Twenty Six: Trouble in the Outhouse

Posted: December 17, 2012 in The Road to Skid Row

“That man is a sleaze!” Kate said angrily. The situation at the house had deteriorated like a trail of thought from Bob’s mind – it went from promising to strange to nonsensical.

Kate and I had just finished speaking to Keiko, Bob’s personal assistant who visited once a week to work on his accounts. Keiko had been renting one of Bob’s outhouses – similar to the one we lived in – as an office for a business she and her friend were starting.

When they signed the contract Bob agreed to improve the look of the property, starting by cleaning up the dog shit in the yard. The three dogs, by the way, belonged to the family who rented the house. Keiko’s gripe was that, 3-months into their contract, this never happened. The yard was still full of dog shit and, on top of that, the dogs barked like crazy every time she and her partner entered the yard. She wrote Bob an email about it and he flipped. He cancelled their contract, told them to get out and refused to return their deposit.

We knew Bob was unhinged, but to terminate a rental agreement because they complained about dog shit? It didn’t make sense. Then Keiko started spilling the beans. According to Keiko, Bob rented half his house to a family from El Salvador: Maria, her husband (who Bob hated) and their two sons.

Maria had worked as a carer for Bob’s wife in the last 7 or so years of her illness. She and her family moved into Bob’s house about the time she started and Bob had moved into an outhouse in the yard. (We later learned the outhouses were built illegally, which explained their lack of insulation and uneven flooring – the interiors looked like a Gaudi imitation gone wrong.)

Keiko’s theory was that since Bob’s wife died a year ago, Maria had become a kind of substitute wife. She cooked meals a few times a week and even did his laundry, Bob gave her a great deal on the rent – apparently she and her family paid just $400 a month, but because she cooked meals he reduced it to just $200. That was $300 less than what Kate and I paid for one room.

Maria had a cosy set up. Then we all started renting rooms – Keiko, me and Kate. Suddenly the kitchen was cramped and people started complaining about the dogs. Fed up and afraid it would go on forever, Maria deliberately aggravated the situation. She stopped picking up dog shit and she poisoned Bob against Keiko and her friend, so that by the time Bob read Keiko’s email complaining about the yard he was ready to evict them both.

Keiko’s story painted Maria as the wicked witch of El Salvador, but maybe it was true. Keiko had been working for Bob for over ten years, after all. Perhaps it explained why our food was disappearing from the kitchen and why Bob was acting strange with us. That night Kate and I slept in a spare outhouse because Bob’s mother was visiting from Ventura. We moved our futons in a few hours earlier so when bedtime came around I could crash out without thinking.

I was about to fall asleep when I felt something weird. Why are my legs wet? I threw off my duvet and saw a huge, brown wet patch on my bed sheets. Somebody’s urinated on my bed! I leaned in and sniffed around. Smells like… chicken broth? Who the hell would pour chicken broth on my futon?

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