Condo Chronicles: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

“Okay, so how does the place look? Do you think that it looks okay?”

“It looks fine!” I said with exasperation. “If you clean one more thing, I’m going to amputate your arms…and then they’ll be blood everywhere. And then you’ll be especially upset because it’ll be messy again and you won’t have any hands to clean it.”

Rhonda looked at me crossly. “Well, pardon me if I want this place to be clean for once, especially on an important day like this one. It’s not everyday that the mayor of our town comes to visit our place with her entourage.”

It had been only a couple of weeks since the impromptu rendezvous at the White Mana. I had relayed the whole story to Rhonda upon coming home, and hungry for the adventurous opportunity to hunt potential corruption, she started sharpening her mental spears in eager anticipation. With her on board, I had called City Hall and left a message with Her Honor, thinking (and somewhat hoping) that would possibly be the end of it. (Yes, as I came to find out, mayors are to be addressed in the same fashion as a court judge. Though, I’ve never understood the tradition of attempting direct dialogue with someone’s abstract traits. In some way, it almost feels like a priest attempting to converse with someone’s demon during an exorcism. Do you hear me in there, Honor? The power of the jury compels you! And, if Honesty happens to exist and is somewhere around, can you say ‘hello’ for me?) Unfortunately, I was proven wrong when I received a call back the next day, informing me that Mayor Dwek would be happy to visit my building and discuss its legal issues with me. The invitation for a cocktail party had come from Rhonda, who was standing behind me when I had answered the phone and suffering feverish dreams of entrapment. Though her Honor had requested that it be a ‘snack’ party instead (since drinking and professionalism shouldn’t mix), she accepted our invitation. Rhonda had been rubbing her palms deviously when she had made the suggestion, much like she was doing so right now in our living room.

Rhonda grinned nefariously, much like the Grinch on Christmas. “I want her to feel perfectly comfortable, so that she won’t suspect our trap.”

“Wow…you’re way more into this whole thing than I ever would have suspected,” I confessed. “Remember, though, that Joe guy could be totally full of shit. So, I would reserve judgment until we’ve actually had a chance to talk to her for a while.”

Duh, of course…but if we’re gonna try to do any digging, we need to make sure that we’ve planned everything perfectly, right? Oh, and that reminds me…did you get all of those flyers in the halls?”

During the last couple of days, The Legion (as we now addressed Mayor Dwek’s loyal army of recidivist followers) had followed invisible tracks of vermin and found their way into the building through cracks and crevices. Smelling an opportunity for winning the hearts of more voters, her administration had instructed her followers to leave various flyers scattered throughout the building. These flyers of mackled propaganda and bold print announced the impending arrival of their lord and (without the consent of me or Rhonda) invited all denizens to become plenary members of our tentative meeting, so that they could spend hours upon hours to acquaint themselves with Mayor Dwek…in my home. Such is the hubris of all politicians, but in this particular situation, arrogant rudeness was the least of my worries. If I was to either make any progress with the building’s issues or conduct a clandestine operation of gathering criminal evidence, an apartment full of screaming lunatics would be an anathema. On top of that, I generally frown on allowing a shitstorm to splatter its contents in my living room…So, in an effort to decapitate the problem before the rest of its body could arise from the dirt, I had scoured the building and purged it of all the accursed flyers. I was confident that I had gotten rid of most of them, but I had no guarantee of that. I was just happy for my small fortune that Baby Boomers and third-world immigrants were still not hip to those more cutting-edge technologies like emails and phones.

I shrugged. “I think that I got all of them…I guess that we’re gonna find out soon enough.” I motioned towards our dining table. “What are we gonna do with that?”

Only a few hours ago, we had received a delivery from a catering service. It seems that Mayor Dwek had anticipated a large turnout from the building, and in preparation for it, she had decided to donate to the inventory of our ‘snack’ party. A cornucopia had been delivered to our home, wrapped in a plastic shell instead of wicker. Given that she was in the habit of dealing with her Latin American constituents on a more frequent basis, the bounty was filled with the mass-produced version of various Hispanic staples: Cuban sandwiches on stale bread, guava turnovers obviously baked too long, cornmeal empanadas that had been already split open during a clumsy transit. None of it may have been saporific…but if we ever wanted to lead a military horde, we now had the means to feed it.

Again, I shrugged. “I don’t know…I guess that we’ll just eat it over the next ten years…”

Suddenly, there was a knock at our door. We looked questioningly at each other, and with the collective realization that it was a surprise to us both, we looked at the door in silent wonder.

“She’s not due for another hour, right?” I whispered to Rhonda.

“Yeah,” Rhonda whispered back, adding to the susurrous hum likely to be heard by our visitor. “I hope that it’s nobody from the building.”

Reluctantly, I walked to the front door, almost tripping over our cat. “Goddamn it, Flukeman…get out of the way!” After almost killing my feline friend and myself, I looked through the peephole, and much like when peering into my own soul at times, I observed only darkness. For a moment, I thought that the lights in the hallway had been smashed out by mercenary ninjas who now waited for me in the darkness…before remembering that Rhonda had inadvertently blocked our peephole by adding an autumnal decoration on the door only yesterday. Well, we might not be able to identify potential murderers and rapists…but in our favor, nobody will dispute the claim in any eulogies that we were seasonally festive. I opened the door with resignation to our fate, hoping for The Lady but expecting The Tiger…only to come face-to-face with a party of three suited gentlemen and two in casual clothing. I noticed that the three men in suits were all sporting handguns within jacketed holsters; I could only assume that the other two carried concealed weapons as well.

I forced myself to smile at my potential doom. “Hello, gentlemen. Can I help you?

One suited man with grey hair and average height took a step forward. “Mr. Bolton? Is that you?”

I kept my body and my smile in place, despite the temptation to abscond with both. “Yessir. That’s me.”

The grey-haired gentleman nodded in response. “That’s good. Would you mind stepping aside then? We’re here to search your place.”

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

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