Tag Archives: Damaged Goods

“Damaged Goods” – Fiction by Ron Kolm

Clutter in Basement - Tomwsulcer, 2011
Clutter in Basement – Tomwsulcer, 2011

A city apartment dweller is beset by clutter and kooky neighbors in “Damaged Goods,” Ron Kolm‘s comically claustrophobic short story from our Winter 2016 issue.

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“SONOFABITCH! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CAB!” drifts through the open third floor window, waking me up. Damn, it’s probably my downstairs neighbor, Mitzi, returning home after another night out. She consumes amazing amounts of alcohol to blot out the pain she’s in. She suffers from osteoporosis; her muscles and ligaments atrophying as well. The only way she’s able to ambulate at all is by using numerous braces and splints: small ones on her arms, large ones on her legs, a corset-thing for her spine. Plus she’s got a complete set of dentures, which she pops in and out (to get the occasional laugh) and one glass eye. To complete the picture, she must weigh close to 300 pounds. Her brace-like contraptions are essentially tiny dams holding a tremendous lake in place. She’s usually still sober enough at closing time to make it into a cab where she immediately unstraps and unhooks them, probably heaving a huge sigh of relief as she does so. The moment they’re all undone her shapeless body flows like unchecked lava into every crevice of the back seat and she passes out. I totally sympathize with the frantic cabbie, whose angry voice I can still hear, and wonder how he explained this situation to his dispatcher.

“Pockita-pockita, Brooklyn Bridge, squatch-squatch, wrap-it-up!”

Great. Eduardo, who lives in the first floor front apartment, must be awake too. Eduardo is a small dark man from Panama. He has salt and pepper hair–mostly salt. Smoke and fire are his elements. He disconnected the old gas stove in his kitchen, removed the jets and burners, and filled the resulting cavity with charcoal which smolders day and night, creating a dense black cloud. We called the fire department more than once after he moved in, but they said there’s nothing they can do, so we’ve learned to live with it.

If his element is smoke, his expertise is cunnilingus. He has set, he assures me, an official record of two hours and forty minutes while doing it. His entire stock of broken English expressions revolves around that particular part of the female anatomy and his special relationship with it. “Windshield wiper,” he’ll say, elbowing me, or “Brooklyn Bridge.” Sometimes it’s “going to the basement” but most of the time he calls it “swimming.”

I know I’m not going to get any sleep unless I help the cabbie get Mitzi out of his car and into her apartment. I pull on my pants and slippers and head for the street. As I pass by his door, Eduardo throws it open, smoke billowing around him like a stage effect, shouting “I’m gonna break my nose! Wrap-it-up!” and leers in my general direction. His glasses are fogged–spirals of smoke rise from his sweater. He places his forefingers and thumbs together, so that they seem to form a crude vagina, and sticks his enormous meaty tongue through the result, wagging it up and down.

“Chewcha!” he cackles.

“Eduardo, you are a sexist pig,” I say, trying to wave him back into his apartment.

“Chung-doom-bloom,” he sniggers, retreating.

Somehow the cabbie, who’s a big guy, and I manage to drag Mitzi out of the car and into the building where we deposit her in front of her apartment door. The driver goes back out and brings in an armload of splints and her purse, which he drops next to her inert form. He then gratefully exits, having collected his fare in advance. Now there’s only the little problem of rousing Mitzi and making sure she gets safely inside her flat. Not a moot point as Eduardo materializes in the hallway in a puff of smoke like a sooty genie. He proceeds to dance around Mitzi’s supine body, pointing out the, by now all too obvious, fact that her legs are spread wide open and she seems to be lacking any undergarments, which drives him into an absolute frenzy.

“Toonyfish! Chewcha! I’m gonna go to de basement and break my record! Two-to-one!”

“Damn it!” I hiss, grabbing him by the shirt and shaking him to break the spell. “Please get back in your apartment, Eduardo—this isn’t helping things!”

I push him away from Mitzi and clumsily try to rearrange the voluminous folds of her skirt in such a way as to cover her exposed parts.

“Mitzi, please wake up. Mitzi, I need your help. Mitzi, where are your keys? Mitzi, this is a nightmare!”

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