My new job is bothering people all afternoon. I won't say much more than that, except that it involves walking through a neighborhood and knocking on every door, and sometimes, after I knock on their doors, people write checks and give them to me.
Sometimes you've got to knock on a lot of doors before you make any money. It's a bit like prying lids off the tupperware in the refrigerator. Most of what you find has passed from the realm of food acceptable to the living, but occasionally you come across something wholly satisfying, which immediately validates the seconds -- perhaps moments -- of toil before an uncertain future, a dual projection, two extrapolations from the present world, one in which you have found something acceptable to eat, and one in which you have not. Hanging between these disparate futures, you wait for the winds of fate to gust and reveal to you your fortune.
That's what I was doing yesterday. Several hours into my shift, I had collected zero dinero. I came to a house with a deep front lawn, thick with healthy grass. The path that ran in a straight shot from the street to the porch wasn't the usual trail of stones set into the earth; it rose sharply from the lawn, its immaculate concrete surface gliding a few inches over the soil. It was really more like a sidewalk, but not sidelined at all. My eye followed it to the peculiar house with the form-stone facade, which was either exceptionally wide or short. Arriving at the porch, I found that the house was not very wide at all, but indeed very short. The path branched just before the front steps, moving left towards a shed, which sat even lower to the ground. The shed door where the path ended was a normal width, but almost square.
There was no bell, so I knocked on the door.
There was a letter taped to the door. In that suspended moment, I read it.
It has been over a year since you promised to redo the unacceptable job on the back shed. Are you going to be pleased to wait over a year for the money I owe you?
I want the mess cleaned off from the shed + thrown away and new shingles of the correct color bought.
You take no pride in your work and you are teaching this lesson to your son. Look at the cuttings on my walkway. They get brought into the house by the soles of my shoes.
Let me know when the job on the shed is done correctly. No excuses! You are filled with excuses. If you don't know how to do a job correctly, don't offer to do it!
I am sure you wouldn't want me to take this matter to a higher level.
It looks fairly short when typed, but this was a full 8.5 x 11" page of crisp, adamant script.
Opening the screen door to which the page was taped, I read the other side:
BALTIMORE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF AGING
GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ANNAPOLIS 2004
A brief schedule of events followed.
The neighborhood made no clear indication of anything, just far-away sounds of traffic, the leaves, a few radio stations mingling and dispersing in the humidity. All the other houses were hiding behind the dense foliage that overwhelms them in the summer.
By this time, anybody could have traversed the interior of that little house a half dozen times, even a particularly old and mean person, so it seemed unlikely that I was about to have a conversation. Furthermore, I estimated that the author of the letter was not one to write checks for being bothered. I peeled the page carefully from the door and folded it into my bag.
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