After Jeff the rookie cop and his wife left, I began to think maybe I had been a little hasty with Swamp Thing. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to collect rent on empty apartments, even if there was some risk involved.
Then again maybe the little old ladies were the way to go. They sure wouldn’t be having wild parties or fights with their boy friends at all hours. There would also be something positive about them being snoopy. The enclosed and locked court yard would be easy to manage for seniors as well. They would probably provide their own lounge chairs.
With that in mind, I dressed for the cold so that I could ride the Gunny’s bike to the senior center to put a note on the Bulletin board. I took my morning shower then began to dress for the ride. I first worked my way into a bra and panties. Then I pulled on the long thermal suit made for a teenage boy. After the thermal suit it was heavy weight jeans, yes they come in different weights now, and a thick wool shirt. The shirt was Air Force Blue, because it had been part of a uniform I wore many years before. I had saved it like a few other things, just because I liked the way it looked on my oddly shaped body. Dressed with all the clothes, I was beginning to lose any shape I had. That in and of itself might not have been a completely bad thing.
I struggled into a sweat shirt and then a slightly thermal lined nylon parka with hood. I also wore a ski hood and scarf. Finally the bike helmet went on top of the parka hood. In the well insulated outfit I was forced to waddle to the bike. It had been stored inside, so even though it was below forty degrees, the bike’s motor started right up. I was pleasantly surprised.
The bike actually performed quite well. I was surprised how much different the world seemed at 15 to 20 miles per hour. As I rode through town I saw store owners opening up. I even nodded, waved, and shouted a greeting to the one or two I recognized. It was a different view of the town for me. I have to admit there was something somehow more intimate about the experience of riding to breakfast.
I pulled the bike into the parking lot of the local McDonald’s. The town was too small for more than one, but it was a nice large one. I knew none of the people in the dining room there. They all seemed to know each other, at least on sight, but not me. I was the odd chick out. I didn’t mind. I was a little sorry that all the months that I had been home, I had eaten a biscuit at my desk almost every morning.
I tried their coffee and biscuit and found them wanting. I had stopped at the restaurant only because it was near the senior community center, so all was not lost. I got to watch a reasonably young father and his two kids having breakfast. He looked as though he was in a routine with them, so I figured he was the stay at home dad. Not only that everyone in the place knew the kids and spoke to them. Obviously he and the kids were regulars there. Several of the older folks also seemed to be even more well known than others. It seemed that there was a whole subculture thing going on in that restaurant. Most likely there were similar groups in other restaurants as well.
Once I finished my coffee I emptied the tray in the trash then recovered my helmet from the seat beside me. I got all my hoods in place before an older gentleman asked, “Is that your bike in the parking lot with the motor on it?”
“Yes Sir, it is my bike,” I replied.
“Do you ride it much in this weather?” he asked.
“Not so far this year, but I’m starting to ride it more today. I am going to see how it goes. It’s really a very different experience from driving a car.”
“I can imagine a cold one,” he said.
“Anything that isn’t covered does get cold I admit. At least that has been my experience so far.” I replied turning toward the door.
I noticed that lots of people smiled at me as I passed. When I got to the parking lot, I started the bike and was happy that it didn’t embarrass me by not starting. I climbed on board pedaled a few times and then dropped the motor. The bike took right off, I was quite pleased. The four blocks to the senior center passed quickly. Once there I had to wait ten minutes in the parking lot before the doors opened at nine.
The slightly chubby lady who opened the doors was wearing a beautiful smile. She obviously enjoyed her job. It had been a long time since I could say that. Two seniors and I entered the the center together. It was warm inside and the others seemed to enjoy that. I hoped that it wasn’t because they were living with insufficient heat. I had heard stories and hoped that they were not true around my town at least.
“Hello,” I said to the lady who had opened the door, after I followed her to her desk. “I was wondering is there was a bulletin board where I might post an announcement of apartments for rent?”
“We have a bulletin board and I do not censer it, so sure you can post anything you like as long as it is legal.” She smiled.
“I’m pretty sure they are legal.” I said with a smile of my own. Do you have a pen and paper I could buy or borrow?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said pushing a cheap ballpoint pen and a pink post it note pad to me. It was at least the large post its. I wrote a quick note about the apartment, listing its features and plugging the security features. I was finished and out of the senior center by 9:30AM.
At ten I placed a call to Amy the firefighter who wanted to know the details of the apartment. When I told her that the place would rent for four fifty with a surcharge for the heat in winter she said, “Thanks, I’ll get back with you tomorrow. I am at work now and can’t do anything anyway.”
