Signs of Your Startup’s Imminent Demise

  1. Your company is relocating from that “stuffy” office in the business park to a “bohemian” section of the parking lot.
  2. When you ask senior leaders about the next target platform for your product, they reply that it doesn’t matter and that you’re welcome to pick whichever one you want.
  3. After a steady stream of departures from your team, you are now your own boss since you’re the only one left.
  4. When you tell your developer friends about your latest stories from work, they politely respond “Oh, I thought that you guys closed down already. You’re still around?”
  5. If you’re the new hire, your new equipment includes a blood-covered monitor and a partially-smashed keyboard.
  6. Even though you weren’t hired as such, you’ve become a full stack developer out of necessity. (When people ask how things are going, you reply that you feel like you’re running a marathon through a mine field.)
  7. Your coworkers don’t even hide the fact that they’re using your main competitor’s product in the office. Worse yet, it’s used at company meetings.
  8. Turnover is so high that the most senior programmer has a grizzled employment record of three months and works inside a padded room.
  9. Management has repeatedly asked you whether you would like to buy them out.
  10. Every other commit message in the code repository ends with a variation of “…Please, somebody kill me.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: Hidden in Plain Sight

Even though I wasn’t born to the tristate area around New York City, I had lived there long enough to not be considered a prolonged tourist (which is essentially anyone who lives in the vicinity shorter than a few years). I had earned my stripes, and I had the memories to prove it. I could recall when Times Square had been a thieves’ paradise and when the heroin den of Hoboken was just beginning to molt its skin. I had seen the best and worst of this place during those passing decades, and I had resided for all of it on the western side of the Hudson River. Traverse the river, and you’ll find the elitists who paint with a broad brush and who would label anyone from Jersey as “bridge and tunnel”…but the term is a misnomer for all of us who happen to inhabit the Hudson Waterfront (or Gold Coast, if you wish), a thin strip of New Jersey that runs parallel to Manhattan. (Despite what Connecticut may tell you, there is only one Gold Coast, and its borders are demarcated by the George Washington and Bayonne bridges.) Even though its towering skyline casts its shadow across our landscape just as any of its sibling boroughs, this narrow peninsula and its shores are the black sheep of this geographic family, forgotten and unobserved by our islander counterparts. No matter, though; there’s some satisfaction to be had with being a secret, for anonymity can be a protective blanket from ruinous exploitation.

As I inhabited this place over the decades, it seemed that this place now inhabited me in turn, passing on its desire for fostering the clandestine. I was always eager to find a new path to the same destination, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to intentionally take a turn too early, in order to explore new possibilities. Especially within Manhattan, it was the best way to find those “lilies of the alley” that yearned to find solace in shade, far from the garish, flashing cameras of tourist crowds that could swallow one whole. After leaving work one day and making my way uptown, such a biomass found me as I walked along 48th Street, and their collective presence engulfed me as I waited on a corner to cross the street. Apparently they have yet to learn that both sidewalks and streets are not places to simply stand still, I thought as the crosswalk sign fervently beckoned the stationary horde to move.

With a few quick pushes, I escaped from their stationary clutches and darted quickly across the street, running down the next block. Jogging past small kitsch shops and fast food joints, I escaped my captors by darting into an innocuous entrance, absconding myself through its rotating door. No flashing lights, no street performers dressed as Smurfette…they’ll never consider following me into here. As my eyes adjusted to its dim lighting, I smiled in satisfaction. With its Art Deco interior, I looked upon a classical arcade that remained ignorant of the changing city outside its doors. Outside of the Diamond District (which retained its atmosphere of an Arabic bazaar with its various kiosks hidden among nestled passageways – it’s tough to know if was constructed in such a way or whether the vendors simply brought it with them from the Middle East), such arcades were now on the decline and sliding into the abyss of obscurity. Small stores lined its walls that surely had existed for decades (or perhaps centuries); it was a parading menagerie of tall windows, adorned with golden letters that proudly proclaimed the business conducted within. As I slowly strolled past the windows and observed the elderly patrons inside, it was obvious from their animated faces that these septuagenarians and octogenarians had a profound connection with this place. Passing a cobbler’s keep, I descried a party of white-haired friends who were laughing and trading jokes with the silver-headed attendants shining their shoes. A few steps further, I passed a jewelry vendor and overheard a friendly yet lively debate between an older Hassidic Jew and a middle-aged man, adorned with a gold cross necklace and other gold jewelry that complemented his olive complexion and dark hair.

