Shut Up, Little Man!

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving : Stories and anecdotes : Shut Up, Little Man!

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In the Spirit of Thanksgiving —

I knocked on the door. I could hear the white noise of their television through the door. I knocked again and waited. Nothing. I knocked once again. Finally, ever so slowly, Raymond opened the door. He was severely drunk. The drunkest I had ever seen him. And that is saying a lot. His head was sunk down, supported only by his chest. His glasses had slid halfway down the bridge of his red pin-cushion nose. He swayed slightly from side to side, steadying himself with one hand on the door jamb.

I said: "Howdy. Ray? I just wanted to tell you, you know, we’ve had some unkind words, and. . ." "Who are you?" he snorted.

Nervously, and a bit disconcerted, I replied: "Your neighbor." It struck me as odd that I had lived directly next door to Ray in the same building for over a year, I had had at least a dozen verbal altercations with him face to face, and once almost came to blows with him after he woke me up at 4:00 AM, and yet, he didn’t even recognize me! He had no idea who I was! He was farther gone than Mitchell and I had imagined.

I looked at Ray before me. He was a mess. Sometime in the last two days he had puked on himself and had let the vomit dry; big chunks of vomit clung to the front of his shirt. He sort of wove back and forth, attempting to maintain his balance and to not let gravity have its way with him.

I stammered out: "I feel bad, you know, that we have had some harsh words. So, in the spirit of thanksgiving, I thought I would stop by and. . . you wanna have a beer with me? Sit and talk?"

Ray mumbled: "Do we have anything to talk about?"

I had not anticipated Ray asking any questions, and the question he posed was a good one. I guess I thought the offer of some free booze would be all Ray needed to see to grant me an audience. I responded half-heartedly: "Uh, the neighborhood, you know."

He opened the door wider and let me pass. When I got inside the apartment, I was horrified. It was like a scene from Dante in there. At least two of the living room walls featured holes, concavities, craters, and deep indentations from angry fists and shoulders and rumbling bodies [Peter once referred to these commemorative marks on the walls as "wounds"]. The room reeked of rotten fruit, rank socks, and that distinct smell of old men’s bodies. It was dark in there, literally and otherwise.

Ray looked down at the ground where two cockroaches had darted across an old newspaper: "Hey look. I, I, I, I, I, I am not a bad man, and (unintelligible)."

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