Prologue: To Better Days
The super at 1047 W Altamont was a drunk. If he hadn’t been related to that no good wife of his, the landlord would never have hired him in the first place. But he was related to that no good wife of his, and the job, after all, wasn’t that complicated, and there was always a chance that all the kid needed a chance to get on his feet. So the landlord kept him and fed the disease in the way only a blind and foolish, or at least careless, employer can.
Well, good intentions and all that.
On the night that Horatio Porter locked himself out of his apartment, and his cell phone in, the cell phone of his building’s super, Theodore Clyde Mitchell, was lost in a desk drawer, drained of its battery. Mr. Mitchell himself, or T-Clyde as his so-called friends knew him, was laying about his basement apartment in various states of inebriation, depending upon which portion of the night he was considered.
The morning had started out well enough. Rarely. Sunshine came through his basement window, the air conditioner was working, and he felt well rested. That morning, after cooking an actual egg, he determined this would be the day. He would check the boiler, replace filters, make a list, and finally, at long last, get his life in order. It wasn’t such a bad job, after all. He had a free apartment and not a lot of responsibility. If he could just get some motivation and do a little bit of work, he might just find he had things pretty good. Yes, this would be the day.
He looked about at the mess that was his apartment and mentally tried to calculate how long it would take to do a minimum of picking up. Quietly, a voice whispered in his ear.
If only you had picked up a little bit at a time, maybe this wouldn’t all seem so impossible.
Such a thought was not unusual for T-Clyde, and, given his brief but sunny outlook on the day, he pushed it aside for better ones. After all, he could pick up later. Shower, dress, make the rounds. That was the key to the first step. The new life. Job first, personal life later.
He got as far as the door when he remembered he didn’t have the purchase code for the hardware store. If that pretty young thing had still been working there, he might have had a chance. What was her name, anyway? Opal, maybe? Always flirting with him at the counter. She knew him, knew his account. She would have faked it for him and he could have got on with his day. Too bad she wasn’t around anymore. That son of a bitch who worked there now wouldn’t even give him the respect of a fake smile. Some nothing clerk who acted like he owned the place. Probably would someday. T-Clyde knew how this one ended. He’d been through it before. Give the guy the ten digit code and a purchase order number or he could, in the parlance of that particular son of a bitch, ride a pogo stick to Timbuktu and suck on a roasted shit stick.
T-Clyde did not know the code by heart.
If only you’d memorized it like you meant to.
Well, no matter. He had it in his phone. Well, his lost phone. His maybe lost phone. His phone he hadn’t seen in, well, in a while, anyway.
If only you’d looked for it last night like you meant to.
Well, no matter. Maybe the thing to do was a little cleaning after all. Maybe the phone would turn up and he could yet save the day.
Theodore Clyde Mitchell, his spirit not yet at its usual low, took a deep breath and jumped in to the seemingly impossible task of cleaning his apartment. He gathered clothes into a pile for washing later. He piled papers and mail onto his kitchen table for sorting later. He emptied a trash can and refilled it. In an hour, he had not yet found his phone, but there was a view of the floor he had not seen in weeks. For the first time in recent memory, he was feeling as if he had accomplished something. He smiled at himself and sat down for a ten minute break, viewing his morning’s work with pride.
He made a cup of instant coffee, poured in a little whiskey, as was his wont, and put his feet up with a dated magazine from the new pile of paper goods.
After another hour and three drinks had passed, he was frantically tearing apart his apartment for the phone, doubling the mess he had so thoughtfully begun to clean up not two hours before. The clothes pile became a morass along the floor once again. The papers spilled onto the floor. Drawers were opened and closed, including the one that claimed the phone, obscured by mail hastily stuffed on top.
By lunch, any hope that the day had held was far distant, as T-Clyde worked his way through a second bottle of whiskey in front of Judge Judy and her friends. By the time Horatio Porter, in need of help from the one man with keys to his apartment not locked inside, might have called him, T-Clyde was passed out on his couch, snoring loudly. By the following morning, the pain of his hangover was such that even had he found his phone the day before, T-Clyde would not have regarded its rings.
When Theodore Clyde Mitchell finally did wake up, throbbing in his head, churning in his stomach, and shame in his heart, he needed no attention from Regret.
Regret came by anyway, and joined T-Clyde for his first drink of the day, this one not so much in celebration as a desperate attempt to stave off the pain. As T-Clyde lifted the bottle to his lips, Regret, unseen in the corner, raised his own glass and whispered in his ear.
To better days, my friend.