“I tell you, this Obama idiot, he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” proclaimed the middle-aged man. “Supporting these rebels…and for what? I know Assad, and he’s a decent Christian. Don’t believe what these stupid American papers are saying.”

“Oh, like you broke bread with him and you know him…”

“At least I’ve been to Syria and the Middle East! Unlike some people who just sit in their Williamsburg apartment all day and complain about the hipsters outside!”

I walked further on, absorbing each modicum of dialogue that my ears could catch momentarily. Not everyone who reaches the winter of their lives has anything of merit to impart, but there are some who have worthy lessons and legends to offer to posterity. If you’re lucky, the latter also happen to be great raconteurs who never knew how to monetize such a skill…and if you’re truly blessed, they’ll convey a tale that can change your life. In those rare moments, they give you a wink, and for the span of an heartbeat, they transform before you and become the vivacious youth they once were. Such places like this one had the power to attract such fantastic storytellers and congregate them in one place…or did it help to create them instead? I suppose that’s just another mystery for the ages.

Walking past the small stall for reading tarot cards, I finally reached a barber shop at the very end of the arcade. Unlike its more trendy competitors of late in SoHo that offered billiards and served cocktails by moustached, suspendered bartenders, there was nothing elaborate about this establishment. Other than a modest usage of chrome, the barber shop felt and looked like a relic from an episode of Mad Men. A magazine shelf in the corner was covered with various issues from subscriptions, ranging from sports to decades-old issues of Playboy. The smell of leathery aftershave permeated the space, and from their aged use, the cracked seats had probably supported generations of the same family. Leaning next to the chair nearest to the front door, a lean bald man with a pencil moustache was looking down pensively; he looked up as I crossed the threshold and stepped onto his hirsute domain.

As I stood there quietly for a few moments, he gave me a warm smile as he crossed his arms in front of his ivory barber’s coat. “You’re not lost, are you?”

“I don’t think so. I came here looking for a cut. Maybe some advice.”

“Who said that I could help you?”

I nodded. “Yeah…you’re probably right. I mean, what the hell would a Greek know about doing anything right?”

The barber retained his smile while he shook his head. “You fuckin’ smartass…always the same with you. Now hop in the chair. You’re late.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

More Tricks of the Trade

More helpful tips for anyone stuck in a cubicle (especially if you happen to be a developer).

  1. If your building conducts repeated yet pointless fire drills, find a ‘white lie’ buddy and take turns ignoring the alarm. If you don’t attend and anyone questions whether you were there, your ‘white lie’ buddy can vouch for you.
  2. When mentoring a junior developer, it’s beneficial to all if you can prepare the junior for the onslaught of insanity when dealing with management. Simulate code review sessions with them and play the role of a manager, asking why the code isn’t in a mauve font and demanding that it can run on an Apple watch (even though it’s a Windows Service). When the junior breaks down and cries, you will then know that your job is done.
  3. If you keep dry food snacks at your desk, save any lockable drawers for the coveted goods (Doritos, Starburst, etc.) Generally, it’s safe to keep your healthy food (almonds, dry fruit, etc.) in your unprotected ones. If someone does violate your space and takes something from your desk, you have every right to execute them ‘hitman-style’ with a Nerf gun.
  4. If you’re unsatisfied with your yearly review, send a subtle message to your superiors. Visit the lobbies of several competitors in your area and tweet pictures of them with the hashtag #VisitingSomeFriends.
  5. Trust has to be earned from any new developer, even one that comes with a highly regarded CV. In order to vet a recent hire, introduce your new addition to a common library and encourage the newcomer to share any useful code for posterity. If the volunteered code resembles the random typing of a thousand monkeys, encourage the nascent member to upload the project to GitHub. In that way, you can warn the entire world of the monster that you’re about to unleash on it.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: Something Amiss

