Twenty Seven: It Stinks of Chicken

Posted: December 20, 2012 in The Road to Skid Row

“Bob, we need to speak with you about something.”

Bob picked up the serious tone in my voice and cast me a worried look. He knew something was up.

“Somebody has… poured chicken broth on my bed. There is a big brown wet patch, it stinks of… well, it stinks of chicken.”

Bob studied my sister and me for a second.

“I know what’s going on… I know who did this,” he sighed. “Maria is unhappy, I don’t know why, but she’s not happy and it looks like she lost her temper.”

“Okay, but what’s going to happen to us? I mean, if she does something like this, what is she going to do next? We don’t even have locks on our door, Bob, anybody could come in,” Kate protested.

“I’ll tell you what we do,” Bob rushed, like he’d just had hit eureka. “We pretend like this never happened. You know what a Japanese person does when they’re pissed off with their neighbour? They slash their tires in the middle of the night, and then the next morning they help their neighbour put on a fresh set of tires. How do I know this? I’ve been into this stuff since the ‘70s. So if we…”

“Bob, that’s crazy. We can’t just ignore this,” I insisted.

“That’s exactly what we do, Tom. I mean, everyone makes mistakes when they get angry. And you know, since you two moved in I’ve had endless troubles. My coffee machine breaks and then my internet stops working – I think you’ll have to hook up to your own internet soon.”

“We’re leaving Bob,” I said. Kate and I agreed beforehand that depending on how Bob dealt with our complaint, we would go. I didn’t know how he would take the news though; he was so unpredictable he could have easily started a tirade of ranting. I was surprised when he suddenly looked relieved.

“When are you going?” He asked.

“Tomorrow, Kate has a friend in Santa Monica who has a spare room.”

“Ah, I’m sad to see you guys go. And I’m really going to miss you,” Bob gushed while entrapping my sister in a bear hug.

Bob moved us to Santa Monica in his car the next day. He took the scenic route, stopping by an apartment he used to rent in Venice Beach and his old high school in Santa Monica. Talking about his childhood by the bay, he became tender and sweet. Over the course of the journey his crazy mask fell off and I saw him for what he was: obese and unkempt, a lonely man who had just lost his wife and was slowly losing his mind.

Bob once talked about how at a low point in his life he had been $200 away from pushing a shopping cart for a living. Assuming it was true, he was lucky to have all he had – a house, a car and a pension. But even then he couldn’t escape the forces which, as Raymond Carver wrote, “could cripple or bring down a man.” Loss, loneliness and age.

After settling into the new digs I got an email from a friend in England. He was getting married in two weeks – the whole thing was last-minute, but would I fly back to be MC?

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