipal airport, and absolutely no skyscrapers. Before long, there would be. It was quiet ironic really that he would be held there. Before his motorcycle accident and lock up him and his friend were in business together working for a real estate company. He had just closed a deal to buy up almost all of the undeveloped land in this town. After a bid went well in putting in office buildings he went out to celebrate. With his friend he went bar hoping and drinking. A bombshell blond had picked him up with some very scandalous photos. At dawn he took off from the motel on his new Harley. Everything was going so well. The sun was rising and he was getting all greens throughout the city. That’s when a rogue old blue truck came veering into the lane. The trucks tire blew out. A little in a buzz from the alcohol he was consuming earlier he didn’t move fast enough. A second later he was on the ground. Unable to move due to an injury he could only lay there. A week later he was in lock up. Two other counts on his record; this is the third of his DUIs. Three strikes and one rogue blue truck put the whole deal on hold.
But his parole hearing was in two months. He had a good lawyer. He would be back at work and back to making millions in a short time. The next two months would just be a well deserved break. He hadn’t had one day off since he was first hired. The next two months would let him take it easy.
Wondering back to his apartment he bumped into his neighbor. A very big man he looked like he weighed 300lbs easy was coming his way. His neighbor’s hand went out.
“Neighbor!!! Aloha and how’re you doing?” He grabbed Mat’s hand and pulled him in for a hug.
“Hello. Please don’t touch me.” He pulled away as though he was diseased.
“Oh sorry, you’re one of those guys.” Looking him up and down made Mat feel uncomfortable.
In the middle of the first floor hallway the 300lb man made the hallway look narrow. Only two feet above the big man’s head was the dusty ceiling. A lady walked by she had to squeeze by and say, “Excuse me.” The big man had to turn sideways and push up against a wall to let her pass.
Still smiling the big man tried again to make a new friend with Mat. “So you’re the new guy? Just in case you didn’t know I’m your neighbor. You know if you ever need anything I’m right across the hallway. I don’t lock my door because I have nothing to steal except for cheap beer and some homemade Vodka. So don’t be shy.”
Not making a sound Mat stood there impatiently.
“So what’s your name?”
“My cousin’s name is Mat.”
Mat glared in impatience.
“Well my name is Jack Omaka. Maidu and Polynesian and party crazy…” The big man laughed and chuckled causing his whole body to giggle. “So what are you?” looking sideways at him, “let’s see Irish, German, and do I see some Italian I’m missing something aren’t I?”
“Russian and Japanese.”
“God I thought I was a mutt.” He was completely ignorant to the insult he had just said.
“My grandfather was in World War Two in the Pacific. He saved my grandmother from Japan.” Insulted Mat tried to defend his heritage.
“Oh of course,” It clicked that he had insulted a sought after friend. “I didn’t mean…well that’s cool your grandma is Japanese? So is mine. Do you like sushi?”
“I’m busy I have to go.” Impatiently he apparently lied.
“Oh of course you’re one of those no touchy silently suicidal inhospitable closet case types.” The big man smiled, patted Mat on the back, and wobbled off in search of more friendly people.
Before he could respond to the bluntly honest insult Jack had rounded a corner and was out of sight.
Talking to himself, he grumbled, “I am not a closet case. Asshole.”
Just then he could hear the crazy man talking quite loud to Jack down the hallway. The crazy man was coming his way. Quickly without thinking he jumped down a short staircase near him. Ducking he barely escaped when the crazy man came walking his direction. Peering over the stairs, he now hid on, he saw the man skipping his way. Singing some incomprehensible song he stopped just as he passed the stairs Mat hid on. Breathing slow and heart rate rising he feared the crazy man would see, hear, or find him. For some inexplicable reason he feared the man. The crazy man looked at the stairs shivered, stopped singing for a split second then continued skipping along.
Clinging to the stairs Mat came into realization of how ridiculous he looked. A lady walked by making the funniest face at him. Jumping up he dusted himself off. Looking at where he was he was shocked. It was the door. It was the stairs. It was the locked off basement the graffiti had warned about. Caution tape used for crime scenes stretched across the door. Sure enough he tried to open the door and it was locked. Shaking his head he laughed at himself for giving into some kids graffiti. Some ghost story was getting to him. He, a doctor that was soon going to have his own hospital was scared of some stupid ghost story.
