Every apartment in the building was its own little universe, and what was going on in another’s universe did not concern you. It certainly did not concern Mr. Wells, a kind man who was probably the strangest tenant of all. But this should have concerned him, for what he did was very unkind.
He had a nose that scared children. It was half a large punctured pear, red and pockmarked. He was bald but for a grayish sprinkling along the sides and back of his head: almost, but not quite, monkish. He could often be heard mumbling to himself. He was not underweight. He was considered strange.
He had the kindest eyes—doglike, wet.
He lived three flights up in the elevator-less building on the corner of Madison and Hoover. It was a five story apartment house owned by ghosts and managed by invisible and unreachable proxy. Who, in turn, worked through other heartless proxy when rents were due or overdue or when evictions took place.
It was a friendless building. Of twenty tenants only two were close. Only five knew each other by name. All in all a collection of strangers. Their only bond was the payee on rent checks. The only thing they had in common was considering him strange.
His fingers were clean, pink sausages. His lips were near blue but quite full. Most of the time he smelled of soap.
He puffed after the first flight of stairs and was nearly out of breath altogether by the time he reached his brown apartment door where the bronze letters 3A greeted him. He wore a vest and always kept the apartment key in its left hand pocket, attached to a thin but strong silver chain. He always knew where to find the key as he always wore the vest. He never locked himself out.
He rarely saw his neighbors. Occasionally he would hear a door slam and hear feet scrape across the dirty tile floor of his landing, and sometimes he would lean up against his door to press a squinting eye to the spy hole. What he mostly saw were backs or tops of heads proceed down the stairway leaving him embarrassed for having intruded on their owners’ privacy.
He cooked his own meals except for Fridays when he ate one large serving of roast beef and two baked potatoes at Zimmy’s Restaurant between seven and eight regardless of the weather. He over-tipped.
About Ulf Wolf
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Published November 25, 2012
Literature & Fiction.