For some odd reason, the mayor of our town had decided that a few given streets needed a particular makeover. Luckily, ours had been one of them. Some additional trees had been planted (whose species was selected to withstand harsh winters, little soil, and the constant deluge of dog urine), the sidewalks were cleaned and repaired, and the streetlights had been replaced with contemporary models. These miniature lighthouses shone so brightly that some nights were better illuminated than some days. Those stellar beams proved their magnificence as they glinted off the polished belt buckle and snap of the gunslinger’s holster. He waved his arm and shouted Spanish curses at the fawning trio, who had been boldly staring us down only moments ago.

“I’m thinking that I should call the cops now,” assessed Brian, with a confused and somewhat wet Canal standing by his side. The poor pooch shook the rainfall off of his coat, tilting his head up and sideways toward his towering master. It was obvious that he was patiently waiting for his master to start moving towards the dry, warm interior behind the lobby door.

Copying Canal, I tilted my own head as I scrutinized our supposed vigilante. “Hmmm…you’re too late,” I interjected. “They’re already here.”

Taking a second look for herself, Rhonda looked down the street and recognized the same person in those dark clothes. “Well, look at that…it’s Captain Richie.”

As if he could detect the announcement of his own name (but likely following the gaze of his intimidated audience), Captain Richie turned around and spotted us under the weeping night sky. Subtlely, he adjusted his frame into something less menacing, and he flashed a broad smile in our direction as he waved amiably at us. We waved back, and just as I considered walking down the street towards him, he turned quickly and ushered the trio through the open door, giving the one woman a not-so-friendly push through its frame. Just as well, I thought. I’m not certain that I should be talking to any cop in my pajamas. He briefly turned to us in order to issue one last wave, and then he escaped into the embracing shadows himself. The whole encounter couldn’t have taken more than 30 seconds.

“Well, that was weird,” commented Rhonda, while she simultaneously patted Canal’s head and looked at him adoringly. Oh, I know that look, I thought. There’s a puppy in our future for sure.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Must have been some sort of domestic disturbance issue. Maybe this has happened before and he knows them? More importantly, I didn’t even know that Richie was fluent in Spanish.” I paused. “Speaking of weird…Brian, you didn’t happen to see a naked white chick running around out here, did you?”

Brian, still focused on the other end of our block, finally became aware of my seemingly random question. “Wait…what…naked chick? Huh?”

I shook my head. “Never mind. Forget that I asked. You got leaks in your place too, right? Oh, and I forgot to ask before: you planning on being on the board?”

“Yeah, I got leaks worse than yours,” he said through gritted teeth. “And am I gonna run for the board?” He shrugged. “Maybe…I heard that Babbu wants to be on the board.”

I laughed. “But where’s he gonna find the time? Isn’t he still running that social media campaign? What’s the name of his site…”

“Oh, trust me, he’ll find the time,” answered Brian. “That guy’s an insomniac. I see him going in and out of the building in the dead of night. Along with that Chinese lawyer/escort…”

“Chinese lawyer/escort?” Rhonda asked with fascination.

“Hmmm,” I pondered. “Lawyer/escort? That sounds like my version of a superhero.”

Brian nodded. “Yep. I talked to her once in the elevator, and Babbu knows her law firm. She’s definitely a lawyer…but about half the time that I’m out here with Canal, I’ve seen her being picked up by a different guy in a different car on that corner.” He pointed down the street.

I raised an eyebrow questioningly. “Well, I’m not sure if that makes her an escort…but from what my Chinese friends tell me, that isn’t outside the realm of possibility.”

“What about you?” Brian asked. When I raised the either eyebrow as well to clearly emphasize my confusion, he clarified his question. “What about you being on the board? You seem pretty sensible.”

