Rearranging the furniture

BARTed to Berkeley, as usual, to sell fish, but never made it to Telegraph Ave.

I walked to Jay's house, where the fish cart and materials are stored, but when I got there Jay said Judith had called, hoping I'd work for her today. Jay said she was OK with it, and I guess I'm OK with it too, so I got traded like a shortstop sent to Pittsburgh.

Judith had called me, but I don't have a phone, only a voice mail service I hadn't checked since Thursday. So she'd called Jay instead.

And what do I care? I get five bucks an hour either way, so I shrugged and reported to Three Rivers Stadium — er, Judith's house, where I'd lived until a month ago, and where I'd worked on Tuesday. 

It's vaguely cosmic, because Jay and Judith both live in Berkeley, less than a mile apart, but they'd never met. They both sent me three bucks for Pathetic Life and both liked it, and Jay offered me a job, and Judith offered me a place to stay, and somewhere along the line I introduced them to each other. 

♦ ♦ ♦   

At the messy old flat, I didn't knock. Knocking makes the dog go crazy, and I still have a key. Soon as I stepped inside, Lugosi licked my legs, and I picked up a note someone had dropped through the mail slot. "Please, please," it said, "do something to keep your dog from the front window. He has barked yesterday and today non-stop."

I gave the note to Judith, and she glanced at it without much interest. And you know, I like Judith and I like Lugosi, but he's a dog the size of a Shetland pony, and he's never been trained. He shreds the mail and a couple of times he's nearly knocked me down the stairs, and he barks *and he bites — there's an order from Animal Control that Lugosi must be leashed and muzzled whenever he's outside.

Now he barks all day? That's new, but everything's changed since Cy and Joe and I moved out. When there were five of us, someone was almost always home, but now the dog is left alone for hours at a time, and I guess he's not handling it well. Judith isn't handling it all that well, either. "They didn't even sign the note," she said, "and he's a dog. Dogs bark."

"True on both counts," I said, "but if Lugosi's barking all day, your neighbors are gonna hate you, and they'll probably call Animal Control again."

"Oh, well," she said, and that was that and then Judith showed me the work she'd needed me for. And to my pleasant surprise, it wasn't cleaning. It was interior redesign. 

♦ ♦ ♦   

We disassembled and dragged the bed from the guest room into Cy's ex-room, moved a desk from Cy's space into the guest room, carried chairs from all over the house into Cy's room, and a big table from the living room into my old room, etc, etc. It was a whole lot of heavy lifting and schlepping things around, but Judith had a vision and it slowly started coming true.

While I was beating a dog's worth of hair out of a rug I'd drug from the guest room down the stairs and outside, she took a knife to the bed we'd moved from Cy's old room. She hacked and carved its foam rubber mattress into smaller pieces, lashed them on top of a dozen milk crates, tossed a pink sheet over it, and it became a new couch for the corner. A clever and comfy couch, I might add. 

Then I brought the now-mostly-hairless rug into what had been Cy's quarters, and with another hour's rearranging and some sweeping and vacuuming, Cy's room became a second living room, just as
Judith had planned.

Then we (mostly me) assembled a new bookshelf she'd bought by mail order, and we (mostly me) moved a few hundred books from stacks in the corner of the old living room onto the new shelf in the new living room. Then we (mostly me) moved all the chairs we'd moved earlier, again, into different rooms. My old space seems to be becoming an auxiliary laundry room, and Joe's old room is where the clutter goes to die.

As for me, I'm exhausted. I'd worked the same five or so hours I would've worked selling fish, only instead of sitting on my butt collecting colorful stories of street life, I moved furniture all day, collecting a backache, two sore arms, a face covered with sticky sweat, and a nose full of dust and dog hairs I'll still be picking out tomorrow.

Tomorrow, while I'm selling fish, I hope. Trade me back from the Pirates, please.

♦ ♦ ♦  

At the phone booth in the hotel, I checked my messages, and yup, Judith had called twice yesterday trying to hire me, before she'd given up and called Jay.

Of much more interest, there was a phone message from Corina. She didn't say yes and didn't say no to my Spike & Mike invitation, but she said she'd written a reply and I should have it within a couple of days.

Was she being coy, or was the phone call a prelude to an almost certainly lipless kiss-off? I couldn't tell anything from her tone of voice, and I sure can't afford to call her back long distance. (I'm still broke — in the confusion this morning, Jay forgot to pay me, and I forgot to remind her.)

It's a weird situation. Ever since they were girls, I've hated asking women out, but they never ask me.

Asking a woman for a date is like being the little wooden duck at a sideshow carnival, and the woman goes blam and shoots me down. Asking by mail is easier, but it's odd, and a reply via voice mail that says the answer is coming by mail? That's even odder.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Also got a message from a man named Elliot, who'd seen my "I'll do anything" flyers in Oakland. He said he's looking for a carpenter to work on his summer cabin in Philo, way up in California's north country.

I called him back and explained like Bob Dylan but without singing, that it's not me he's looking for. If I had a hammer I'd hammer my thumb.

"Even if I only use you as a gopher," he said, "five bucks an hour is a good price."

"You'd have to cover my transportation to Philo and back every day, or pay for my housing there," I said, and we agreed that the whole idea was crazy.

He still thinks I'm a maybe, though, and I never argue with someone who insists on giving me money. It sounds like a rotten deal for him, but I'll do it if he pays me, plus expenses. The gig wouldn't start until June, and he said he'd call again in a month or so, but I'm sure he can find a better man by then.

Pretty sure Corina can find a better man, too.

From Pathetic Life #23
Saturday, April 27, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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