He was easing much too close to my unit, looking in my storage shed which shared a wall with his. In the fifteen years I’d been at EZStore, I’d never seen anybody even on the same row as my unit before today.
I don’t like neighbors. I really didn’t like him.
“It’s July and we’re in five acres of asphalt, what do you expect?” I didn’t make eye contact and got my small frame between his prying eyes and my unit, where I pulled the crinkled aluminum roller door all the way down.
Sweat mixed with sun-block was burning my eyes and the LA smog, viscous and practically spreadable, wasn’t helping any. The tone in my voice made it pretty clear I didn’t want to chat.
“You got yours fixed with power? Whatcha running in there?” Those were two questions more than I wanted to answer and I started scanning the lot to see if we were alone. Usually I made my visits to EZStore late at night but the electrical storm this morning left me uneasy.
Way too many people during the day. I wouldn’t have come had I not been worried about the freezer.
Open doors on multiple units in my field of view looked like spring break at the dorms at State. Boxes and clothes strewn about, busted up bicycles and crap that husbands try and hide from their wives. Without storage rental units, the divorce rate in this country would be twice what it is today.
“It’s a generator. I’m keeping a generator here and I just wanted to see if it is still working.” This time I looked him straight in his nosy eyes and shot him the meanest back off look I could muster. I had not as yet had the opportunity to check on the freezer and see if my packages survived the power outage.
I could hardly go back in with this shit-bird hanging out.
“Say buddy, you don’t think you could give me a hand, do you? I got this box in my truck..” I was cutting this off right now.
“No! Look, pal, I got stuff I need to do and I ain’t got time to talk or help you out, sorry but no.” I decided right there to split and go get breakfast. The freezer was humming and, while I didn’t get a chance to check, my packages were probably just fine. I wasn’t hanging out here anymore, with mister chatty/nosy, I would come back after breakfast.
Huevos Rancheros at Dianna’s always leaves me in a better mood and that’s exactly where I was ‘till I rounded the corner at EZStore and saw that my neighbor was not only still hanging around, he had my unit door half way open and was staring, transfixed at my freezer.
“What the shit is going on?” I pulled my car between him and the door, he was practically penned in.
“Hey now, pal..” He was hemming and I could tell that he could tell this scene didn’t bode well for him.
“I’m not your pal, now suppose you tell me why you’re in my shit here.”
“Look man, you split and didn’t lock your unit, I was only trying to help.” He was sweating and he was lying. I really despise sweaty liars.
By now I was out of the truck and even though I was smaller than him, I pushed him into the unit, spun around, and quickly pulled the door down. The dusty, haze made way in through the top cracks in the unit and it there was enough light in there to see what I needed to see.
“Hey, pal..what’s going on, what are you doing, wait a minute, I was just trying to help you out. I thought you might need a hand.”
“Like I told you partner, I’m not your pal and I don’t need a hand, I got plenty.” With that, I cold cocked him, the palm of my hand coming up swift under his nose which splintered like taffy into the soft fleshy tissue surrounding his septum. Blood, the deep oxygenated purple kind, came out in clumps from the fleshy mass that used to be his nose.
While this wasn’t my normal work space, it would have to do now that I had him here. I get him froze up for a few days and take him back to my workshop at home one evening next week. I pulled his keys and would ditch his truck later.
I spun the combo lock on the freezer. A good thing, I’d had a barbeque last weekend as I had just enough space for him to fit.
A little bleach and a roll of paper towels and I got most of it cleaned up.
I had no trouble getting him up-top the rest of the roasts. One of the benefits of volunteer fire fighting is learning technique for firemen’s carry and keeping fit enough to execute when need be.
I hadn’t been back to EZStore since ditching his truck at LAX and leaving him chill up into a fetal shaped ice cube a week earlier.
I couldn’t even believe my misfortune upon pulling up to my unit. The sumbitch on the other side of my unit is there and give me a big “howdy-do.”
Wants to know if it’s hot enough for me.
I say nothing and don’t even unlock my unit. I head back to my truck.
“Where ya going pal? You forget something?” He says as I start it up.
El-Ay. Suburbs in search of a city. 9 million Angelenos most who don’t give a shit about their next door neighbors or who their kids play with. I’ve been on the same block for 14 years and don’t even so much as get a wave from anyone who eats, sleeps and craps 20 yards from me.
Now, in the span of two weeks I’ve got two storage neighbors who think I’m their pal. I’m NOT anyone’s pal. I look neighbor two in the face and tell him where I’m going.
“I need to pick up another freezer. I’ll be back soon.”
Michael J. Solender is the editor of Full of Crow’s nonfiction magazine, On The Wing. You can find more of his work at his website and also at the NOT.