I grimaced. “I don’t know…to be in charge of this loony bin? There’s no reward in being the mayor of Crazy Town. I know, I know…that’s even more of a reason to be on the board. Man…this place has got bad juju. There’s just something wrong with this building…”

Embracing its frontier spirit, the people of Little Peru had stumbled upon a symbiotic way of dealing with some of their smaller pest issues. Instead of practicing cleaner habits (which, aside from a strict regimen for laundry, were not employed), they had invoked better sanitation by fostering feral cat colonies throughout the neighborhood. We had learned the colony nearest to our building had been proclaimed los bastardos by the locals, and at this point, one calico bastardo nonchalantly wandered out of the alley that was a few steps from our entrance. Unfortunately, the normally placid Canal took notice before any of us, and likely suffering from the delusion that mangy feral cats must taste like filet mignon, he bolted with fervor towards the bastardo, dragging his unhandled leash behind him.

“Canal!” roared Brian. “Get back here now!”

With Brian in the lead, all three of us pursued the barking chaser, following him into the alley on the northern side of our building. Having only the width of two people, the dim alley really served no purpose other than to provide an access door on its side for our electrical closets and boiler rooms; the only likely people who had explored this dingy concrete corridor were plumbers and electricians. At its end, there was a wooden fence that marked the border of a neighboring building’s yard, and as Canal began to close the distance between himself and his intended meal, the agile bastardo writhed and escaped through a miniscule gap under the fence’s bottom. Sitting at the fence and robbed of his trophy, we caught up to the whining Canal, and Brian reclaimed the leash once more.

“Bad dog!” reprimanded Brian, with an aggressive yank at the harness around the thick trunk of Canal’s body. “Goddamnit, Canal, I swear…”

“Holy shit…”

I had heard that particular whispering tone in Rhonda’s voice before. By nature, it was easy to startle her. Sometimes, she would need to put the wee in the wee hours of the morning, and waiting patiently outside the bathroom door for my turn, my mere unexpected presence upon her exit was enough to make her shriek and undergo palpitations. However, you couldn’t really regard such amusing fits as actual fear. This tone, however, carried a palpable dread to it. Somewhat concerned myself now, I followed her line of sight to its end and immediately felt a slight shiver crawl up my spine. “Woah…now that’s fucked up.”

Years ago, while touring an ancient cave in southwest France, a guide had pointed us to the handpainted Paleolithic images on a nearby wall, and he explained the theory that our ancestors might have used the flickering of a torch in order to animate them. Using their latest technology of fire, they might have been able to convert these smeared drawings into the primitive version of a flip book. So it seems that the classical elements can bestow life in more than one way, and in this soaked alley, water took the place of fire as it ran along the wall and performed a similar form of dark arcane magic. In a spot at almost eye-level to our small group, we stared at the faint yet clear shape in the concrete wall of a human hand with fingers spread. This outline, though, was not the analogous signature of a Hollywood star or a proud mason; in this case, it was convex rather than concave. As the rivulets ran vertically through its fingers in the dim light, tricks were played on the eyes, and one could swear that those fingers were desperately waving for attention, for help that could wrest its owner from this hulking condensed prison. My imagination couldn’t decide whether its intentions were benevolent or hopeful of pulling some company into its lonely cell.

Shuffling next to us, Brian followed my finger and nodded gravely as I pointed to the specific patch of concrete that was sure to provide a year’s worth of nightmares. “Well…that is definitely not Han Solo. But you were right…there’s definitely something wrong with this building.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: We’re Not in Jersey Anymore

Accompanying what can only be described as a lupine snarl, a gruff voice prodded at our backs.

“What are you two doing here?”

After you’ve chased a naked apparition in your pajamas and find yourself interrogated on a rainy street in the wee hours of the morning, I can testify that you will start to question the surreal nature of the last few minutes…in fact, you will begin to place serious consideration on the theory that you’re still in your bed and that you’re having dreams triggered by the twilight consumption of greasy pupusas. However, just as it was addressed in the movie Total Recall, nobody sweats in a dream…and my sweaty butt clipped those supposed wings that belong to Morpheus. As the voice repeated its question, I immediately became sober under the expansive awning, shaking off the sort of inebriation that comes from late-night fatigue.

“You hear me? What are you two doing here?!?”

If I was going to face death or injury, I’d rather surrender my mortality knowing the face of my demise. Not knowing what to expect, Rhonda and I turned to confront our questioner, and I was pleasantly relieved to recognize the volatile yet friendly company before us.

