My landlord runs a modest business—a starvation level, hope the big account doesn’t pay late or I’m sunk, example of American bootstrappery—from the room beneath me. Between us are only the ancient, well polished floorboards and the two towels I sit my chair upon. When Sol occupied this room, before he was ejected to make room for my presence, this had been a problem, as the woman who paid Sol’s rent, rather than send her son to private school, would sometimes stop by to be serviced in true urban cowboy fashion while the landlord was having a business meeting below! On one occasion, a “Yee-hah!” from Sol, as the floorboards creaked and groaned, ended one such contract negotiation.
I, on the other hand, am quiet to a fault. This past week as I reclined in Shayne’s trailer in Cody, Wyoming my landlord called:
“Mister Jim, are you alive?”
“Yes. I am.”
“I’ve been sniffing around your door for a week wondering when I should kick it in and thought I’d see if you actually answered your phone.”
In fact, I am so quiet that my long-time friend of 22 years constantly apologizes for getting loud on the phone when he finds out his partner embezzled, when he finds out his lead used the company gas card to drive a mini-bus full of whores to Ocean City, when he notices that his girlfriend actually cracked his brand new safe, and, of course, when said girlfriend picks up my boxed edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and hurls it at him. [Honestly, she said, with a girly shrug, “Mister Jim, those books are so pretty, can I use them for a bookend for my china closet,” I had no idea that she was intent on weaponizing my literature.]
Today my landlord announced the end of an era, “Mister Jim, you will be glad to know that the operations of Harm City Installations will no longer be interfering with the publishing of jameslafond.com.”
Intuiting that he had thought himself a nuisance all along, despite my protestations otherwise, I decided to be blunt:
“Sir, when a medieval lord stepped out upon the roof of his buttressed castle and peered over the crenulated mantels of his keep, he did not worry himself over the affairs of the serfs in the fields beneath, let alone the composition of the mud bricks they were baking for their own insignificant use.”
He looked at me, and then said, “You mean, since I’m no longer being ripped off and assaulted and lied to at my desk, Harm City Installations has fallen in terms of entertainment value?”
I just grinned and we went upon our way.
My oddly quite life, the occasional visitation of a boxer, a silent woman in a trench coat or a White Nationalist militant, all add to the mystique that I’m some kind of undead oracle. But the life of a writer and those he shares space with often seems strange. I have found that not attempting to be understood makes my presence easier on all.