Once I moved into a new apartment and there were all these little holes in the wall and it drove me crazy. They were right up against the corner of the wall – a hallway corner – and it looked like how someone would hang a calendar, but it wasn’t. When you hang a calendar, you have to take it down at least eleven times and re-hang it. (Unless you’re like me and don’t buy your calendar until March, then it’s just nine times.)
There were enough holes. But they were misplaced.
The holes were right up against the 90-degree edge. It would have had to be a tiny calendar. Like the kind your grandfather would stick to his dashboard or a file cabinet. When they repainted this apartment these tiny holes had withstood the cheap white acrylic indoor and returned, in a random pattern, like the spray of buckshot on a road sign.
Who did this? What type of crazy person does this? I’ve seen voodoo, I’ve seen witches and pentagrams and black magic and all the weird idolatry that a young man sees when he thinks he’s living the life of a poet.
But this one threw me. It had been a nice apartment until then. Small, a bit dark and musty, but it had a coat closet and a real slice of front-door window to look at visitors through – no peepholes. Gas range. Fridge with a light that worked. But then I found these holes, this galaxy of dark faraway stars, and I began to go crazy with thoughts of lunatics who had run amok through my four rooms, beheading dolls or some such madness.
Guy across the hall was Deckchair John. He always sat on the front porch (upstairs/downstairs duplex – two apartments upstairs, two down) in a deck chair. When he wasn’t in it, he kept the thing in his apartment. One of the arms had a hole drilled into it that held, rather perfectly, a beer bottle.
He was a hairy-chested type who worked at a steak house nearby. He wore his hair long and had sunglasses pushed down his nose, like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. We had a beer my first night. He even let me sit my bottle in his holder once.
When I got loosened up (that’s always four beers), I asked Deckchair what he knew about whoever had lived in the apartment before me. He stiffened in his chair as though a great wind had started to blow, on the lee side of his salt-treated chaise.
John didn’t like the guy who’d lived here before me, and he got up and slammed his door and never talked to me again. He was so mad he left his deck chair out all night. I sat in it and looked up at the stars and this reminded me of all those holes in the wall. Of calendars and zodiacs and demonic minds that like to leave clues behind to their crimes.
I went inside and read an old newspaper. It had been in the top of my bedroom closet, tucked behind the silver tube that pumped air-conditioning from room to room, apartment to apartment. One of the want ads in the classifieds was circled with a pencil.
ALAKSA JOBS / GREAT PAY NO EXPERIENCE == EOE (CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECK)
Whoever it was had not been a criminal. Or at least never caught. In the bathroom medicine cabinet I found a full bottle of children’s aspirin. And a toothpick.
I ended up working at Deckchair’s steak house, in the back chopping onions and parsley. There were a lot of onions to chop, slice and dice, and I came to hate drying, stripping and chopping parsley. There were two celebrities who came in to the place while I was there: Joe Gibbs and Carrot Top.
Deckchair was a grill chef and he was one of the guys who wore a chef’s jacket and a toque. He glared at me all the time but I stayed back of the house, chatting with the dishwashers and sneaking hunks of homemade peach cobbler.
One night we ended up back at my place, and this guy from the Congo keeps looking around my bare living-room walls, wide-eyed as a meerkat. We can hear Deckchair out on the porch, smoking and cursing, playing Sabbath loudly on his boombox. Silas, who was in the last months of his student exchange, finally exhales loudly and said it was time to go.
I caught him at the door and wanted to know why everybody was leaving before the beer was gone. He said in the Congo, where he lived, there was a saying about evil spirits who enter a home through pinholes in the walls. Plus, he said, they’d had enough of Deckchair’s weirdness.
When they were gone I went out to Deckchair and wanted to know why he’s such an asshole all the time. He took a slug form his beer and gazed around the quiet street. He said everybody wants to go to Alaska like Alaska is some mecca for hippies and young people. He said not everybody is cut out for it.
I finally got accepted to a college on the other side of town and moved out of my apartment at summer’s end. I sat a couple of pots, pans and shit beside Deckchair’s door, thinking he could use them better than me.
I ended up scrounging a few thumbtacks from the place and stuck up that want ad on the corner of the wall with all the holes in it. I wrote in the thin margin beside the ad:
LAST CHANCE/EVIL SPIRITS WELCOME/NO EXP NECESSARY
Causes Sean Jackson Supports
PFLAG, Amnesty International, AA, Catholic Social Services