“Brian! Hey, how’s it going?” I asked, relieved that I would live to see another day. “We came out to see what the yelling is all about. And I see that you’re taking Canal for a late night walk. What’s up, pups? Did you have another late night emergency with your bladder?”

Facing us, Brian and his large yellow mastiff were standing under the wide expense of a black Apartment 5 umbrella. The Steelkilts’ dog Canal had been given his eponymous name due to being found near the Erie Canal in upstate New York, tied to a tree with numerous cigarette burns on his little puppy body. After several years of healthy eating, that wounded little puppy was long gone. Canal, which had entertained the thought of shredding us only moments ago, was now all smiles and eagerly came forward to lick our hands. Much like his towering owner, Canal had an immense size to him…but unlike Brian, he was more inclined to show affection.

“Yep,” Brian commented, looking down at his beloved pet. “He kept whining until I got my fat ass out of bed. And he would have done it all night, too!” Looking up, he nodded his head in the direction of the boisterous bunch down the street. “So, you heard them too, huh?”

“Who can’t hear them?” joked Rhonda, crossing her arms tightly in front of her for warmth.

“Do they have to carry on like that?!?” Brian paused. “I hate yelling…” Cocking his head to one side, Brian pointed with the hand that held the leash. “Well, look at that…looks like they finally stopped fighting. Now they’re looking at us.”

We all turned to look down the street, observing that the feisty love triangle had called a temporary truce. The ensemble stoically pointed themselves toward us, ignoring the light spatter of precipitation falling on their heads. Now that isn’t creepy at all, I thought.

Here, though, I should probably tell a little more about the inhabitants of Little Peru. Little Peru actually wasn’t a town full of Peruvians. For hundreds of years, Little Peru had actually been a neighborhood of Irish and Italian immigrants across the Hudson river from New York City, but several decades ago, a municipal agreement with the state and the feds had led to a wave of incoming Peruvian refugees. In accordance with precedence found in other nearby real estate, the Europeans fled the town, and the Peruvians had set up shop…but not for long. As the Peruvians prospered, poor Caribbean immigrants had arrived, and the blue-collar Peruvians had left in order to upgrade their lives in the Jersey suburbs. Almost every decade, the cycle repeated itself, where one Hispanic demographic took the place left by another’s exodus. Of course, some of each outgoing mass stayed behind, ensuring that another layer remained in this Latino melting pot. In the end, though, Little Peru wasn’t so much a town as it was a staging area, bereft of any sense of community. Eurocentric allotments like cathedrals and gardens became neglected and abandoned; they became architectural husks among the urban landscape of empty Tecate cans, chicken bones, and tainted rice.

Unlike other towns along the Jersey banks of the Hudson River, Little Peru had not become another affluent area that housed the upper class, with raised balconies facing the towering skyline of Manhattan. In numerous ways (some of which were charming), it was a piece of America that had reverted back to a frontier, recolonized by native Central and South Americans instead of indigenous North Americans. You could find possums and racoons wandering the backyard lots, and live chickens darted from the pollerias and down crowded streets as they fled for their lives. Living within the isolated bubble of this town, many locals had never set foot outside its borders to visit the rest of their host country; they were more than happy to stay within a comfort zone that offered ubiquitous Spanish and a copious number of barber shops, all with televisions that blared Univision and dubbed Chuck Norris movies. Though the people of Little Peru may not have heard of the word gentrification (probably since most of them knew only a little English), they looked at any white person as any Comanche warrior would back in the 19th century. They saw us as potential harbingers of unwanted change, and I had heard the disgruntled mutters of more whites (in both English and Spanish) while passing sidewalk fiesteros. In order to embrace our new home, Rhonda and I had started to make purchases in the local shops and to speak a little Spanish, and some of the local population had warmed to such gestures…but like they say, you can’t win over everybody. Consequently, there were some who stayed cold to the touch. The three stoic folks on this drenched street had those cool unwelcome eyes, and they used them to stare us down. You can give me the evil eye all you want, I thought. This is my home now just as much as yours. And if you don’t like it, you can go fuck yourselves with a can of Goya beans.

