3701 Glendale Lane loved Albert Flemmy, despite all his faults.
He was a solitary man, seemingly friendless, in the dusk of his life. Short, fat, balding, bespeckled, grumpy Albert, all work and no play Albert, who’s entire life consisted of a job and microwave dinners across a room from a run-down thirteen inch television set.
Of course, his near-constant stream of complaints – to nobody – about her busted shutters, or creaky floors, or oddly-angled walls, or shoddy electrical system, or any one of a million other issues, did annoy her. It wasn’t her fault that the landlady – along with the previous eight landlords – put just enough money into her to keep the walls up and the roof on. Her hundredth birthday was on the way, for christ’s sake; and all the repair she was granted in the last five years amounted to the porch. And that was only re-done after Albert fell through it (carting two armfuls of firewood, no less!).
Homes as old as she needed care and attention; her brittle doors, crooked hinges, and defunct switches were testament to the fact that she had received only enough of it to remain a flaw ahead of “condemned”.
Still, despite all his carrying-on, she loved him. She was pretty sure he loved her back.
At least, he hadn’t moved out yet.
3701 Glendale Lane first knew she was being raped on a Tuesday night.
Albert was – like clockwork – snoring in his stained Lay-Z-Boy(c) recliner as snow danced softly on the television. As usual, he’d left half the lights on, and it was all she could do to keep everything running without something else dimming. But her concentration was shot to shit the moment she felt a touch – soft and caring, like a midwife’s – caress tape on the glass of one of her cellar windows before the crowbar silently broke it to shards.
The intruder slipped effortlessly into her, as soft and painful as a well-timed lie. He was good. He’d done this before. And she recognized the revolver for what it was from all the television shows Albert sleep-watched.
He was making his way to the stairs. He was coming for Albert. And for the first time, 3701 Glendale Lane – normally a timid house – felt the hot stab of anger all the way down to her faulty foundation.
Back in ’02, Albert had ordered one of those Digital Phone systems from AT&T… the ones that summoned the police and fire department if anything were to happen to the hub they installed under the sink. (Too much late night, third-rate mystery shows will make anyone paranoid, she guessed). Several were the nights when Albert had to speak to the police, telling them that it must have went off “all on its own” when it was raining, and her planks swole up, and she was just too tired and achy to give it enough power to operate.
It felt surprisingly good to intentionally lose her grip of it.
Which, for the first time in years, meant that the “bum” fluorescent light in the hallway – a few feet from Albert’s drooling face – had enough juice to flicker to life. He stirred, and immediately began cursing (about her) and making his way to the bedroom in search of his bath robe, which he always needed to make the carpet-worn trek to the fuse box.
The fuse box in the basement.
She panicked. The intruder stalled. The gun’s hammer clicked.
She would sooner collapse then let him have Albert.
In fact, that’s just what she’d do.
For the last four years she’d had to deal with holding up that rotten floor, and Albert would have surely left in a fit if his expensive, unused Nordic Track(c) ski machine were to fall clean through it to the basement below. The choice between seeing him leave and watching him die was all too easy to make, however, and with a sigh and a roar, the machine sunk through the floor.
Below, the intruder dodged. Above, Albert yelped. Around them both, she despaired.
Quickly, quickly, what to do, what to do – the dark figure in the basement was a coordinated blur, already scrambling to his feet. Albert stood, robe to his chest, trembling and half-naked, looking for all the world like a first-time john in front of a world-weary whore.
She had to act… now.
This was a night of firsts, as she found herself thankful for her lowest-bidder, ad hoc construction. “Screws, not nails” may have been the rallying cry of the nineties, but when that weighty light fixture was put up in the forties, it was about as well known as the term “baby-boomer”. With a creak, she let slip the two on the rear side, and that was all it took.
The intruder screamed, firing an offhand reflexive shot through the wall (she didn’t feel a thing) as metal and glass assaulted his face. He tumbled backwards, facedown and unconscious, blood pooling around his still, limp body.
And now, for the finishing touch. Her angry walls creaked and swole, as the shop nails supporting a wood maul – a relic from two tenants ago – began to groan and dip downwards.
She wished she could smile more than anything.
Albert blundered into the room, robe half-on, all heavy steps and breathless cries of “Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!”. One of his flip-flops sailed through the air, flung from his scurrying foot. He wailed as the light, swinging like a monkey from the ceiling, flickered directly onto all of the still and breathless glory that was the intruder’s body.
With a heave she didn’t know he had in him, Albert – hearing the moan of wood losing grip of metal – dragged the body away from the wall in a single lurch.
The hammer clanked to the concrete floor in relative peace and quiet as 3701 Glendale Lane witnessed, in amazement, as the silliest, stupidest, most annoying and infuriating man she had ever known performed CPR on what was surely the biggest threat to his life in ages.
Outside, she could hear sirens.
3701 Glendale Lane loved Albert Flemmy, because of all his faults.
And these days, as long as he’s around, she always tries extra hard to keep everything running without something else dimming.