11 comments

Drama

           Margarita and Al were generally compliant kids. Obviously they had their moments, but they were definitely ranking in the category of better tenants. They lived with their father, Jerry, and their mother, Dee, and though they made very little at the rubber-eraser factory a two-mile walk away they were two of those pure, generous souls that gave most of what they earned back to the less fortunate. Like the less fortunate would want a five-cent hamburger pack. But the giving and all that seemed to rub off on their kids, who never broke a plate or scribbled on the crayon on the walls, so despite their hippy-happy attitudes I let them rent from one of the nicer buildings.

           Location-wise, it wasn’t that far away from the “worse” buildings—which were still pretty nice, considering the cheap rent I was charging—but it was made out of bricks and wooden floors, and the roof never leaks and every room had a window up to the fire-code. I guess I should have paid more attention to the fire-code in my other buildings. There was this one deep down a dead-end that backed into the Power Plant’s waste dump and had falling-off siding and shingles and cramped rooms inside with sticking doors that locked when you didn’t want them to. A tree had fallen over the front sidewalk but you couldn’t see the difference between the trunk and the grass because a layer of ivy, weeds, and overgrown shrubs shrouded the whole property evenly.

           It had become my experiment to see what would end first: the tenants or the house. I gave myself two years to play, and in those years there would be no repairs. No matter who called there would be no plumbers, electricians, or landscapers allowed on the properties, and no matter who complained I would not react. On Day 54 some tenants threatened to leave and I told them to go on ahead, I was saving so much money from the lack of payed help that I could sell the building as-is and still make a gross profit.

           The only downside was that by Day 216 the Power Plant could no longer see the border of the property above the cover of shrubbery, so their smoldering waste dump slowly crept to the edge of the crumbling house. When the tree had fallen down it pulled live wires to the perimeter of the dump, and as could be predicted on Day 403 an exploded metal pipe shot fiery embers everywhere, one singed a wire, and the whole building lit up like Pompeii the Second. The building was fried like a pancake—there was no building five minutes after the fact! People were running, screaming, tossing pets out the window, it was wild! I even got a sweet insurance claim by the next week.

           Because electricity runs quickly a few of the surrounding buildings got scorched on the outer walls but the insides were okay, just smoky. And the good buildings were untouched. It was as if that one bad building had never existed, that was how perfect everything else was, except for the electricity. I guess that was my fault. I found that I could hook up one generator to the plant’s excess untrapped gas reserves and that trusty generator powered up all of the buildings for practically pennies. Until the fire burned through the wires and the generator had nothing to connect to.

           Because it wasn’t the end of my little game, I told the tenants to just deal without electricity for a little bit. I mean, people survived before power! I was even so nice as to give them candles for emergencies—only partly as a joke—but nobody seemed to use them.

           Then one day Margarita and Al just popped a carrot-colored tent out on the back, actually mowed, lawn of my nice building and sat down on ratty beach towels in front of it. What was happening? I had made my rules very clear: if your lawn looks nice, don’t touch it; if it doesn’t, touch it at your own risk. And Margarita and Al were not ones to break my rules.

           Then Jerry came out. I snorted. There was no way he would set them straight. They could probably make up how this was all a big fundraiser and he would blindly follow.

           “Come on, dear!” Jerry waved to Dee. “Look at what the kids are doing!”

           Sitting on towels. That’s what the kids were doing, sitting on towels.

           “Al, Marge, you’re going to get grass stains on your pants.” Dee affectionately pulled a strand of braided hair behind Margarita’s ear. “Why don’t you sit inside!”

           “We’re protesting!” The beads at the bottom of Margarita’s braids clinked with her enthusiasm.

           Oh, goody, this was going to be fun. Jerry asked what exactly stemmed Margarita’s rebellion.

           “The fire,” Al popped in.

           “But we’ve already organized a free room-share for all the people experiencing homelessness right now due to the destruction.” Jerry was being extremely politically-correct. “You know how thankful Lee was for the pullout couch.” Probably because a pullout couch was better than his previous pile of blankets in a corner. “What else is there to protest?”

           “The fact that the landlord isn’t doing anything to repair the building.” Margarita crossed her arms.

           “And stole their insurance deductible.” Al crossed his, too.