“They’re a regular bunch of friendlies, aren’t they?” joked Brian.

The Mexican standoff (or polyethnic standoff, to be politically correct) was broken when the stoic three whipped their heads towards the swinging front door of the adjacent apartment building. Through the frame and down the street, we heard a booming voice command them from somewhere inside.

Mira! Deja de gritar!

The stoic three lost their composure, and with limp shoulders and vapid smiles, their voices turned to a sickening saccharine as they obviously apologized to the silhouette in the door’s frame. An outstretched hand silenced their incessant whining, and the rest of its accompanying body walked out into the street. Rhonda gasped at the figure in dark waterproof clothing, probably also taking note of what I had already noticed: the rather large handgun in a holster on his hip.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Written as Code: The Ten Commandments

God theLord = new God();
ThyNeighbor thyNewb = new ThyNeighbor();

  1. Original: Thou shalt have no other gods before me


    std::list<God> AllOtherGods = new std::list<God>();
    AllOtherGods.insert(AllOtherGods.begin(), theLord);

  2. Original: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain


    WINDOW *scrn = initscr();
    mvaddstr(0, 0,;

  3. Original: Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy


    if (!timeStruct.tm_wday)
    return “Get Your Ass to Church”;

  4. Original: Honor thy father and thy mother


    pid_t PID = 0;
    PID = fork();

    if (PID == 0)

  5. Original: Thou shalt not kill


    ! kill(

  6. Original: Thou shalt not commit adultery


    std::tuple<ThyNeighbor> MyWife = new std::tuple<ThyNeighbor>();
    std::tuple<ThyNeighbor> YourWife = new std::tuple<ThyNeighbor>();
    ! MyWife.swap(YourWife);

  7. Original: Thou shalt not steal


    pthread_t this_thread = pthread_self();
    !(pthread_setschedparam(this_thread, SCHED_FIFO, &params));
    !(void* allOfIt = malloc(137438953472));

  8. Original: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour


    bool bearFalseWitness(bool truth) { return !truth; }

    bool theTruth = true;

    if (theTruth != bearFalseWitness(theTruth)) goto HELL;

…Which leaves the last two:

  • Thou shalt not covet (neighbor’s house)
  • Thou shalt not covet (neighbor’s wife)

I’m having a hard time with those. Any readers out there have any good ideas as candidates? 🙂

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: Something Stupid This Way Comes

When Rhonda pulled the door open, I was expecting our nocturnal nudist to do something volatile; I was putting my money on some kind of spasmodic reaction, born out of panic and surprise. Instead, I hadn’t counted on the possibility of the truly unexpected. Unabashed, the stairwell revealed its great magic trick: it had made the acerbic vixen disappear. She had vanished, leaving a barren stairwell that flickered in tune with the fluorescent lights along its walls. Rhonda turned to look at me menacingly.

“Now, wait a minute,” I protested, “I’m telling you that she was sitting right here, third step up from the floor. I swear!”

Folding her arms in order to hide her clenched fists, Rhonda patiently stood her ground. “Okay…I’m not saying that you’re a liar. I believe you…but then where is she?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed, “Maybe she got up and went back to her own place?”

Rhonda shrugged. “Well…we tried to help, but it didn’t work out. Now can we go deal with the windows and go back to bed?”

“Sure,” I replied, nodding with eyelids that begged to be shut with nails, “I just hope that she’s okay. Let’s get back inside…”

Rising from the bowels of the stairwell, I was interrupted by the belligerent yell of a woman, along with the unmistakable sounds of breaking glass. Rhonda’s furrowed brow of skepticism suddenly softened at the audible evidence of my claims, and I couldn’t resist looking at her with a certain amount of swagger.

“Told ya,” I shot, as we both tracked the source of the noise and quickly descended the stairs onto the floor beneath us. The din echoed through the hallway as we quietly shuffled our feet across the tiled beige floor. Almost at the other end of the hallway, we could now hear clearly the sounds of an argument between a man and a woman. We reached the apartment next to the elevator, and we stood on either side of the door, pressing our ears close enough to the door so that we could eavesdrop on the maelstrom beyond its frame. Even though we only listened for a few minutes and despite the lack of eloquence present in the debate, we began to assemble the garbled bits of their disagreement and comprehend the nature of the conversation.

