Me and the man upstairs

The doorbell rang, which meant my delivery of groceries was here. Nobody rings my doorbell except professionally.

I slipped a mask over my face, and stepped out onto the porch, where the delivery woman was putting down a few sacks of my stuff. So far, so normal. What wasn't normal was the man on the sidewalk, twenty feet away from us. I'd never seen him before, and he was yelling at her, and when I stepped out he started yelling at me, too.

"Friend of yours?" I said to the delivery woman, someone else I'd never seen before. The screaming guy stopped screaming, and seemed to be listening to us.

"Nope," she said. "He started yelling at me as soon as I got out of my car, but I don't know why." The screaming guy continued screaming, and she said, "There's one more load," and walked toward her car to get the rest of my stuff.

Usually I'd just wait, due to the pandemic and my ordinary introversion, but this morning it seemed wiser to follow her at a safe social distance. The stranger was approaching her and I ended up between them, more out of luck than intent.

"You having a bad day?" I asked him, cordially, and of course he started screaming in my face. I was wearing a mask, and felt his spittle hitting my forehead. He wasn't masked, and was furious about cars, parking, and tow-trucks.

The delivery worker put my last sacks of groceries on the grass between the curb and the sidewalk, while the screamer was re-screaming about parking and tow-trucks. There was no tow-truck in sight, and the lady's car was properly parked at the curb.

I said "Thanks" to her, and she nodded but was understandably in a hurry. She climbed into her vehicle, started the engine, drove away, and the screaming guy took a swing at her car's hatchback as it passed. He missed, but his momentum made him stumble and fall.

Which was OK by me. I prefer having lunatics on the ground instead of on their feet. I probably chuckled, then picked up my groceries and walked toward the porch, but when I got there he'd hurried over and was blocking my way.

"You'll excuse me," I said, "but I'm going inside."

"What if I won't let you?"

I scoured my mind for a clever retort, but there was nothing, so I just looked at him. He was younger than me but not young, with unkempt hair, and eyes wider than you'd want to see in someone blocking your way.

"What if I won't let you?" he said again.

Was he really challenging me to a fight, like in second grade? Well, he was skinny and I'm fat, so he might land a few quick punches, but eventually I could sit on him and crack his ribs. I'd rather just put away my groceries, though.

I took a few steps off the walkway and onto the lawn, then back to the walkway. I'd gone around him, and maybe we were both relieved. Up the three stairs to the porch, I unlocked the door, and he started screaming at me again. I put the bags I was carrying inside the building, and reached for the plastic bags on the porch. The two big bags made it inside, but a small box fell out, and he snatched it.

I stood on the porch, and he stood at the foot of the three stairs. He was no longer screaming, but glared at me defiantly, holding my yellow and blue box. "Those are my suppositories," I said. "They're for hemorrhoids." I was about to tell him he could shove 'em up his ass, but he screamed, "Fuck you!" and threw the box into the bush.

I could barely see it through the leaves and branches. It cost $3.19, and it wasn't worth a fight or an injury over that, so I shrugged, and just looked at him. He stomped off, shouting again about tow-trucks.

As he screamed off down the street, I was thinking, there goes the looniest loon I've seen on this block since moving to Madison. But he's not much compared to the loons in San Francisco, when I lived there. He's a minor-league loon.

I carried my groceries in, put the frozen stuff in the freezer, and returned to the porch with my grabber, "as seen on TV." I reached over, snagged the box on my first attempt, and I was about to return to my apartment when I heard a voice from on high.

"Mike's having a bad day," said a voice from above. I looked skyward, and saw my upstairs neighbor, on the tiny balcony above the tiny porch. Another annoyance. That guy spends most of his spare time on a a plastic chair on the balcony, unless it's freezing, and it was a balmy 45° today, so there he was. We've been having very brief conversations for years, but I don't like saying hello to him every time I pass under.

He told me his name once, but I forgot it instantly, so I just said, "You know that guy?"

"That's Mike. He lives in the other building, drinks too much, and likes to make trouble." Our apartment complex consists of twin buildings, so 'the other building' means that Mike the Screamer pays rent to the same landlord we do, but he doesn't have a key to our building, which is a relief. "I already called 9-1-1," said my nameless neighbor above, "and I'm going to report him to the landlord."

I stepped out onto the grass, so I could make better eye contact with the man upstairs. "That's probably the right thing to do," I said.

And it was, and I might've called 9-1-1 myself, but it was a relief that I didn't have to. I hate calling the authorities, and never do it unless there's no other choice.

I thanked my neighbor, came inside, ate some eggs, inserted a suppository, and thought about things.

'Mike' hadn't hurt anyone, hadn't even tried to hurt anyone, but it was obvious that he'd wanted to. He'd taken a swing at a car and missed, which was comical when it happened, but he was plainly dangerous to the young, small woman driving that car. So yeah, 9-1-1 the schmuck.

An hour later, two policemen knocked at my door, and I hate it when that happens. I said "Let's not" when they asked if they could come inside my apartment, but with an open door between us, I described what had happened.

After they'd left, I watched from the porch, with my neighbor on the balcony above me, as the cops nudged Mike into the back seat of their squad car. I do not like dealing with cops, but it had to be done.

"Too much beer," said the man upstairs, "too early in the morning, causes nothing but trouble."

Republished 4/16/2024   


  1. Of course there's no hope, but in case you'd like to delude yourself here's an uplifting vid of a nice song. Crank up the damn volume.



  2. "When the Levee Breaks" . . . Playing for Change Featuring John Paul Jones



    1. The Weight is a song I've always liked, and they do it well. Playing for Change rocks. I think there are a few of them in my playlist.

      Gotta wonder how old it is. Ringo looks about 50 but he'd have to be about 80 now.

      Less wild about When the Levy Breaks. Never been able to find the melody on that one, even when Led Zeppers did it.

    2. John Paul Jones is a Zepper, or was. Made some fine bass runs and was undercredited. I think that's how Ringo looks "now". I think that vid was made in the last three years. It was made just before Robbie Robertson of The Band died (he mostly wrote the song) and he died last August. Ringo, as you will know, was a sick child -- didn't attend school until what would be middle school here because of it, and he's gonna outlive them all. Looks better than Paulie. That peace and love stuff sometimes really works.


      Oh, shit, let's try one more:

      Goin' To California


    3. Nope, I never knew until now that Ringo was a sick child. Nor do I know how he came to be called 'Ringo'.

      I did like that Zeppelin song. Didn't know it was Zeppelin. I'd heard it, liked it, but thought it was the Grateful Dead being extra yellow mellow.

    4. I don't mind being a music guy on a movie site. These are the guys who made A Hard Day's Night and Help!. In Help! Ringo wore a fancy ring. He also wore lots of rings in his own life away from the big screen.

      Going to California is a song about going to California and about Joni Mitchell. Crosby, Stills and Nash got there first.


    5. Like a lot of Bob Dylan's stuff, I've always liked that song more than the performance of it. Let's have a cover by CSN with Y or without.


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