The apartment above us doesn’t like anyone to pay rent for it or live there very long

When you hear lots of scraping on the floor above in the middle of the night, if you live in an apartment building you may suddenly become an heir to plants left behind by neighbors who are slipping away without paying their rent. The first time we ended up with a concrete lawn bunny and some chimes. The lawn bunny had been painted an ugly green color and I was thinking we would repaint it white in honoro of the bunny in Alice in Wonderland but we didn’t and one of its feet has since broken off but still it sits out there next to our concrete alligator. (Used to have a concrete penguin but its nose broke off too many times. Need to get a new one.) The second time this happened we received no inheritance. But with the last we have suddenly lots of plants.

The landlord mentioned week before last that the upstairs tenants hadn’t paid rent in a while, then in the wee early morning hours this weekend there was lots of scraping and banging about above, which turned out to be the upstairs neighbors moving out on the sly and not their dog being especially vigorous, which is what I thought was going on, having listened for months to the dog entertaining itself by chasing balls all over the place, slipping and sliding and scratching, and bang bang bang bang goes the ball and more running and slipping and sliding and then wham bang thunk occasionally sounding like it had run into a table and knocked it over.

So now we suddenly have five new plants, mostly fan palm frondy things or spiny palmy things which have nothing special to say about themselves except that they are all a deep healthy green and were well-tended. Not a single cactus, which was disappointing. The largest palm is a Chinese Fan Palm that still has its Lowes tag attached. I learn from the tag that Chinese Fan Palms are supposed to be outstanding houseplants but that they like bright light, which in my book means they are not outstanding houseplants. We have one already that we’ve managed to keep alive for a number of years and which summers outside. A website tells me that they get weak and “leggy” if not in full, bright sunlight, which ours is, real leggy, because even outside here there is no full, bright sunlight and our apartment doesn’t get full bright sunlight except through our bedroom window in the morning, for which reason we have regular blinds and venetian blinds and room-darkening blinds up over that window.

Anyway, wish these plants luck because I’m not the best with plants. I do fairly well by the cactus as long as I don’t try to take care of them.

The story on the upstairs neighbors who just slipped away into the night, given by the upstairs neighbors to the landlord,was that they were nurses, were sisters, they missed paying rent the first month when their dad died and they had to go up to Chicago for the funeral and they stayed for a month (they said) and because of that they lost their jobs as nurses and so couldn’t pay their rent the second month and then they didn’t pay their rent the third month and it was eviction time and they stole away in the deep dark of the night and left their plants.

All of the above could be true or none of it, that is exempting the fact they moved in and then never paid their rent.

I only spoke with one of the upstairs’ neighbors once, the older one of the two, and never saw the younger one. The first time was after they had given Marty mail for us that had been left in their mailbox. Several days later I was outside talking to the UPS guy who was delivering something to us, I was in my pajama bottoms with the penguins on them which I figured was all right because those pajama pants have recently been popping up all around town, seen browsing around in grocery stores for food etc., which surprised me because they’re several years old. So I was talking to the UPS guy and the upstairs neighbor was out walking her dog across the street. I noticed she looked at me kind of oddly. Then she yelled out at me if I lived in such and such number apartment. I yelled back yeah. She yelled that she had given the mail to some guy. I yelled back yes that he was yes my husband. I tried to muster a smile but I was in a lousy mood and I wasn’t sure it translated very well. She didn’t sjmile and continued to stare. I kept glancing back at her to see when she was going to stop staring and get on with walking her dog. For some reason I got the feeling that I’d somehow lost my chance to be a nice friendly neighbor. And I decided I didn’t care because this isn’t the kind of building where you have nice friendly neighbors, you just come and go quietly and pretend no one else exists. I was, however, grateful that she was thoughtful enough to give us our mail and that she wanted to make sure that she had given it to the right person.

I’m impressed that they took great care of their plants. They felt a responsibility to those plants and their dog. They felt a resposibility to give us our mail.

I heard them vacuuming a lot, usually early in the morning. So I always thought gee they must have some real clean apartment since they seemed to vacuum a lot. I thought gee they must feel a great responsibility to keeping their apartment clean

The landlord is miffed not just about the loss of three months’ rent but they left a decidedly personal impression on the apartment. I’d told Marty yesterday it was funny people kept getting that apartment who weren’t going to pay for it because of the apartments I’d seen it was one of the nicer ones, nice bath with nice old tile and fixtures and nice kitchen and the walls are nice and it was nicely painted and it was nice and bright. Well, they partially painted the trim black (a project they started and abandoned) and there are racing stripes painted all over the walls. Now, at our last place I did murals in the kitchen but I also suspected we would be the last tenants as the place was falling apart, and we were the last tenants. The walls in the apartment above are in pretty good shape, from what I’d seen before, and so I don’t know why the black painted trim and racing stripes. I understand more the tenant who covered his walls with plywood, splash painted the plywood, and painted the trim with “gold leaf”. That I understand. That sounds like it has distinct possibilities.

We have been content to keep our walls a nice dull off-white.

It must sound like I’ve an obsession with penguins, talking about the penguin lawn ornament and the penguin pajamas, considering I wrote In Search of the Great Penguin. But I don’t. I used to have the penguin lawn ornament. I now only have the penguin pants and a little clay penguin sculpture that H.o.p. made one day and gave to me. Those are the only penguin things around here.

Except for the book.

The one time I spoke to the upstairs neighbor, the UPS guy was delivering a box of the penguin books. They have all been sold and another couple of boxes of them. The little penguin is now here and there and no longer just here. But only a little here and there.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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