Monday, June 12, 2006
Charlie Don't Surf
“Steve, you there? Steve, answer!”
My Nextel was chirping. It was one of my roommates. Did I feel like answering? Surely this would be a scolding for dishes unwashed, a plea for toilet paper, or perhaps news that the whole place burned to the ground after an accident during a fart lighting contest. I answered anyways, leery, and braced for peskyness.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“I just got a pool for the ballroom.”
“Why do you need a tool? A screwdriver? A hammer? Nothing is broken. Right?”
“Not a tool, a pool! You know, splish splash?”
“I don’t even want an explanation for that one. I’ll be home around ten.”
I arrived to a bizarre scene in the ballroom of my residence. Dead center on the wooden floor, a shallow inflatable pool was set up. Sealed beer cans floated to and fro, bobbing like fishing lures. Two of my roommates sat on chairs along the rim, letting their gnarly feet soak and prune in the icy wetness. I spoke to the gentlemen inhabiting the surreal scene.
“Wow. A pool. Really. I’m stunned.”
“I bought it at Target this afternoon. Tom bought the air pump, and we got it blown up. Here we are! All I gotta do is trim and feed my palm trees, stand them at the corners of this bad boy, invite over a few girls, with bikinis of course, and we’re all set. Awesome, right?”
“Awesome is a weak word. Try outstanding. Or maybe spectacular. Or maybe retarded. I need to think about this. Where’s the hose? How did you get 1000 pounds of water into the middle of the ballroom?”
“Buckets. Lots of buckets. Took two hours.”
“You realize this water will only last a day, and that it’ll take four hours to empty and refill this fucker every time you want to ‘swim,’ right?”
“The water will be fine for a few days. Don’t flip about that. You’re such a pessimist.”
“There’s no chlorine, there’s enough cat hair floating in the air to weave an afghan, and our feet aren’t exactly prisitine, guys. The only way the water could get dirty faster is if we start baptizing hobos in it.”
“Cat hair won’t get in there. The cats are terrified of water. You see how Figaro reacts when I pick up the spray bottle.”
“I’m not talking about the hair still on the cats. I’m talking about the lazy sheddings that actually float through our atmosphere. I can see them when we have strong sunbeams. We are breathing cat. It is killing us slowly. That's beside the point. That hair will make this water murky and diseased. I better have a soak now while it’s still safe.”
“Well all right then. Enough of your daily shit talk. Let’s have a beer, bullshit a bit, and figure out this leukemia scam.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Two nights later I got home near midnight. All the lights in the loft were turned off, and only the dim moonlight and my muscle memory led me through my home without accidentally castrating myself or stubbing my toe on a piece of furniture. I found a light switch, sat down on the couch, and read the first few chapters of a novel about clowns, baking, and fate.
When I smelled wet dog, I knew something was wrong. We have no dogs. Just two cats and a ferret, all three of whom I consider filthy nuisances. This odor wasn't the usual ammoniated scorch that wafts from the infrequently tended litter box, but instead, it was a heavier, more humid stink. It had a long reach. I hadn’t noticed its overpowering penetration of the air upon entering due to the protective cloud of cigarette smoke that follows me around. Eventually the weak tobacco aura collapsed under the relentless assault of the new smell.
I did what any sane person would’ve done. I opened as many doors and windows as possible, cranked up a couple fans, and never thought once about discovering the origin of the stench. I strode to the bathroom to start the second chapter of my paperback and to work up a special smell of my own.
When I came out, I saw one of my roommates, Tom. He had just arrived. He was calling for me, quietly but insistently. He sounded very serious.
“I’m coming, hold your herd.”
He was peering into the pool. I followed his eyes and saw a few beers still bobbing about. Then I walked over to his spot and looked again from his wider vantage point. There was something dead and furry floating in the corner. The ferret.
“Well, shit. So who gets to go wake him up and tell him the bad news?”
I didn't want to bear the bad news. I was hoping Tom would volunteer. He said nothing in response. Instead, he retrieved the corpse and stood there trying to imagine where he could set the soggy thing down. It was too big to flush. He looked around before asking me a question.
“Where’s a grocery bag?”
“I’ll get a shoebox. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do, put it in a shoebox and bury it. Right?”
“Just get it.”
I grabbed the old red Reebok box with the Union Jack on it and Tom plopped the dead weasel inside it. He wrapped the box in a grocery bag and set it out on the fire escape. I went and told the other roommate that one of his pets drowned in the pool.
Four days later, the pool water has not been changed, nobody has gone near that swamp, and the ferret is still on the fire escape, decomposing in a shoebox. We grilled shish kebabs out there yesterday, right next to the dead thing. I think that’s kind of weird. 3:59 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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