           Jerry gave Dee a pointed look and they hurried inside. Thank goodness. Somebody would be knocking some sense into these kids.

           Then they returned with sleeping bags, blankets, a bag of marshmallows, and a small army of tenants ready for a “night under the stars” (their words, not mine, and how many more stars did they need: the worst building’s roof had holes galore). A few exuberant children ran around tossing and kicking a small cloth ball. Somebody brought out a portable radio that could barely be heard above the joyful shouts and laughs of people showing off their most spastic moves. Somebody kissed somebody else and everybody clapped—there would probably be an engagement in a month. A few older men knelt in a circle and scraped sticks against more sticks and blew on them until a campfire sputtered and ignited, and they surrounded it with a layer of protective rocks so the whole thing looked like a geode: hard, rocky, and safe on the outside but dazzling and light on the inside. A few younger men then roasted hot dogs and stale buns and passed them out, and though it was weak the fire didn’t stop burning amidst the movement. The sun sank and sank more as the sky went from baby blue to petal pink to tangerine and crimson and deep purple before settling on an inky blue, and the stars blinked faithfully like protective angels watching over the joyous scene below. Marshmallows were ripped out of the bag and promptly burned, but that didn’t stop anybody from having their fingers practically stuck to their lips. Eventually one exhausted toddler nodded off, then another, until near midnight the group decided it was time to sleep and they set up their sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets on the lawn and snored in harmony.

           It would have been hilarious if it had started raining. The only ones with a tent were Jerry and Dee. Of course they were too virtuous to use it, instead giving it to Mr. and Ms. Johnson, the oldest of the tenants, who struggled standing upright in the slightest of breezes, and though they probably would have welcomed more in a torrential downpour, the tent was nowhere near large enough for the entire group.

           Unfortunately, I couldn’t control the weather. But as I sat in the basement of the best building watching the evening’s events unfold on large, high-end security-camera screens in front of me, occasionally rewinding the footage to keep tabs on everybody’s face and their extent of participation, I wondered what I could control. Many things, probably. After all, I owned the buildings and the insurance reimbursement.

           Wait. This barely required thinking. Live wires were all over the place—even in the best building the attic drywall wasn’t the picture of well-sealed—and these idiot tenants had left me a perfect smoldering fire, just waiting ravenously there to grow.

September 07, 2020 20:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

11 comments

Amber Hartung
16:29 Sep 08, 2020

it was pretty good

Reply

Meggy House
18:11 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you so much.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Regina Perry
01:55 Sep 08, 2020

I love your narrator's sense of humour. I like the idea of the experiment, just letting everything go and laughing about it along the way. And I love the way you ended it, with that evil glee at causing disaster. Cue evil cackle! There's a lot of passive voice in this piece (The tree had fallen down, marshmallows were ripped out, etc.) but I think you did it to create the effect of a mostly passive watcher telling the story from afar, so it worked. A few small edits: "They lived with their father Jerry and mother Dee," The way you hav...

Reply

Meggy House
18:11 Sep 08, 2020

Oh thank you so much! Yes, the added "their" works wonderfully and I didn't mean that they have multiple parents so thank you for catching it! Thank you for the cloth edit (I don't know, cloth is just one of those words I spell weirdly all the time), and your commas and comments are so very helpful. I really appreciate your feedback!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Shea West
15:57 Oct 05, 2020

Your attention to detail is great.

Reply

Meggy House
17:32 Oct 05, 2020

Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Zea Bowman
21:18 Sep 19, 2020

Wow! I really enjoyed reading this story; it was so full of great descriptions, and I loved the way you ended it! I know that right now I'm going to be one of the annoying people that asks you to read my story (or stories), but it would be a big help. Don't feel like you have to :)

Reply

Meggy House
14:01 Sep 20, 2020

I would love to read one of your works! I'm a bit busy right now with school but I promise I'll get on it before the weekend ends.

Reply

Meggy House
14:01 Sep 20, 2020

And thank you for your feedback :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zea Bowman
20:35 Sep 14, 2020

Great story! I Ioved the descriptions and the way you used the prompt to create this story. I'm glad I read it. Keep up the good work!

Reply

Meggy House
00:07 Sep 15, 2020

Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply