He stared at the house as he backed out of the driveway. It was huge. Nothing extravagant compared to the rest of the neighborhood, but still impressive. Plain white colonial, absent stone or brick. Had to be 4,000 square feet. He watched her close the front door as he shifted into drive and eased up the street.
He couldn’t figure this chick out, his Landlord. She was nice, always had been. Married to an ex-cop who didn’t take shit from nobody. He’d seen the guy toss a brat college kid and his mommy out of a rented room when they challenged him over parking in the driveway. Kurt chuckled to himself at the memory. They blocked his car in once and then left together in another vehicle. Assholes. So he called the Lady Landlord and she sent hubby out. Watching from his second story room, he could hear most of it through the open window. Mommy said something about Hubby Landlord being bitter because he wasn’t successful. Then a barreling voice said, “You know, it’s just time for you to go. Start packing. I’ll be back with a 30 Day Notice.” The Big Guy didn’t stop to listen to another word, just slid into his truck and drove off. By the time Kurt got back from the gas station there was a notice taped to their door.
The Big Guy made Kurt nervous. He was nice enough, but intimidating, partly because of his size. But it was his eyes–they seemed to take in every detail, like he knew way more than he let on–that really made Kurt keep a low profile. That’s why he always went to Lady Landlord. She was pretty clueless, but likable, with her squinty smile and nervous chatter, always wanting to keep the peace.
He had rented from them before, a few months back. Until Bryn got pregnant and was able to convince her parents to rent her a house out near them. But Kurt wasn’t supposed to be living there. When the septic tank backed up and left a foot of raw sewage water in their basement, Bryn called her Dad, who saw the obvious signs of Kurt living there, and her parents threw a fit. The sewage problem was enough to get her parents out of the lease and leave him homeless. Again.
But Lady Landlord came through for him with a room back in his old place. That’s when he really started to see how crazy she was. He told her upfront he couldn’t pay her anything for a week and she agreed to make him a personal loan. He almost felt bad about lying to her. Thank God she didn’t check like she said she would. Once he was back in the place, he fessed up to being fired from the limo company. She didn’t need to know it happened months before, back when he moved out the last time. Her fault for not checking.
He turned left onto the main road, passing the club house, then took another left back into the neighborhood. The back of the clubhouse opened up to a patio looking out over the golf course. On the other side of the fairway stood an all-brick monstrosity with a rambling, multi-tiered deck winding down to an in-ground pool. He drifted back to Vegas, when he was selling real estate. He’d been so close, clearing $140,000 in commission his last year. He still owed the IRS for the taxes. He felt a churning in his stomach, sweat on the back of his neck. Instinctively, he reached for his travel mug. It was light; he’d drained the last of it as he pulled up to Lady Landlord’s house, the whole reason he ended up in this neighborhood to begin with. He turned around in a cul-de-sac and headed back to the main road, toward the grocery store he saw on the way. Screw the big, fat brick house.
He still couldn’t believe how easily she handed over $150. He shouldn’t have been surprised, really. Afterall, she basically gave him a room for free. Not to mention the bag of food and $50 cash he hadn’t even asked for. It was around that time that he started to feel better about having to move back into that shitbox of a room in Akron. All because of Bryn’s freaking parents. And Bryn. She was sucking every dime out of him, constantly whining about being sick. Dope sick, maybe. Stupid bitch.
His mood lifted as he pulled into the grocery store and saw the big old sign on the building: State Liquor Agency. For the first time in a long time, he’d be able to get a decent drink. He was sick of watered down gas station booze. He’d rather chug mouthwash, and sometimes did.
He had told Bryn he was getting $100 today, which left $50 she didn’t know about. And Lady Landlord had surprised him again with $50 to Olive Garden. He thought he’d gone too far, venting to her about how sick and nasty sick Bryn was. But then she handed him the gift card. “Take her out for a Date Night.” He was barely able to contain himself. This lady didn’t stop! Not that he was complaining.
He left the little liquor store that was inside the grocery store with a couple bottles of 80 proof vodka in a plain brown grocery bag, stapled shut with a receipt attached. Not your average gas station score, that’s for sure. He was thinking about ripping it open on his way past the registers, when a green and yellow sign caught his eye:
Instantly Exchange Gift Cards For Cash.
Jackpot. He dodged a lady with two kids hanging off a cart full of groceries as he headed for the machine. He scanned the screen, followed the prompts and printed a receipt, which he immediately took to the Customer Service Desk for his $35.
Screw Bryn’s date night. This was just like winning slots in Vegas.