“That is fine, I promised to let you know and I did. You do whatever you feel is in your best interest.” Since I had paid cash all the way down the line, and I wasn’t totally broke, I didn’t feel pressured to rent to just anyone. I did know that the day might come that I did feel like that, but the fact that I lived there would probably keep me from renting to any really sleazy people.
The theme from the Magnificent Seven interrupted me watching a cop show from the night before. I seldom stayed up to watch shows past nine on live TV. I preferred to watch them the next day at my convenience.
“Hello,” I said quickly. I always answered fast to kill that music.
“Hello, I’m calling about the apartment.” The voice on the phone said calmly.
“Yes Ma’am what can I tell you?” I asked. I hadn’t quite gotten her age from her voice, but I could tell she was an adult.
“Well, I guess first of all what is the rent?”
“The rent is $450 a month which includes water hot and cold. The heat is hot water radiators and there is a surcharge when it comes on in the winter, The surcharge is based on actual cost divided by the number of occupied units. There is no pass through fee.” I said.
“You are responsible for the electric bill. Your Air Conditioner is a through the wall unit, which you control and pay with your electric bill. I will pay for any repairs or maintenance to it.”
“Okay, what is this enhanced security?” she asked.
“There are three exterior security cameras, motions detector exterior lighting, an electric locked gated entrance to the courtyard from the parking lot. Through that gate is the only way into the courtyard and then to the apartments. There is a call system for visitors. Someone has to allow them inside the locked gate. You will get the web address to monitor the cameras, if you wish. You can use that to see who has requested entry. If it is not someone you are expecting or someone you know, you can call the police.”
“Now that is a nice system. How large are the apartments?” She asked.
“The apartments are one bedroom efficiency apartments,” I admitted.
“When would be a good time for my husband and I to come see the apartment?” she asked.
“Almost anytime as long as you give me some advanced notice. I live in one of the apartments myself.” I informed her. I gave that exact story to everyone who called after that first couple. I was surprised that there were more than I anticipated. I guess it just goes to show again how little patience I have.
The first unit went to the older couple who called. Surprisingly enough it wasn’t for them. It was for their granddaughter. She was the only grand child who had not gone to or planned to attend a four year college. Sarah Beth had enrolled in a one year certificate program at the community college.
The older couple who came to look at the apartment were paying a lump sum toward the college of each grand child, since they knew one way or another the government was going to get it, if they didn’t. Sarah Beth’s tuition was going to be minimal, so they had decided to pay the one year rent on an apartment for her. They wanted her to be safe above all else. Sarah Beth was not the brightest light on the tree they insinuated.
“Well guys I don’t babysit, but if she calls out for help, I will definitely help her.” I suggested.
“We couldn’t ask for any more. Now if you will complete the lease, I will write you a check for the years rent. I realize there will be an additional charge for the heat this year and probably some of next year.”
Unless you guys go ahead and rent the apartment, I can’s guarantee it will be here when she is ready to start school,” I explained.
“Oh we know that. Sarah is working now at the mall in a jewelry store. She will most likely be there until after Christmas. Her classes start in January so it will work out fine. We may be paying fourteen months instead of twelve, but it will be worth it.” The grandmother said.
“Now you know the place is unfurnished?” I asked.
“That is going to be the most fun,” grandma said. “I have a house full of furniture that nobody wants.”
“We accumulated it over fifty years and now just because it isn’t cardboard and wood chips nobody wants it. We are both looking forward to filling this little place with furniture for Sarah Beth.” Grandpa said.
I have a feeling this has as mucht to do with you guys as it does with Sarah Beth.” I said smiling.
“Maxine, to be honest we see more of us in Sarah Beth than any of the others. We would never tell any of them that though.”
“I won’t either. Unless they piss me off,” I said smiling.
“But you will be there, if she needs you?” Grandpa asked.
“Sure, but the cops are just down the street a few blocks,” I suggested.
“I will feel better with you two doors down,” he said smiling. He obviously knew who I was. Neither of us brought it up.
We did the paperwork and I gave them the keys. One metal key to the door and a plastic card for the gate lock was their set. It took a whole hour for them to get back with a thrilled Sarah Beth. Sarah Beth was 18 and cute as a button. She was about forty pounds over weight but she also carried it very well. She had a body that was proportional unlike me with small boobs and a big ass. Sarah had big boobs and a big ass, her body type was a lot like Kate’s,