I was on my third coffee, and was not eating. The waitress was getting impatient; I was taking up her booth and time, and there was no decent tip in sight.
“Can I get some more sugar? This container’s about empty.” She stomped off, and I returned to the Sunday paper. Scouring the classifieds, I found what I needed and dialed the advertised number. An older-sounding woman answered.
“Is John available? I’m calling about the apartment he’s advertising.”
“The studio, downtown. The one listed for $400 a month.”
She paused for a few seconds too long before answering. “He’s not here right now. Can I take a message?”
“Please. I’d like to look at it as soon as possible. My wife booted me out this morning and I don’t want to stay in a motel any longer than necessary.” I repeated my name and number, cursing myself for giving out too much info.
“I’ll let him know.” Long pause. “He has three other apartments for rent; would you like to look at any of those?”
“Are they the same price?”
“No, they’re all $750, but they’re nicer.” No way was I affording that. By the time the divorce is through, I’ll be lucky to pay half that. I’ll stick with the cheap place, thank you.
She excused herself to cough, the came back to the phone. “Don’t tell him I said this, but you might want to save yourself a trip.”
My eyes rolled back. Did they not rent to single guys? Were they saving it for a friend?
“The apartment’s a mess. It’s in the college district, right over a strip bar. It’s loud as hell until closing, and the police are there every other night.” Dramatic pause. “I hear it’s owned by criminals.”
“That’s great,” I said, perking up. “It sounds right up my alley.”
“Sure. I’m a writer.”
“Oh,” she said, pretending to understand.