Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 2 of 5)

If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.

Brian looked over the maintenance man's shoulder as he peered into the circuit breaker box. The maintenance man murmured to himself. He looked at Brian, then at the breakers, then back to Brian.

“The lights just went out, you say?”

Brian was irritated, mostly because his inevitable racquetball victory had been snatched from him, but partly because this maintenance man wasn't taking this seriously. He looked at the name patch on the maintenance man's uniform disdainfully.

“Yeah, that's what I say, Bob.”

Bob looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “Well, none of the breakers are tripped. I don't know why the lights would've suddenly gone out.”

“Well they did,” Brian said without attempting to hide his frustration.

Maybe it's the bulbs,” Bob said, closing the breaker box panel and avoiding Brian's intense gaze. They walked around to the front of the building and opened the door to the court.

Well well well,” said Bob, looking over at Brian with a intentionally neutral smile. “It would seem that the lights are working fine to me, Mr. Wolcott.”

For the first time during the exchange, Brian was speechless. He simply stared up at the lights, which were now shining brightly.

Brian spluttered helplessly. But... but...”

Have a nice day, Mr. Wolcott,” Bob said.


Matt had hastily shouted their apartment number as he left to care for the injured Kurt, and Brian stopped by on his way home. He carried Matt and Kurt's forgotten racquets and tubes of spare racquetballs. Matt answered the door.

Hey!” he said cheerfully and ushered Brian in. “Thanks for bringing our stuff by. Did they get the lights fixed?”

When the maintenance guy came to look, they were fine,” Brian said, shaking his head. “Not sure what that was about.”

Didn't matter to me,” said Kurt, seated on the couch. “Someone had already declared war on my eyeball, so I didn't see anything anyway.”

Kurt sat with his feet elevated on a footstool and held a package of bacon against his injured eye. Brian sat in a threadbare armchair and shrugged. He looked at Kurt quizzically.

“Stop looking at my bacon! Kurt yelled.

Matt plopped down on the opposite end of the couch from Kurt.

He searched for 'what do do when you've been hit in the eye with a racquetball' on the internet,” Matt said, grinning. “That's what the internet said to do, and you should always trust the internet.”

Kurt shot Matt a menacing look and said, “The top search result said to put a cold steak on it, but we don't have any steak.”

Matt tried to stifle a fit of laughter unsuccessfully which made Brian smile in spite of his foul mood. Kurt pouted quietly.

I made Kurt an appointment with the ophthalmologist for tomorrow morning and he'll be fine,” Matt said to Brian. “And anyway, when do you want to play again?”

Brian perked up and started to say, “How about-”

What?!” Kurt exclaimed. He sat up on the couch and glared at Brian and Matt with his one good eye. He pointed an accusing finger at Matt. 

“You're going to play racquetball without me? Me, your roommate of three semesters!”

Matt made a sour face and laughed bitterly.

Of course I am playing without you,” he said scornfully. “I've been telling you to wear goggles for forever and I'm not going to let your stupid face stop me. So how about tomorrow at three?”

Brian agreed.


Ali pedaled wearily up to the mailboxes. It was late, she was tired and she squinted in the darkness. She found their mailbox, unlocked it and sighed as she placed the enclosed bills into her backpack. She heard shuffling footsteps behind her and she turned around abruptly.

Oh, Mrs. Berman,” she breathed. “It's you. You scared me!”

Sorry,” said Mrs. Berman is squeaky voice. “Why are you checking mail so late?”

Just got done with work. You weren't out running this late, were you?”

Mrs. Berman had been Ali and Brian's downstairs neighbor for the past few years. Tonight she was clad in light colored running tights and jacket, her thin white hair in a ponytail. Ali guessed that Mrs. Berman was around 90 years old, but she was constantly running and taught a hot yoga class at the senior center.

Mrs. Berman shrugged innocently. “I'm old, I can't sleep,” she lied.

Mrs. Berman, I told you not to go running at night anymore!” Ali said, clucking her disapproval. “Someone is going to run your ancient butt over.”

The two women laughed. Mrs. Berman unlocked her mailbox and extracted a small stack of envelopes.

I have my flashing safety light,” said Mrs. Berman, locking the mailbox. “And you should mind your business. If it's my time to go, then I'll go. I've been around a long time.”

Ali laughed and then paused for a moment, thinking.

Hey, Mrs. Berman,” she said. “You've lived in the complex for a lot of years, right?”

Thirty. I'd have moved away long ago when the complex went to crap but I'm on a fixed income, see.”

Mrs. Berman was sorting through her mail and Ali asked, “Do you remember when the racquetball court closed?”

Mrs. Berman looked up abruptly, her eyes wide. The bill she had been holding slipped from her hand and fluttered to the ground. Ali bent to pick it up and handed it back to Mrs. Berman, who was shaking.

Yes,” Mrs. Berman said in a quavering voice. “June 13. The complex was new then, I had just moved in.”

Why did it close?”

Mrs. Berman was silent and she looked more than a little afraid.

Oh, I can't say I recall,” she murmured. “It think it was bad... flooring.”

Mrs. Berman,” Ali said in a stern voice, attempting to fix Mrs. Berman with an equally stern look. Mrs. Berman wouldn't meet her eyes.

“Asbestos? I think it was asbestos,” mumbled Mrs. Berman. “Lead paint, too. Most dangerous racquetball court ever.”

Ali put her hands on her hips. “Mrs. Berman, why did they close the racquetball court thirty years ago?”

I've got to go now, Ali,” Mrs. Berman said with a dismissive wave of her wrinkled hand. “I have to go drink my protein shake,”

And with that, Mrs. Berman shuffled off into the night, leaving Ali standing alone by the mailboxes.

Tune in next week for more adventures...

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