Yesterday the paper lady broke the glass pane in our front door when she delivered the Chronicle.
I got in my truck and chased her down after Linda shouted, "get in your truck and chase her down."
I tracked her two blocks over. She saw me approaching and waited. I wanted to be nice about the whole situation because she had always been nice to us. Always made sure our paper was right on the porch and sometimes if we headed out early before it was delivered, she'd slow down in her Suburban and hand it to us from the window.
Every time I was ever unemployed, which has been often, I'd always try to get one of those delivery jobs. I thought they'd be easy to get but they're not. Turns out they're very much in demand. People get on wait lists for them and the lists never seem to get shorter. I'm probably still four from the bottom on some paper delivery list somewhere.
I reached over to the passenger seat to roll down the window. It took me a few cranks. as my arms are short. I could see she was getting impatient, she had papers to deliver, so i cranked more quickly.
"The window," I said finally, "it shattered when the newspaper hit." I thought maybe I shouldn't cast blame on her directly, but rather blame the Chronicle.
"Did it?" she said.
"It did," I said.
The Chronicle broke my window. The dingo stole my baby.
The situation just hung there for a moment, no one taking responsibility for what the Chronicle did. I felt I had to press the point.
"You busted our window," I said just in case she wasn't following where I was going. I mean the Chronicle has enough problems. It is close to bankruptcy.
"I'll write you a check. I'll leave it tomorrow," she said. That was good enough for me and I should have just left it at that but I felt the need to appear not as someone who would take money from a poor delivery person who probably bumped me out of line for a delivery job.
"Or i could get the landlord to fix it," i said.
A voice most likely Linda's said, you said what?
"You could do that," the paper lady window breaker nodded.
She gave me her cell phone number. I was to call her once the window was repaired and tell her the cost. I searched for a piece of paper, something to write on. I had some weird water leak on the passenger side of the car. When it rained, the front of the car became one big dirty puddle. Last spring, a blade of grass appeared sticking out of the carpet. The automotive guys quoted me $300 to fix the leak but I found it more cost effective just to just toss down the occasional Chronicle to sop up the rain water.
I tore off the corner of the front page. the headline read -- The Next Great Depression?
She gave me her name and cell and home number. I scribbled the numbers across Tim Geithner's forehead.
I got the window fixed for $115 dollars. It seemed high to me, but like the leak in my car, these kinds of repairs generally are three times what you expect to pay.
The next morning we heard her truck pull up outside the building.
"Get dressed! We gotta get her!" Linda shouted and rushed to get dressed. I didn't rush because I was fairly certain the woman would leave a check. She'd been so nice and understanding, especially since I'd suggested the landlord option.
"Hurry. We gotta get her," Linda said pulling on her shorts quickly. She slid into her shoes and headed down the stairs.
"You get her," I said, "I got her yesterday. You get."
I went into the kitchen to divide up our breakfast oatmeal into plastic containers. With blind trust in the window breaker's good word, I didn't feel the need to rush.
I spooned out the oatmeal, sprinkled some raisins on top, poured a little soy milk over it. We were shelling out $3.75 each for this pile of roughage down at Betty's Bake shop on 4th street. But that kind of extravagance had to stop, especially if we were facing the next Great Depression.
Linda re-appeared in the kitchen with her hands on her hips, her shorts inside out and backwards.
"You could'a helped me get her," she said. "Now she's gone. No check. nothing. You deal with it," she said. She sized up the two oatmeal containers I'd prepared and took the one with the most oatmeal and left.
I felt miffed that I was getting chewed out because the paper lady was not only a window breaker, but a deal breaker too.
Besides, what was the woman thinking? Did she think we wouldn't wait for her when she delivered the Chronicle the next day? Of course we would. We'd keep the lights out, stand by the front door and peep out waiting for her. Or maybe one of us -- Linda -- would wait outside in the car, to act as a backup in case she tried to make a run for it. I could feel the anger rising in me. the nerve of that Chronicle delivery paper lady.