Laughing at himself he nervously walked back up to his apartment. The rest of the day he drank beer and tried to unpack. Most the time he just got caught up in his couch and resetting his high scores. It was a very important to do this while unpacking his video games. Finally he went to sleep at two o’clock at night.
The next week went by without event. Mark his attorney met with him assuring a quick, painless, and easy expunging of his records. Around Wednesday his partner asked him to come to the office. After an expensive lunch they made some unofficial plans to take a HMO paid vacation for doctors. Soon as the papers for the construction of the new medical center were signed they both decided that they would need a vacation. A very long vacation to somewhere tropical and very elite was decided on. For a whole hour they argued over which destination they would choose. Friendly, emotionless farewells were exchanged. Both planned unofficially to meet again sometime next month.
That weekend his unattached no-strings-sex girlfriend showed up to give condolences. He spent that weekend enjoying her company and her Spanish cooking. If she wasn’t entertaining him he worked on the plans for the medical center. Mr. Sumo Jack had told him about a little about the history of the building. Being a historic medical center he thought he could get a good idea for building plans. On Sunday he walked the grounds that were still left. Most of it he didn’t see due to all the No Trespassing signs. Clouds moved in around noon. Rain was not predicted by the weather forecast but it looked as usual they were wrong. Eventually he made his way back to the apartments. His girlfriend was fluently talking to a Spanish resident near a picnic table. He sat down without bringing attention to himself. Sitting there under a huge fruitless mulberry he watched the clouds rolling in. Nonchalant he glanced at the porch on the apartment building. He almost fell off the bench startled. A man in patient scrubs and with a head bandage was standing unwaveringly starring straight at him.
“You okay Mat?”
“Yeah, I just thought…” he looked back and no one was even near the porch.
“I just saw something that isn’t there.” Mat answered completely lost in thought.
“Loco. You just going nuts…” hysterical laughing erupted from the unnoticed Michael standing next to him.
Mat jumped again and this time he fell off the bench.
“You are nuts. You are nuts. You are coconuts. You just Looney Toons,” Laughing and pointing at Mat on the ground not one other person even looked or cared.
Shaking his head Mat quickly jumped to his feet. He looked around to find Michael gone. He stood there for a minute. His girlfriend finally noticed him. With a look showing that she was confused she shook her head in disapproval.
“Mat you look like you saw a ghost.” Glaring in disdain she looked away from him and continued her conversation with the Spanish residents.
“Well I’ll see you next weekend...” He walked away towards the apartments without looking back.
“Sure whatever…” Waving her hand in dismissal she ignored him walking away.
In a split second he decided to go to his truck instead. The crazy schizophrenic man had put Mat in a daze. Barely able to walk he had no capacity to think. Not watching where he was walking he walked right into someone.
“Oh my gosh, watch where you’re goin’” The lady dropped all she was carrying. Books, a notebook, a purse, tape player, and a grocery bag with a new screw driver in it flew on to the ground. Not even glancing at him she quickly gathered up her stuff. He barely bent over to help her when she was already standing up. Picking up the grocery bag Mat was immediately aware that he wasn’t supposed to help her. Standing over him glaring the lady was impatiently waiting for him to hand her the grocery bag. Her hand extended it was plain to see she thought he was a total ass hole.
“Wow, a tape player haven’t seen one of those ancient things since I was in grammar school.” He smiled cheaply.
“Well it works.” Her hand out she simply decided to grab the bag. Without another word she walked away.
“Hey bro!!!” Jack appeared out of thin air and put his arm on Mat’s shoulder. “Hey bro you better stay away from that one?”
“Why is that Indian Jack?”
Chuckling Jack had no idea at that underlying racism. “Why well because she’s nutso, loony tunes, loca, take your pick. One word of wisdom from Indian Jack; stay away from her. She’s trouble. God I heard as a matter of fact her own father put her in an institution.”
Jack slapped Mat on the back almost causing him to fall over. “Well I got to get going to my AA meeting.”
“Oh you’re trying to stop drinking. That’s cool.”
“Oh hell no! Me stop drinking, no fat chance. I just go to pick up lonely women and advertise my moonshine to desperate drinkers.” He laughed and mumbled to himself, “Jack stop drinking, Jack always designated drinker, hehe…” Jack got in his undersized truck and left.
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