we had an apartment on the upper west side
sub-let from the sub-lessee, our possession was tenuous

we had a radio with a tape player for playing the tapes we brought from canada
and from new mexico

we had a television but we didn’t watch it

we had a neighbor above us who had a television
maybe he watched it and maybe he didn’t
but we could hear it through his floor which was our ceiling

we had regular habits
our neighbor above us had regular habits
he had the habit of having on his television
while we had the habit of silence for our writing

we went upstairs to complain
not to complain but to ask our neighbor nicely
nicely as we could stand to ask
if he would turn his television down

we knocked on his door and he opened
we could see his television beyond him in his living room
he had a console television squatting on the floor
and a large aquarium with a light and a pump
the light was silent and the pump was loud
our neighbor had his television turned up so he could hear it over the pump

we told him what our problem was
he was a big guy, had a beer belly and large arms
had a daughter who stood behind him with a frightened look in her eyes
her jaw wired shut, unable to speak

our big neighbor guy with his television and his aquarium
and his daughter and his belly and his arms
he said he didn’t give a flying
said he’d lived there twenty years and he’d about
had it with the faggots who lived downstairs

he shut the door in our faces

we couldn’t help it
our hands shot out, fisted
and pounded on his door

he yanked his door open
his daughter stood behind him
terrified look on her face

he grabbed us by our arms
our skinny faggy arms
slammed us into the wall
wrestled with us on the landing
we could swear he tried to throw us down the stairs

then he let go and went back inside his apartment
with its television and its aquarium and its daughter and her jaw wired shut

we went downstairs and called the police
they came, they said do you have any bruises?
any cuts or broken bones?

we said no

they said we don’t have anything we can do for you

we said we have a tire iron
we could hit him with a tire iron

they said you don’t have the right to do that
so don’t

they took us upstairs to have a discussion with our neighbor (arms, aquarium, belly, etc.)
he said he had no idea what we were talking about
his daughter stood behind him, terrified
wired shut

we all had to promise the police we would behave before they would go away

in our kitchen
one of us had an idea

it wasn’t a very good one, involving violence and revenge
and misuse of the postal system
so we had beer and cigarettes instead

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

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