Sheila & Gus. Not that I didn’t love them. I did,
like the back of my hand. But they drove me nuts.
They were both on disability, God bless them,
him from the service, her for being blind.
Plus they were practicing alcoholics, and they
were very good at that particular craft.
One time Gus was suggesting obliquely that he was Jesus,
and I happened to smirk. From then on I was "That Buddhist."
I’m a Buddhist because I’m agnostic about Gus being Jesus. OK.
He had an 8-word postcard from Henry Miller, so he said, that
he’d shown me 50 times. Every time he was drunk, he popped his
wallet out. "Have I shown you this personal postcard from Henry
Miller?" "Yes." He showed it to me anyway. You couldn’t even
read it it’d been folded & unfolded so many times. Gus said
it said "With best wishes from your pal Henry Miller."
It probably said "Leave me the hell alone you damn fool!"
One time it sounded like they were rolling a bowling ball
around in their bathtub. There were crunching noises
accompanying the bowling ball, and giggling. I went over
to complain & they played dumb, asking each other if they
knew what I "might be talking about." At least the damn noises
stopped. What I suspected was, they were rolling the bowling ball
around in the bathtub & then dropping cockroaches in at the same time.
They were over there drunk once killing each other,
as far as I was concerned. I pounded on the wall
but the mayhem continued. It sounded like they were picking
each other up and throwing each other against the wall.
Maybe they were having some kind of loon sex, I didn’t care.
I went over and pounded on the door and stepped back a ways.
The door swung open revealing Gus naked as a jaybird except
for big plaid socks. I said, "How about going ahead & killing
each other & getting it over with!" "That goddamn Buddhist!" Gus
hollers. Sheila was behind him in a fake fur coat and a motorcycle
helmet. "Run, Richard, run!" she says. "Where’s my pants!" Gus says.
"I’m getting that goddamn Buddhist once & for all!" "Run, Richard,
run!" I went over and complained to the landlord for about the
hundredth time. He was scared to death of Gus because the guy did
have a gun, although he brandished it one time he was drunk
and it was all rusted to hell and the barrel was bent half back
They had one record: the Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits. They played
it all day long and she’d sing along at the top of her lungs,
like Olive Oyl. I used to blast my music and drown them
out. One morning about 4 am (they had no schedule, no work,
and were not into clocks) I woke up to “Help me Rhonda” squawling
over there. I banged on the wall; they turned it up. They had
a little phonograph Gus had hooked up to four monstrous speakers
he’d stolen from somewhere, so all the songs sounded the same,
like ten trees full of drunken squawking parrots. I went down
to the power box and shut the power off to their apartment.
“Help me Rhooooo …”
Their checks would run out toward the end of the month. They were
furnished apartments. He’d take what was left of some dresser
or coffee table they’d half destroyed and try to sell it to
the neighbors, most of whom didn’t speak much English.
They knew enough not to open the door. He’d get pissed
& start hollering: "Antique coffee table! Fifty cents!"
The only peace I had was when he’d get tossed in jail
for a couple days for some drunken exploit. She was fine
by herself, happy, sufficient, peaceful. It was almost as if
she could see when he wasn’t there. Still, she missed him.
Then one day they were gone. I thought they’d finally
killed each other, but they’d absconded in the night.
They’d taken the faucets & ceiling fan & anything they could
stuff in a sack. The landlord showed me the place. There were
even two doors missing, hinges and all. About a year later
I saw them at the Safeway buying beer, an artichoke, and a
TV Guide. I almost said hello but decided no good could
come of it. I already had all the memories of them I could