“So, ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on being condo homeowners at this new address!” proclaimed Raymond. “I’m sure that you’ll enjoy your new home here at Casa de Perros, here in this wonderful ethnic neighborhood of Little Peru. Yes, for those of you who know Spanish, that does translate to ‘House of Dogs’…and, yes, we did know that before we started using it.” Raymond smiled at the few laughs that came his way. “As it turns out, dogs were an important part of the ancient Incan culture in Peru, and the name is a tribute to that heritage.”
In response, a few of the white couples nodded their heads approvingly. The phrase how progressive could be heard a number of times among them.
Raymond continued. “I happen to know quite a bit about Little Peru since I’ve been visiting this neighborhood for decades. Richie and I go way back, having grown up in the next town over. We saw the empty lot on this spot for a long time and talked about how much a bunch of God-loving families would love to live in this upcoming neighborhood. So, Richie rounded up some of his friends from City Hall, and I rounded up a few business friends. Together, we formed a partnership that was able to construct this wonderful building for all of you!”
As some of the other owners politely clapped their hands, I nodded my head approvingly and leaned in close to Rhonda’s ear for a whisper. “The police captain and people from city hall helped to build this place? Man, this place is as legit as it gets.”
“Though, ladies and gentlemen, “ continued Raymond, “you shouldn’t actually ask me any questions about the building work. Richie knows more about that, since his dad used to be in construction. Instead, you can save the more general questions for me, since I’ll be your property manager. Who’s better at managing your property than one of the guys who helped build it, right? And contrary to what you may have heard, not all property managers are thieves. I certainly don’t have it in my heart to steal from blessed families like yourselves. Actually, the real thief that you should watch out for is time. It robs us of everything, doesn’t it?”
As several couples clasped hands and exchanged glances after reflecting on Raymond’s philosophical musing, I noticed one portly white fellow briefly talking with his wife before finally raising his hand. Put your hand down, buddy. We’re not in fifth grade. His attire was reminiscent of hip-hop culture, with enough space in them to be considered large on Biggie Smalls. In fact, they might have actually been worn by Biggie Smalls. I nudged Rhonda. “Ten bucks says that chubby is gonna ask if he can go to the bathroom.”
Rhonda suppressed a laugh as Raymond addressed his questioner. “Yes, sir. Do you have a question?”
“Yeah,” began the inquiring fellow. “I was wondering where we can find our butler?”
Raymond looked perplexed before responding. “Uhhh…your what? What’s your name, sir? Go ahead and introduce yourself.”
“Oh, yeah, no problem,” he said awkwardly, clearing his throat before continuing. “Yo, my name is Mike, and this is my girl Lisa. We was wondering about the butler situation. You feel me?”
“I’m not sure…do you mean the building super?” asked Raymond, with a raised eyebrow.
Mike shook his head. “No, man. You know…the guy at the front desk when you walk into the lobby. Like in those big buildings on the waterfront in Jersey City. You feel me?”
I stepped close to Rhonda, lowering my voice. “I think that 2 Live Chew is talking about a concierge. And I dare you to go feel him.”
I thought that Raymond was having a similar thought (without the need to ‘feel him’), since his countenance suddenly switched from perplexity to comprehension. “Ah, I see,” began Raymond. “I think that I know what you mean…”
“Sorry, everyone! I finally got here!”
Raymond and everyone else turned their heads at the sudden interruption. Quickly approaching our enclosed circle, a dark-haired gentleman headed towards us in a grey police uniform and in knee-high leather boots. His slicked-back hair and his long thin nose made his head particularly aerodynamic and aquiline. His boots made quick clicking sounds as he moved quickly across the cement floor, proceeding with a cadence that would inspire jealousy from any goose-stepping soldier.
“Hold up, fellas! Sorry that I was late. I had to respond to a call from a bar, and my bike’s engine choked up a bit on my way here. That incident at the bar took most of my time. Some loon was yelling at a woman over God knows what…it took me forever to diffuse the situation and get him to shut up…I was this close to shooting him with my Taser!”
I looked at Rhonda questioningly (and somewhat frightfully), and she nodded her head in affirmation. “Yep,” she said, “That’s the cop from the floor below us.”
As the Gestapo-reminiscent officer took a place by Raymond, the latter held out his hand to greet the newcomer. “I’m sorry, sir. You are…?”
“Vinny Rizen,” said the newest guest to the circle, shaking Raymond’s hand in the process. “I just bought my place in the building, too. On the third floor.”
Raymond’s moustache pulled at his lips to sport a broad smile. “God bless you! Welcome then! For a second, I thought that you were one of Richie’s guys. But then I remembered your name in the building’s files. You work in another town, along the waterfront. Right, right…well, good to meet you. We were just about to make introductions between everyone…”
“Stop! Stop! Hold up!”
As Vinny fumbled with his ringing phone, everyone else once again turned to see a figure dashing towards them, frantically waving in a clumsy run.
I sighed. “For fuck’s sake,” I quietly rasped, “when are we actually going to start this thing? At this rate, we should just go ahead and build a goddamn campfire with some tents…I can feel my warmth draining through my shoes, into this cold floor…”
“Tell me about it,” agreed Rhonda. “Wait a minute…I think…yep, that’s the Sikh guy. I talked to him in the lobby that one time. He seems nice…”
The lanky fellow in a dark suit and a blue turban was panting when he finally arrived a few feet away from me and Rhonda. He waved both hands at everyone while he stood catching his breath, shining a warm smile at everyone around us. He was in the midst of scanning the group with a kind gaze when his vision stopped on the penultimate arrival to the group. His amiable pose gave way as his attention focused on Vinny, and his face transformed into a vicious scowl, with his lips curling to form the next word at the motorcycle cop. “YOU!!!”
The hissing tone finally distracted Vinny from his phone, and he raised his head in order to meet the menacing look of the Sikh gentleman. Vinny’s visage also twisted to match the disapproval of his challenger. “Oh, shit…Of all the fuckin’ luck! Not you again!”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy, muttering bastard on occasion.