I’ve known Joe Shadduck since 6th grade. So…I guess that would be 5 years. Joe and his beautiful wife just had a baby, and he is a cutie! Anyway, I believe that this story is a bit personal for Joe. 🙂
Conflict: A married couple gets revenge against their downstairs neighbor.
The apartment was quiet. The baby was down for her nap and Randy and Christine were slouched on the couch.
“I didn’t know a baby would be so exhausting,” Randy said.
“You aren’t allowed to be exhausted,” Christine said, her voice laden with near-sleep. “Until you’re the only one that can feed her, I don’t want to hear it.”
“Let’s just try to sleep a few minutes before she gets up again.”
They’d been home for one two days with their newborn baby. And the baby seemed to have a specific aversion to sleep in general. Every moment of quiet and peace was a gift. And Randy and Christine slowly and gently and calmly drifted off to a light sleep. Randy was just about to begin his dull snoring when…
The both sat up quickly, gasping for breath. Wide eyed.
“What was that?” Christine asked. “Is the baby okay?”
“I kind of doubt that she could have gotten out of her crib to make that sound,” Randy said. “It was the upstairs neighbor.”
“At least it didn’t wake up Sally. I need that sweet little baby to keep sleeping.”
From upstairs again. Then the sound of someone leaping across the floor.
Then another sound.
A baby shrieking from the next room.
“I’ll get her,” Randy said. “Stupid neighbor.”
Four weeks later, Randy was back at work and Christine was staying home days with Sally. Sally was in her swing and Christine was washing dishes. Someone knocked on the door. Then knocked again. Then pounded on the door.
“Okay, I hear you,” Christine called. “I’m coming.”
She dried her hands on a towel and looked through the peep hole. No one was there.
As soon as she went back to the dishes, the door was being pounded again.
This time, Christine opened the door.
A gruff looking man walked past and up the stairs.
“Hey, were you knocking on my door?” Christine called after him. “Do you need something?”
“Yeah. I need you to leave me the heck alone, lady,” he said without turning around to look at her. “Stupid broad.”
“Excuse me,” Christine said. “Are you the man who lives above us?”
“What’s it to you?” He turned to look at her, his hand on the railing.
“Well, I was wondering if you could be a little more quiet at night. We have a new baby and she wakes up whenever you stomp on the floor.”
“You gotta new baby?”
“Yes. And it seems that there’s always a lot of noise up there very late at night. Could you please try to walk more gently?”
“Aw, lady, I’m sorry. See, I thought this was a free country and I could walk on my floor however I wanted.” He turned away from her. “Mind your own business, ignorant dame.”
“Well, do you mind at least telling me why you were just knocking on my door?”
“I wasn’t. It was my invisible imaginary friend.”
“You don’t have to be so rude, you know. We’ve got to be able to get along.”
“Yeah, yeah. Right. Get along by keeping you ugly pointy nose outta my business.”
He finished climbing the steps. She heard him turn his key in the lock.
Two weeks later, in the middle of the night, Randy woke up with water dripping on his face. Drip. Drip. Drip. Then faster and faster.
He called the landlord.
The landlord discovered that the bath tube in the apartment upstairs had over flowed.
Renter’s insurance paid for new bedding for Randy and Christine.
The old man from the apartment said he must have forgotten to turn off the water.
Three days after that, during dinner, Randy had enough.
“I can hear him stomping,” he said. “Listen to him. By looking at the guy you’d think he could barely walk. How’s he jumping all the time?”
“I don’t know, honey.” Christine put down her fork. “We have to move. This isn’t working. Everyday at the same time that guy pounds on our door. When I answer it all he does is insult me. If I don’t answer it, he keeps knocking and wakes up Sally.”
“We aren’t moving. Where would we go?”
“But I can’t live like this. I’m the one that’s here all day.”
“I’m going to complain to the landlord.”
“That man will know it’s us.”
“Well, I don’t know if he’ll do something crazy to get back at us.”
“Not if we get him first.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Maybe the best thing is to take things into our own hands. You know, give him a little of his own medicine.”
The next day, Randy and Christine had their plan.
Twice a day, Christine would pound on his door and quickly run away before he was able to answer the door. Several times at night, Randy would pound on the ceiling of what must have been the man’s bedroom floor with a baseball bat.
The most devious of the plan was Randy figuring out how to wire the baby monitor so that Sally’s constant nighttime crying would travel through the vent and up to the neighbor’s apartment.
“Are you sure this isn’t totally evil?” Christine asked, snuggled with Randy on the couch.
“It’s just a tiny evil, Babe,” Randy said. “The old guy can’t win this battle.”
A week later, the landlord stopped by Randy and Christine’s apartment. They had him in. Gave him a cup of coffee. Asked him to have a seat. He remained standing.
“You two need to knock it off,” the landlord said. “Now. Just cut out the pranks.”
