Seventeen: Into the Outhouse

Posted: November 16, 2012 in The Road to Skid Row

At six by twelve feet, our new home was like Jeffrey Archer’s prison cell, albeit without the extra pillows and weekly laundry service.

Bob Overton had just showed Kate the shower and was now bringing a futon into the room. It was time to talk money. I thanked Bob for his help and insisted we pay him something. A couple days ago Bob said we could stay for free until we found work and could pay rent. Secretly I was very happy with this, but I knew it would be rude not to offer something. People appreciate such social displays, even if they lack conviction.

“We have to pay you something for the room,” I protested mildly, fully expecting him to reject my offer.

Bob took an unusual moment of silence.  I could see dollars and cents calculating in his head as he looked at us.

“Well, let’s call it $500 a month,” he muttered casually.

I must have looked surprised because he quickly reassured us that our first week would be free.

“You’re my guests this week,” he enthused, before giving Kate a prolonged hug and going to bed.

$500 a month, that’s not so bad, I sighed. At least we have somewhere to stay. Sure Bob’s charitable gesture had turned into a commercial venture, but what could you expect? Whims of generosity only go so far before they peter out with hard feelings and eviction notices.

Bob had quite a setup, I learned the next day. He had built three outhouses in his yard and was renting each room for $500 a month. He was renting most of his house out to a family from El Salvador and the front room to a lady from Chile. Without realising it, we had moved into an migrant lodging house with at least three countries represented.

“When all these rooms are occupied I’ll be taking in over $2,000 a month in rent,” Bob told my sister.

Later, after I discovered more about his rental practises, I would regret agreeing to $500 a month. For now, though, I was happy to have a place to sleep. I didn’t want to think about how we would pay the rent, on top of getting money for buses and food. I was too exhausted from moving everything into storage and driving that dammed U-Haul truck.

We were both exhausted and so was Navid, the poor bastard. He almost threw out his back helping us carry our couch down two flights of stairs. That was one act of kindness he’ll regret for a while.

Tune in on Tuesday for the next installment of The Road to Skid Row.

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