Damn it it, I wanted my $115 dollars back! $115 dollars these days was a lot of money. It was 153.333 Chronicles. Half the cost to fix a puddle in a 94 pickup truck.
I went into work. my co-worker Raul came up to me and I was just about to launch into the story of the window breaker, when he pointed to a yellow envelope in his hand and said he'd just got laid off. We knew layoffs were coming but here they were right in smack in our face. he was the only person I really talked to at work. We'd gone to a couple of poetry readings.
"Raul, no," I said. I wasn't sure what the proper protocol was for situations like this.
Do you hug the newly laid off? Or, was that too much?
So I sort of rubbed his elbow. He'd lent me a camera lens the day before to try out. I reached into my backpack to give it back to him.
"Keep it," he said but but I could tell he really wanted it back. So I gave it to him and he left.
I went back to seething over my $115. The mind is like that sometimes. It latches onto one thing and will not put it down -- or mine is. Let it go a voice said. Think of Raul. I thought of Raul.
Then I thought of eggs and throwing them at the lady. A bucket of water tipped on her head.
We waited again the following morning. This time she wouldn't slip away. When I saw the lights approaching I called up the stairs to Linda to hurry. The lady walked slowly up the stairs and held out the paper for me as if I always waited outside on the stoop at six thirty in the morning.
"I'd like a check," I said. I handed her a copy of the receipt the repair man had given to me. It was still early out. Linda came down the stairs and stood next to me. I reached over and pointed to the total in case the woman hadn't seen it clearly.
"$115," I said.
"Yes, well I can see that," she said. "But what I don't see is a breakdown of the charges. I really need this to be itemized. A piece of glass costs ten dollars. And this says here $115."
I saw the eggs again. A dozen extra-large.
She refused to pay until she received an itemized receipt. So we called the glass guy again. Since it was early. there was a long pause filled with a rustling as if he were digging out from under blankets and clothing, beer bottles and pizza boxes. We explained the situation while the delivery lady waited. He said he'd fax me a new itemized receipt.
I went to work, received the fax, found out more people were laid off.
The next morning we waited again but she didn't appear.
"Call me if she comes back," Linda said. I waited with the receipt in my hand on the front porch -- or what was left of it. Our landlord had torn up the brick stairway and built his own interpretation of stairs from what looked like driftwood and old packing crates.
And then she appeared. She got out of her truck and handed me a release. It was something she'd got off the Internet. All very official. I called Linda and told her to come back quick. I have a profound fear of forms and small print.
"I'm calling Linda," I said. "wait here." I tried to dial Linda on my new Blackberry while the woman watched.
But I suffer from sudden onset performance anxiety. Simple tasks become impossible when I'm observed. I punched the wrong button, brought up the browser, turned on Pandora. The woman huffed, shook her head and opened the truck door.
"Wait here," I demanded. "You wait here."
She looked me up and down. I was wearing red pajama bottoms with white snowflakes and a Tour de France tee-shirt. Very threatening.
She climbed up onto the car seat and put the truck it in gear.
"I ain't waiting here. I got a job to do. I'll come back." The car slowly moved passed me.
So I kicked it. I kicked her Suburban.
The minute I heard the thud of my foot against the side-panel, I saw myself standing before Judge Judy, the TV judge. I saw myself trying to explain the situation to Judge Judy. But she's very black and white, that Judge Judy.
I kept interrupting her saying, "but the Chronicle delivery lady was leaving and she hadn't given me my money" and Judge Judy was repeating the question over and over,
"DID YOU KICK HER SUBURBAN?"
There's no explaining to Judge Judy when she gets like that.
But luck of luck, thanks to the ridiculously enormous size of a Suburban, the delivery lady never felt or heard a thing. Linda appeared, we chased the woman down and finally she coughed up the dough.
Linda's decided to cancel her subscription. One more nail in the coffin for the poor old Chronicle. It's not the paper it used to be, not that it ever was much but still I think i'll miss it.
Especially when it rains.