March 29, 2020

Any Curve Balls Yet?


“Can you be out by Friday?”

            “Um,” I asked the landlord. “You mean next Friday.”

            “No, this Friday.”

            “Three days from now.”


            Was this man insane?

            “Umm, in a word, no,” I told him. “That’s insane. Between my wife’s work schedule, my own doctor appointments, and all the arrangements that need to be made, moving in three days is impossible. Plus we’ve paid the rent through the end of the month. That’s next Friday, ten days from now. We could be out by then.”

            “I understand all that,” our landlord Al said. “But try to appreciate my situation. I could lose two thousand dollars if I can’t get that apartment rented by the first of the month.”

            Oh, this was bullshit. We were moving across the hall into an apartment he’d never once shown to anyone the whole time we were there, and now he’s bitching about losing a month’s rent? It made no sense. Of course The whole situation made no sense. It was all completely insane. Moving to a new place had always been the worst thing in the world for me. If I’d stepped through the door into Orwell’s Room 101, I’d find myself confronted with a perky real estate agent and four burly movers hanging out around a large box truck. Yet here I was preparing to move for the second time in less than a month. I expected it would kill me, one way or another.

            Morgan and I thought we knew the real reason Al was in such a rush to rent the place we were vacating. For one thing, the plumbing was getting primed and ready to spew raw shit all over the bathroom again. After experiencing it twice, we’d come to recognize the symptoms of a forthcoming eruption, and he wanted to get some other sucker to sign a lease before that happened. And second, even if that didn’t happen when the new tenant flushed the toilet for the first time, as the weather got warmer that bathroom, and likely that whole apartment, was going to start stinking something fierce. If I was a mercenary landlord bordering on the plain ol’ evil, I’d want to get those first and last months rent checks in the bank as soon as possible, too.

            After some more haggling with Al, we agreed that we’d be out of the apartment by Friday, February twenty-eighth. Given it was a leap year (something I’d forgotten at the time), that would leave him a whole day to show the place and get a contract signed by the first of the month. Considering the lightning fast turnover in NYC real estate, he’d probably have no trouble roping in some poor bastard who was dazzled by the enormous, trash-strewn balcony with the glorious view of the dry cleaning sweatshop across the street. Worked for us.

            On the bright side, Morgan and I had been so dispirited by the move from Bay Ridge and all that had happened since, we never bothered unpacking anything except the absolute necessities. There seemed no real point. We didn’t even put any clothes in the Dead Baby closet, choosing instead to live out of bags and cardboard boxes. This made the prospect of moving much easier, as we had no packing to do.

            After we began carrying boxes out of one apartment and into the one across the hall, I once again got on the phone to call the utility companies to get service switched over and change our mailing address from “2R” to “2F.” It all took longer than it had when I initially called about the move from Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst. Each time I got some utility company rep on the line, I had to explain why we’d only lasted three weeks in that first apartment, and given our experience there, why we’d opt to live in another apartment in the same building.

            I also had to find a mover who could just send a couple of guys to carry a couch and a bed across the hall, then haul a bunch of heavy crap outside to the trash.

            Still, easier as this move was by nature, I really didn’t want to move again. The last six months had been hell, between being evicted by a convicted felon, a seemingly endless series of feline medical emergencies and bi-weekly trips to the vet, myriad other unexpected traumas large and small sprinkled in to keep us on our toes, all of it culminating in lakes of shit on the floor of the new apartment. I was exhausted. I just wanted to go to sleep for a year or more and forget about it all. But continuing to live atop a raw sewage powder keg wasn’t an option, we’d signed a lease for the new space, and had no choice but to pick up and move again, even if the move was going to be a short one.

            We started slowly. Every time we went from the poisonous apartment into the new one for whatever reason, we carried something with us—a box of books or t-shirts or coffee mugs. On Morgan’s day off we hauled some bookshelves, desks and small tables. It quickly became clear this really would be a much better and easier move. Unlike the move from Bay Ridge, in which the movers we hired just jammed boxes and furniture (including pieces we never wanted moved) wherever they would fit in the much smaller new place, we could actually take the time to arrange things as we went, even unpack a box or two. And given the new place had three closets, there was, amazingly enough, room to stash things like “clothes.” Best of all, there were no stairs involved, it was all a simple matter of shuffling even heavy things about fifteen feet from one door to the other.

            Carpeting aside, the more time we spent in the new place, small as it was, the clearer it became it really was much cleaner and nicer than the one we were fleeing, though in order to make everything fit, we still had to jettison a bunch of things we hadn’t jettisoned earlier. No, it had nothing on the apartment in Bay Ridge, but when compared with the place across the hall, we’d be living like kings.

            The two lighthearted movers showed up at seven Tuesday morning, and though I was obligated to pay for two hours of work, the whole thing took them thirty minutes. After they left, we still had three days to clean out the old place. At this point we no longer cared about the toilet in the old place, as we now had full access to a toilet that worked. Go ahead and let it blow, I thought—we’d just close the bathroom door and leave it for any new prospective tenants to find.

            At about eight-fifteen Friday morning, the phone rang. It was Al.

            “So, are you out yet?” He asked. “I have some people who want to see the apartment.”

            Oh, I bet you do, I thought. “We’ll be out by the end of the day, as agreed,” I told him. “So you can start showing it first thing in the morning, if you like.”

            “Okay, good. Just slip the keys through the mail slot.”

            “Will do.”

            “Everything going okay in the new place? Any curve balls yet?”

            “No, not yet,” I told him, suddenly wondering what he knew that we didn’t. “Should we be expecting some?” 

            There was still a bit to do across the hall, and I knew it was going to be a long day. We still had to move the TV, an air conditioner, two bookcases we weren’t certain we wanted to keep or not, and about thirty-five boxes of books, with no real clear idea where we were going to put any of it. But it would get done, because it had to get done.

            “Okay, here’s the plan,” I told Morgan about eight that night as we were humping boxes across the hall. The new place really was feeling better than the one we’d just escaped. Maybe it would work after all. “Once we get a little settled here, maybe we could go just two months with no major dramas? Two months is all I ask. Let’s shoot for that.”

            By eleven, the old place was empty and swept and ready to show any new suckers who might happen along. We were beat, but relieved. Maybe we’d start some serious unpacking in the next days. Even the cats seemed to like the new place much better, hanging out in the windows and rolling around on the carpet instead of darting to hide in closets or under the dresser. It was a good sign. We again began wondering why Al had never shown this place to us or anyone else before.

            After Morgan headed for the bathroom to clean up, I climbed into bed. She returned to the bedroom about ten minutes later.

            “The tub won’t drain,” she said.


Postscript: We got the tub taken care of, but shortly thereafter the Corona virus turned all pandemicky, and New York was shut down. So much for that two-month break from the drama I’d been hoping for.


You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.