Fiction Series: Strange Happenings on Wildflower Drive - Part 1
I walk into the office slowly; my stomach fuller than it’s been in weeks, and also about twenty minutes late. After stuffing my face with Cameron last night, I slept like a rock. I wave to the receptionist, then dart off to my office to put my things down. I drop them on the desk, then turn around to get coffee. I see Kendra. “Hey,” she says.
“Hey” I say.
“Um, by any chance, is my sriracha still at your house?” She asks. I calmly shake my head, lying. I don’t even like sriracha. Whatever. I need caffeine before I start feeling empathy towards others. Someone’s fussing with the coffee machine, so I decide to start things off with a cup of water. They leave and I stand before the beast, fiddling with it until black coffee fills my mug. I grab the full mug from the machine and walk back to my office.
“What’s up?” The guy from the mailroom asks, placing my paystub on the desk.
“Not much here,” I look up. “Just ready to treat myself to a full tank of gas and some paid bills. You?”
“Tired, man,” he says. “Been a long week.”
I said, “Ain’t that the truth!”
“They work us too hard, man” he says.
“Fuckin’ right,” I mutter. “Especially on what they pay around here.”
“They not paying you the big bucks?” He asks.
“If I was at a restaurant,” I say, picking up the paystub, “I’d send this shit back and tell em it’s not done.” He laughs.
“Alright man, I’ll see you later,” he says, getting his things and walking out. I open the stub.
“Can you believe this bullshit?” I ask the receptionist.
“Yeah, I can,” she says, sotto voce. “They always wanna go around on some bullshit here.”
“I can tell you one thing,” I say. “I can tell you that folks got me fucked up if they think I’m doing any work today.”
“You should be looking for jobs,” she says. I look around.
“I started two months ago,” I say. “So they’re replacing me with some intern who’ll work half the hours for, like, a third of my salary.” Ed, walking past, stops when he sees me. He joins me at the front desk.
“So he told you the news?” He asks the receptionist.
“Yeah,” she says. “Terrible.”
“And now my workload will triple,” he says. “I was telling them how much Tristan takes off of my plate but they don’t listen.”
“This place is going to hell,” she says.
“Pretty much,” I say. “They could’ve at least had the decency to tell me this before today, so I don’t have to take all this shit out of my office at once.”
“I think all of this calls for a two-hour lunch,” the receptionist says.
“It’s 10:37,” I say.
“I mean later,” she says. We laugh. “I’ll let you guys know when I’m heading out.”
“So I got fired today,” I say. Cameron cringes. I finish my drink.
“Sheesh,” he says. “So I’m guessing you’re looking for a new job?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I got a little severance so I’m just gonna cool it until the unemployment kicks in for now.”
“You know, if you’re interested…” Cameron says, trailing off.
“I’m thinking about it,” I say. “Just until I get a new job or something.”
“Well, while you think, we should go see this friend of mine,” he says. I raise my eyebrow.
“Do you mean a…” I trail off.
“No,” Cameron says, flatly. “He’s a photography student. You’d need pictures, and he needs to fill his portfolio. It’s a perfect match.” I down another drink.
“What the hell,” I say.
“Perfect,” Cameron says. “I think he’s free now, actually.”
"Breathe. Relax." Earl goes through the instructions flatly. "And none of that eyes closed shit. Are you sure you wanna do this?"
"I'm pretty sure," I think and speak slowly.
"Listen, if you're not all-in, let me know now so I can get someone else to do it."
"I'm in. Plus, it's pretty late to change my mind on it now."
"Please," Earl zips the bag shut. "I'm sure mommy told you you're special. But you're not. Not on this."
“Do you need some Midol?” Cameron asks. “Because the bitchiness is a bit much.”
“I mean, he looks uncertain,” Earl says, gesturing in my direction. “I don’t like shooting them when they’re uncertain. I really don’t like shooting them when they’re uncertain.”
“I’m more uncertain about these clothes,” I say, holding the backpack.
“Really?” Cameron asks. “I remember you in college. Modesty wasn’t exactly your strong suit.”
“True,” I say. I open the bag and pull something out. “I never wore these, though. Just towels and extra-smedium shirts and stuff.”
“And those red skinny jeans,” Cameron says.
“Damn those jeans,” I say, shaking my head.
“You couldn’t fit a thought in those,” he says.
“Okay, I’m a little drunk now,” I say. “Let’s get this done.”
I walk up the stairs to my apartment, keys in hand. I see Anthony leaving someone’s apartment, hair disheveled and shirt crooked. “Hey,” I say.
“Oh, hey,” he says.
“I thought you quit?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “I was just tying up some loose ends.”
“Um, okay,” I say. “Found a better job?”
“Kinda,” he says. He approaches me as I walk to my door. “People here are weird, man.”
“How so?” I ask, squinting.
“Not you,” he says, “but a lot of people here are kinda…out there, man.”
“Huh,” I say. “Well, I know the Finches and Carmichaels are serial adulterers-“
“And the couple in 1A,” he cuts in. “And in apartment 36.”
“Your shirt’s crooked,” I said. “I never understood why they numbered the apartments like that.”
“Something about they were building an expansion and fucked up the paperwork,” he said. “I think.”
“That’s weird,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says, heading towards the stairs. “I have to go. See you around.”
“Yeah, take care,” I say.
“And make sure you boil your water before you drink it for the next couple of weeks.” He darts down the stairs. I unlock my door and walk in. I hear the Carmichaels’ door opening as I quickly push mine shut.
“So, look!” Paul says, “I’ll give you a quick walkthrough, then I’ll leave you to decide if you want the job or not.”
“Uh, sure,” I say.
“So, as you know,” he says. “I got 15 apartments across five floors. It’s pretty straightforward. Any service requests come to the building email, forwarded to you.”
“So I’m guessing that means I’ll have to fix my own radiator,” I say.
“After what happened to the super before Anthony?” He says. “Not a chance. I’ll have to call the plumber for that.” I raise an eyebrow.
“What happened?” I ask.
“Let’s just say, steam is no joke.” He cringes. “Anyways, I got a minor service call I’ll bring you on, just to get a feel for things around here. The tenant’s out of town, so I’m just gonna use the passkey.” We walk up to the fourth floor.
“What’s minor to you?” I ask. He paces himself on the stairs; I typically like to fly up and down these.
“It’s honestly just a bunch of common sense stuff that I don’t trust the tenants with,” he says. “Something needs to be mounted, or there’s a hole in the wall or you gotta drill out a lock or something, they’ll call you.” We arrive at the apartment and Paul unlocks the door. We walk in and take a look around.
:Oh, my,” I say. I place my fingers over my mouth.
“Heh,” Paul says, chuckling.