Author: Rhapsody's Song PM
Oneshot. A landlord must confront an old man about his rent.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 870 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Published: 08-08-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2400825
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The old, water-stained, faded green door of apartment 316 received three impatient raps one November morning. There was a pause, and then three more knocks were heard, followed by a shout that frosted in the air as it was emitted.
As the man raised his gloved fist to abuse the door a third time, it opened up a crack, slowly, reluctantly. A pair of eyes, once brown, now almost completely blue with age, peered out from beneath bushy gray eyebrows.
"Yes, Bill?" the old man queried, his voice rusty and weary. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, uh, you see it's just the matter of, uh-May I come in? It's cold as Hades out here."
Mr. Jenkins hesitated, mumbling something under his breath.
"I'm sorry? I didn't quite catch that," said Bill.
Mr. Jenkins shook his head. "It was nothing," he said quietly. He bowed his head and closed the door. Bill heard the sound of the chain lock being slide open and the door reopened, this time wide enough to let him in.
Bill quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind him, but he soon found that the room was not much better than the outside. "Christ, why don't you turn the heat up? It's ten below out there."
The old man only shrugged, shuffling over to a well-worn leather armchair in front of the television set.
After waiting a moment for a further response that was never to come, Bill shrugged took the only other seat in the room, a rickety wooden stool. As he did so, he noticed the antique pistol on the table next to the old man. "Is that real?" he asked, gesturing at the weapon.
Mr. Jenkins stared at the gun a moment before answering. "Yes," he said. "From my collection. It's a-"
"Simeon North Model 1816 U.S. flintlock pistol."
For the first time, something akin to interest flared in Mr. Jenkins's eyes and his lips quirked upward in the tiniest of smiles. "You know your guns."
"My father was into guns, too," Bill said with a grin.
"That's right," said Mr. Jenkins, "I remember now. Old Rob had quite an impressive array of guns. Though he was more into rifles, if I recall correctly."
"I guess so," Bill said, nodding politely. Mr. Jenkins said nothing, staring off into space as Bill fidgeted with his gloves. Finally, he said, "Mr. Jenkins I came here to talk to you about the rent."
The old man nodded, still staring blankly ahead.
"You haven't paid it for three months now," Bill forged ahead. "If you don't give me the money soon, I'm going to have to evict you."
Mr. Jenkins took his time answering. "What if I don't have any money to give you?"
Bill stifled a groan and rubbed at the back of his neck. "Don't you have any friends or family you can borrow the money from?"
The old man shook his head slowly, as if zoned out to the dark television screen before him.
Bill looked down. "I'm sorry, then. There's nothing I can do."
Finally, Mr. Jenkins turned and looked him in the eye. In that instant, the intensity in that gaze was frightening. "What if I told you that, by letting me stay, you would be restoring my faith in the human race?" he asked.
"I-I-I can't, Mr. Jenkins Really. I'm sorry."
The flicker of light seemed to go out in the old man's eyes and he nodded. "Thought so," he said to himself, so quietly that Bill barely caught it.
"I truly am sorry," he said, "If there's anything I can do to help. Call family, find you a place to stay for a while, feel free to ask.."
"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself. I'll be gone in the hour."
"Y-you don't have to leave so soon," Bill protested, surprised. "Take you time to get your things together."
"What's the point in dragging it out?"
Bill had no answer. Soon after, he got up and left, letting himself out. Outside of the apartment, he leaned against the wall and sighed. He always hated these conversations. He hated playing the bad guy, but what else could he do? He couldn't just let people stay in these rooms for free. But the old man had seemed so alone, so pathetic. Bill considered going back in and giving Mr. Jenkins another month, though he knew that it would do no good.
Shaking his head, he pushed off the wall and began walking slowly toward the staircase. Like the old man had said, what's the point in dragging it out, right? The old man would be fine. There were government agencies to help with this kind of thing. He wouldn't starve or freeze to death on the streets.
His hand had just brushed the top of the staircase railing when he heard a sound that made him freeze: the distinct firing sound of a Simeon North Model 1816 U.S. Flintlock pistol.