Accepting Defeat: For Small Pieces of My Dignity, I Do It
He met me at the front door and so did his small dog. Such an ugly creature, the man, not the dog--white hair tangled and matted, hanging long over his eyes and a crooked jaw from being struck by an automobile in a crosswalk accidental a few years prior. There was some form of arthritis that had set in throughout all the joints of Mr. Schlege, and he was now housebound. His dog was a small black haired terrier and she was the only thing keeping him sucking air and living since the accident.
"Take her down by that big oak tree on 40th Street," he said, "She always loved walking down that way with me."
"Sure thing," I told him, "but you got to start paying forty-five dollars a week, because this thirty-dollar shit is not cutting it; it is getting harder for me to drink a good hard drink these days and besides, Angella is about to throw my ass out."
"Just walk the dog and we will discuss all that payment jazz later," he said.
I took his dog and headed down the street in search of this big oak tree, knowing that in all honesty, once I turned the corner and was out of Schlege's sight, I was going to stop. We made the turn and were out of sight. I leaned against an old Buick that was parked next to the curb. I knew that the walk I had taken was much shorter than the walk that Schlege expected, so I lit a cigarette and started counting numbers in my head.
I made it to three-hundred before a swarm of tiny bugs began flying around my face, trying to land on my forehead. They were quick and stealthy; like tiny jet planes flying suicide missions. I swatted at them with my hands and connected with several; they fell to the ground and I knew that I still had not wasted enough time. I finished the cigarette and lit another one, swatted some more bugs and watched a woman through her open front window. She was brushing her long hair when the sky let loose with a loud roar of thunder. The thunder startled me, the dog cowered and the woman walked over to the window and shut it. The clouds were starting to darken and that was just the excuse I needed to take Schlege's dog back home to him. Walking back around the corner, I saw Angella's car turn north, heading away from my house.
Once arriving to Schlege's front steps, his dog ran into the flower garden to piss once again on a rose bush that was half dead.
"Goddammit!" Schlege shouted, "Don't let her piss on that bush!"
"It looks like it is too late; she's already finished," I told him.
"Clearly," he said displeased, "By the way, your landlady was just over there beating the shit out of your front door with a hammer." Old man Schlege opened his screen door which had no screen left on it anymore, it was just a door with a large square of cardboard pressed and taped to cover the opening; the cardboard was wrinkled and discolored, sun faded and dried from the weather. He handed me ten-dollar bills, three of them, and his dog ran back inside as he said, "I will not pay you one cent more than what I pay you now!"
"Okay," I told him, "Thanks, Schlege." I could have stood there and haggled with him, trying to push him for the other fifteen, but what good would it have done? I would more than likely still be leaving none the richer. Schlege is a troll, a long white haired troll. Anyways, the ten-dollar bills that Schlege was tossing my way, were the only thing being tossed my way as of lately, besides Angella's mind games.
Rapidly on the verge of grim, it had quickly become amazingly dark for the afternoon. You could smell the rain moving in as I walked down Schlege's front walk and headed back across the street.
Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry and short stories from the kitchen table of his ex-wife's home in Missouri. Selected pieces of Victor's work has appeared at, or is forthcoming from, Chiron Review; Blink Ink; Rat's Ass Review, and Least Bittern Books, among others. His latest collection is titled, In All These Naked Pictures of Us.