“Then you need to ask him to do the same,” Randy said, sipping his coffee. “He terrorizes us.”
“Well, you kids need to know something…”
“What? What do we need to know?”
“You know what, never mind.” He put the coffee down on the table. “Thanks for the coffee. I’m sure it was real expensive. Maybe too good for me. You know.”
“Wait, what are you talking about?” Christine stood. “Please. Just tell us what we need to know.”
“Richie asked me not to tell no one. So I ain’t gonna. Besides, young folks like you don’t care anyway.”
The landlord walked out of the apartment.
“That was weird,” Randy said.
“Yeah. I guess the man upstairs have a few dirty little secrets.” Christine went to check on Sally.
She turned the baby monitor off.
The next morning, after Randy had taken off for work, Christine baked cookies. Chocolate chunk. After the cooled, she put Sally in the baby carrier and took a plate of cookies upstairs.
She knocked on the door. Not pounded. Just knocked. And she didn’t run away when he opened the door.
But he wasn’t the one to open the door.
It was a girl.
But she was big. Like an adult sized person.
Her hair, though, was pulled into messy pig tails above her ears. And she wore a light pink tshirt with a rainbow colored across it in what Christine was sure to be marker ink. The girl smiled, her teeth yellowed and with plague build-up around the gums. She didn’t so much look at Christine as look past her.
“Hi there,” Christine said. “I can’t stay. I just wanted to give you these cookies.”
The girl woman just looked at Christine.
“I live downstairs,” Christine said. “My name’s Christine. What’s your name?”
The girl woman smiled bigger. A rumbling, guttural laugh came from deep within her.
“So, is Richie your dad?”
The girl laughed loudly. And she nodded her head.
“Well, listen, can you please tell him that I’m real sorry for everything.”
The girl nodded more and more, frantic nods and hysterical laughs.
“What are you doing?” Richie asked, walking up from behind Christine. “You get away from her!”
He pushed Christine to the side and closed the door, standing face to face with her.
“I just wanted to bring you some cookies,” Christine said. “Just to say sorry.”
“Take them cookies and shove them.”
“Listen, I’m sorry about all we did.”
Richie closed his eyes. He sighed. The sounds of the girl women were loud. He leaned his head back, against the door.
“You don’t have any idea how difficult this is, lady.”
“My name’s Christine.”
“I don’t give a rats…well, I don’t care what your name is. You’re nothing to me.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Why would I tell you that? What are you, some social worker or something?”
“Yes.” Christine looked down at Sally, who was sleeping in the carrier. “I was before my daughter was born.”
“You gonna call adult services on me?”
“No. Why would I do that?”
“Because I can’t control my daughter. And she’s 37.”
“Have you thought about having her go to a group home?”
“No money. They just wanna put her in the State home. And I’m not doing that to her.” He opened his eyes. “Have you ever been to one of those?”
“Yes. They’re terrible.”
“And I won’t do that. They’d just drug her up all day anyway.” Richie rubbed his forehead. “I’m sorry, lady. I gotta keep her with me. I promised my wife before she died. I can’t go back on that.”
“No, I understand that.”
“I’ll try to keep her from knocking on your door. But I can’t promise anything. Her best friend used to live where you are now. She just wants to say ‘hi’.”
“Well, that makes sense. What if I just say ‘hi’ back to her, then?”
“That would be nice, ma’am.”
“But what about the stomping? Why does she do that all night?”
“She think their’re ants on the floor. She’s trying to smash them. You know. We got that linoleum with specks all over it. I don’t have any money to get new.”
“You think she’d stop stomping if the floor was just one color?”
“Yeah. She doesn’t do that with any other floor.”
“I have an idea.”
Two nights later, Randy and Christine were in bed. And all was quiet.
“I played six games of checkers with her,” Christine said. “I lost every single time.”
“Sounds like you made a new friend.” Randy yawned.
“And you got their floor all installed, I gather?”
“It’s quiet up there, right?”
“It sure is.”
“And they’re coming for dinner tomorrow, right?”
“Yes. Could you pick up some cheese pizza after work? Richie said it’s her favorite.”
They fell asleep.
To quote Holly…. “Love it” 2. 🙂
Oh, good! Thanks, Kathi! 🙂
Disturbing, finding that I wanted so much for them to get back at the man for what he had done to them, that it appeals to my simple-answer, Disneyfied-villain version of life where there are Bad People and there are Good People, and there is never an in-between, never a real explanation of why some people do bad things or treat others with such disrespect. And who really has time to explore all the deep alleyways of another person’s mind? I have work to do, bills to pay, my own family worries and concerns. Now I have to add your family’s troubles to my own list? — God help us all from falling into that kind of thinking.
Exactly. Thanks, Rob, for identifying with this. Yes, I think we all just want to write people off every once in a while.