Murphy came into the lobby holding a large recycled brown paper bag, Russell was on his break, down in the locker room watching Heathers for the umpteenth time and eating pizza from a spot on first that wouldn’t last. Murphy had some other things to tend to but there was always something for him to do at the building. The bag in his hands looked small, it was a delivery from the butcher shop on first for our most enigmatic tenant, Bran Schloss. An interesting resident to say the least, one of my personal favorites. Murphy handed me the bag and as he did so the back elevator buzzed.
Murphy was truly a blessing for the building. The last super was egregiously incompetent as I was told on dozens of occasions by tenants and staff alike. Even though some tenants appreciated him meant nothing cause all it took was a handful of the miserable rabble rousers to give Murphy a headache. Complaints came in droves. The worst tenants had to find a way to flex and they did. Murphy was more than just handy, his knowledge of the building and different areas of construction was extensive. Though most tenants would never acknowledge his proficiency or give him any credit, often passive aggressive but never loud, they wouldn’t dare get loud with him. They were infallible and no idea that hadn’t been born in their own minds could be worth the effort. They knew everything. They knew it all. The snobbery was boundless. Classic case of the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat. They would look at him, or me and you, and always find comfort in knowing inside their greedy hearts that they were better than us peasants. Murphy’s certifications and hands-on experience were no match for their Ivy League degrees and their soft hands.
Ichabod was curious about the contents of the parcel. He sniffed and pawed at my thigh. I petted him on the top of his head. I would take the front elevator and switch it to automatic and let it run while I delivered the meat.
Bran Schloss purchased both penthouse apartments from overseas without seeing them in person, they were combined and the construction was completed before he moved in, what might as well have been a hundred years ago. I imagined he crossed the Atlantic ocean aboard a ship with no survivors when they came into port, resting in a coffin filled with his native soil. The penthouse was technically the 22nd floor of 534.
Feisty Ray Knight wore no. 22 and was the recipient of the MVP award in the ‘86 World Series. Some people earned my respect by throwing hands. Not everyone is man enough to put their hands up and go for it. Ray Knight was.
Mr. Schloss was hands down the wealthiest person to live in 534. He cared not for anything fancy. He disdained high society and refused to participate in the masquerade. He mocked the haut monde. He treated the most wretched tenants the same as they treated the staff. To the others he was kind and inviting. To the staff he was respectful and benevolent. Art and history was his passion. He spoke of his deceased wife as if she sat beside him and held his decrepit hands. He dabbled in palm reading, I apparently had a long life line, and he hosted a weekly dream group, interpreting and dissecting the vast landscapes of the unconscious mind with two loyal members and a revolving door of new ones. I swore that some members of the dream group never seemed to exit the building.
Before I could knock on the front door, Mr. Schloss said, “Put the delivery in the refrigerator for me, Rainer. Please and thank you, my boy.”
“Of course.” I said, wondering how he knew it was me. I removed meat wrapped in wax paper. A porterhouse, a few filet mignons, some flank and skirt steaks. Two 32 ounce containers of pig’s blood rounded out the order. I placed them inside the bare fridge, then threw away the bag.
“There is money here for you, Herr Manning,” he said. He was perched in his chair, watching the news on an old television, with the closed caption on. He read along as Sibelius played on the record player. Violin Concerto in D minor. A hundred dollar bill was placed beside the phonograph.
“Thank you,” I said. I used to refuse and make a fuss about taking money that I felt was too much for the task at hand. He would tell me that I was stupid for that and to take the money and shut the fuck up. “How are you feeling, Mr. Schloss?”
“How do I feel? I wish someone would put a stake through my heart. I feel very old and tired. Like a relic, forgotten and dusty. Don’t get old if you can help it.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
A woman on television was talking emphatically, she wore heavy makeup, and was outraged about the economy and the state of the country. “I’m here watching this unending soap opera called American politics,” said Mr. Schloss. “Does it ever get better? There is so much nonsense on the box. How anyone could advocate on behalf of the human race is beyond me. Humans are everything that is wrong with this world. People have forgotten that hatred and cruelty is nothing new. This behavior is not surprising and definitely not quantified by complexion or gender or sexual preference. Humans are a hateful lot. If I was a younger man, I’d put the proper fear back in the populace. The little townspeople have forgotten. They no longer remember the horrors of real life, and the ones that stare them in the face they step over and turn their cheeks away. The world is now overrun with ingrates and cowards. I’d love to put a dent in the population. It’s incredible how humans have evolved, with all the knowledge and technology and yet, they’re still best suited to be flecks of meat snagged between my teeth.”
“Just an old man rambling. Forgive me. This shit gets me so worked up and I’m four fingers in on a nice 21 year old Scotch.” Mr. Schloss showed me four fingers that looked like they were submerged in water for hours, with long yellow jagged fingernails.
“Yeah, everything lately is pretty depressing.”
“Lately? Since the dawn of time but chin up, young man. You’re one of the good ones. You won’t always be in the basement. Not that there’s anything wrong with a nice, murky basement.”
“I’m not even going to ask.”
“Don’t ask things you already know the answer to. No one ever likes the truth. Run along, son.”