Rhonda looked at me questioningly. “Is that Mike and Lisa?” she whispered.

“Yeah, it’s them,” I whispered back. “Who knew that Crave Case was already married and that Lisa was his girl on the side? And he bought this place for them to be clandestinely carnal? I guess that he’s an O.G. after all.”

Rhonda shook her head. “Dumb girl…she can yell all she wants, but that’s a classic blunder: he’s not gonna leave his wife. She’s young…but she’ll learn.” She paused as another glass broke on the floor inside. “So, I guess that your rape victim isn’t inside there, huh?”

“Unless that was Mike’s wife,” I guessed, ”and then Lisa beat the shit out of her and tore off her clothes. Hmmm…now that’s my kind of girl fight…”

“You men are all such pigs,” she replied, curling her lips in disgust. “Okay, we’re done here. Let’s go home.”

Even though it disturbed me to leave such a mystery unresolved, my desire to sleep between my own sheets was far stronger. However, fate cares little about your health, and at that moment, another scream pierced the night…but not from behind the apartment door in front of us. This one was obviously outside of the building, somewhere in the street just beyond the lobby door. Unlike the cacophonic battle that continued to rage within Mike’s condo (which paid no attention to anything but itself), this particular cry didn’t originate from petty jealousy and mistaken notions of love. This utterance had a detectable note of panic, and both Rhonda and I were able to recognize it as just that. Our eyes locked and agreed on that point with silent affirmation.

My eyes rolled back in exasperation. “Is there a fucking full moon out tonight or what?”

“Is that your naked girl?” Rhonda proposed quietly.

“I have no idea. Maybe…”

“Let’s go then,” Rhonda insisted, “But let’s be careful.”

Like you have to tell me, I thought. Even more careful than before, we traversed through the building, making our way down the stairwell next to the elevator and applying only the balls of our feet to the ground. If you’ve ever attempted to sneak out of your house as a teenager, you’ve acquired such skills of stealth, and in a few cases, you might have perfected your craft. You never think that such skills might come in handy again later in life. In fact, you’d probably bet all of your possessions on that one…but as I’ve learned on more than one occasion, that bet would be a mistake. Upon reaching the lobby, Rhonda and I peaked through the clear glass panels of our heavy lobby door from a number of different angles, looking at a mostly abandoned stretch of sidewalk and asphalt. However, down the block to our left and on the other side of the street, we could faintly distinguish a few people facing each other in the front of an small apartment building. Even though we couldn’t understand the Spanish conducted between them, it was obviously a disagreement. Probably about something important at 3 in the morning…like how Jarrito is so much better than Inca Cola, I joked to myself.

“Let’s go back,” I suggested, content with the knowledge acquired about the commotion outside. “It’s obviously not her. Let them argue about whatever…”

I could tell from the expression on Rhonda’s face, though, that we weren’t done here yet. Fully awake now, her voyeur self was invested in this present situation, and she had the curiosity of a cat. Damn both her physical nose and her feminine yet feline nose for trouble.

“I can’t see what’s going on through this door,” she surmised. “Well, I’m gonna step outside in order to get a better view down the block.”

Before I could even attempt to argue against that proposition, she bolted out the door, and I quickly followed behind her. We stood on the sidewalk just outside our lobby door, finding shelter from the drizzling rain under the large blue awning. It seemed that Mika and Lisa’s conflict had absorbed the power of the storm, and the previous torrent had withered during our wandering through the building. With a better view now, we could identify two Hispanic men in the midst of a drunken argument, and between them, a young woman was desperately attempting to shield one from the other, using her own body as an escutcheon. The slight downpour, though only a modicum in comparison to before, prevented us from hearing the exchange only a few hundred feet away. Both Rhonda and I were so engrossed in concentration at the flurry of Spanish curses, we didn’t immediately notice the sound of beastly growling behind us.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.