I’m cleaning up the kitchen, trying to get between that hard to reach spot where the stove meets the cabinets, thinking how I might find an old roach when again I notice something funny going on with the wall paper.
Just the other night I’d tried to tell Julia how it looked like it was spinning when she’d launched into that whole spiel about how I needed to stop smoking weed and to get a job, which then got her pitching a bitch about me eating all her food and drinking the last Corona, which I hadn’t. At least not that I could remember.
But now, behind the stove, the wallpaper–at least a patch of it, is totally pulsing. Breathing even. So I edge up closer and start peeling it back, then a little more. The next thing I know I’m staring at this freaking medieval iron gate that looks like it could have been on an old Motorhead album cover. And looky there, my joint.
After a few tokes I get the courage to pull the door back but then I change my mind because whatever lives behind that gate obviously doesn’t want visitors. I go to grab a hoodie and get the hell out of the apartment when I’m yanked inside and the door slams shut. Something cold presses down against my temple.
My hands go up and it’s only then that I realize I’m wearing jogging pants and no boxers. Kinda funny, because Julia’s always telling me that she’s tired of washing my clothes, but there I am, freeballing, while this big cockroach bouncer dude has a shotgun to my head and is asking what the hell I’m doing.
Pointing to the kitchen, I tell roach dude that I was cleaning and he gives me a nasty grin and lowers the gun. By then my eyes have adjusted, and I look on as an army of ants–like foot long suckers–scamper in from a roll-up door hauling rolled up carpets, bottled water, even rims and tires. They come and go without paying me any attention, which is good because I can hardly feel my face.
Bouncer dude waves me back. His tentacles dragging behind him. I’m tripping balls by then, amazed by this whole operation. A rowdy gathering of stink bugs are sitting around watching Spanish soap opera on the television, complaining about the cold weather and I shit you not one of them is drinking a Corona. He belches and waves as I’m shoved into the back room.
“Corey, have seat.”
I look around. Julia’s vomit colored quilt is thrown over a plaid couch. The quilt her grandmother made and to this day she blames me for it missing. I start to explain this when I realize that I’m talking to the biggest effing rat I’ve ever seen.
“So it would appear that we have a problem,” he says, all whisker stroking. If he’s going for the Marlon Brando voice, he’s nailing it. I shake my head.
“Nope, I don’t…problem…there’s no problem.”
I’m not sure how to address a giant rat living in your girlfriend’s apartment building, but “sir” kind of seems a little much. He nods. Another stroke of the chin. I offer him my roach, cracking myself up. The roach bouncer dude rolls his eyes all the way around his head. The rat declines.
The office decor is limited. They do have a cat in a cage. Big fat thing that keeps hissing at me while the boss man continues, “But it seems you found us, while you were,” he pauses here to look me up and down with his beady eyes. “Cleaning?”
I chuckle, but my tongue catches because it’s then that I realize I’m staring at Old Miss Oglesby’s missing cat, plus I’m hella thirsty. “Look,” I say, not sure if I’m talking out loud or not. “Am I talking out loud?” The rat assures me that I am. “Cool, look, I know it sounds like a stretch, but it’s the truth. Julia’s been on me about not working and being a slob.”
The rat and the roach find this to be hysterical. Nevertheless I proceed on, out loud, I think. “I’ll get back to the apartment, patch up the wall, and you never have to see me again.”
The rat clicks his teeth in a disgusting sort of way. “You will do no such thing Corey. You will continue on, slobbing about, loafing around. As a matter of fact you are our biggest asset.”
I must look confused.
“You are never to ‘clean’ behind the stove. You are not to sweep, vacuum, dust, or even put away dishes after you use them. Am I clear?”
“Yeah. Don’t clean.”
More laughter. “Okay, go back, to your girlfriend,” Boss Rat says, using claw quotes. “Take care of business. If we find out that you are motivated to clean or otherwise impede our operation, then we will come for you. Remember that Corey.”
I nod. The rat snaps his eyes to the roach who then jerks me from my chair. We start for the door and the rat calls out.
“Oh, and Corey,” he says, motioning for the quilt. “Take that God awful thing with you, it’s hideous.”