Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Mr. Peabody of Summit Street

The toilet always ran.  It was in effect the soundtrack to the house.  That winter someone had discovered David Bowie.  Bowie records played through the slow march of gray days.  It seemed odd to hear a song like “Heroes” when out of the house without the backdrop of the running toilet in the background.  It was almost like a keyboard wash over everything.  The wind rattled the house.  The toilet ran.  Pizza boxes and green imported beer bottles on the tables.  Someone had found the cat outside in the cold.  They fed it canned tunafish, and as a result the cat stayed.  It was named “Mr. Peabody of Summit Street” and when calling it they all used the full name, even well after the joke ceased to be funny to them.

They usually lit candles in the evening.  At first it was only to please Jim’s crunchy granola girlfriend but soon it became the accepted ambiance for the house.  There was a large TV in the downstairs common area which had been purchased in a confusing rent to own scheme involving multiple changes of address until the bills stopped coming.  Their friend Bruce had a job at the independent video store at the corner that had a section of independent and foreign films that was surprisingly large but still one third the size of the pornography section in the backroom.  The backroom was divided off from the other titles by a curtain of wooden beads that would make a clicking sound when the men walked into it trying to look inconspicuous.  No matter how they attempted to slink in the room, the beads would announce their entrance to all the other customers who would reflexively turn to look at the noise.

Bruce would stop on his way home from work to drop off movies and purchase pot from “Dime Bag Donnie”.  Donnie had the room in the attic which he sublet.  He was very quiet, always paid on time, and smelled distinctly like mold.  Still, he was OK.  By the time Bruce would have finished his business with Donnie they would have started up on whatever movies Bruce had dropped off with the instructions of “you NEED to watch this RIGHT NOW”.  Bruce would sit on the couch and nod his head in approval while staring at the screen.  That winter he had been making them work their way through Bergman and Fellini.  It took a lot of green bottled beer to get through Bergman.   

The fire probably started from one of the candles.  They would never know for sure.  There was never one of those investigations like on TV.  It was the smoke that woke him up.  He had been sleeping long enough to be disoriented.  He ran outside from his second story corner bedroom in a pair of sweats with no shirt on.  He was in the front yard coughing.  There was fast panicked talk from all of them.  Are you OK?  Is everyone out?  The street flickered in orange and yellow.  A few blocks away a siren approached.  A neighbor must have called the fire department.  A crowd began to gather as the flames crept up the walls towards the roof.  Jim was the one that noticed.  "Hey!  Where's Donnie?  Did he get out?"  The house went up pretty quickly, the front door now framed in flames.  Donnie wasn't there.  People stood in small groups of two or three staring at the fire. No one spoke.  There was an instant where he thought he saw Mr. Peabody of Summit Street at the attic window.  Then he was gone.  It was all gone.



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