“Hey now gurl. Whatchu say? You gots problems in your apartment?”
Sheila could hear the voice of Earl the maintenance man through her door. Earl was a black hillbilly, born and raised in Alabama. He had a Southern twang, limp in his step and two teeth missing in front. With a slim build and impressive muscles for a man of 63. His 5-foot-5 stature did not lack confidence. Earl was ladies man back in the day. No different than right now?
Sheila swung open the door, still fidgeting with the belt of her robe. “It’s been a week, Earl. I called maintenance over a week ago. The problem isn’t in my apartment. There’s something going on in the basement.” The irritation in her voice was pretty obvious.
Sheila was still fidgeting with her robe. The sight of her partly-exposed shoulder caused Earl to experience temporary deafness. He didn’t hear a damn word she said. If he knew under that cute, fuzzy robe were a pair of granny panties with worn out elastic, and a bra with holes in it… eh, never mind. That wouldn’t matter to Earl.
“Let’s take a look inside your place so I can see ’bout this problem you got”. Earl tried to step forward inside. Sheila quickly reacted by putting her body between the foyer and her front door to block his entry. She’d done that same move just last week when she changed her mind about letting a creepy blind date come in for a night cap.
Creepy Date’s name was Melvin, a co-worker of Sheila’s mother. Melvin smelled like moths balls and had booger hanging out his nose most of the evening. It was the kind of booger that flapped in and out of the nostril with every breath he took. Didn’t he feel that?
“You hear what I said? The problem is NOT in my apartment!” Sheila was yelling now.
She moved in a year ago. It was the apartment of her dreams. The building’s 1920’s architecture had so much charm. It was located in a decent part of the city within walking distance from her job.
“There’s a puddle of water in the basement. I had to jump over it go get to the dryers,” she explained.
Sheila left out the part about how she failed to make a good jump with that heavy basket of wet clothes in her hands. She landed smack dab in the puddle of water. It was murky-looking and she had a bad feeling about it. She cleaned off her freshly-shaved legs when she got back upstairs (that was the night of her date with Melvin) and then went on with more laundry before calling maintenance.
“Well c’mon, woman. Calm yourself down and let’s look at this so-called puddle,” said Earl. “Prob’ly ain’t nothing but some spilled liquids. Somebody peed down there. I’m keepin’ my eye on that snot-nosted kid in Apartment 2. His momma ain’t raising that boy right.
Sheila ignored Earl’s remarks. She was used to him rambling on with some sort of ridiculousness. But should she really go down to the basement with him?
INTO THE BASEMENT
The puddle was still there, in front of the washers blocking the path to the dryers.
“See, I told you. There it is,” said Sheila.
Then she did a double take. Eyes wide and in shock. The water was not still. The water was writhing…and twisting…and moving.
“What the hell is THAT!” she screamed.
“Well this right here is bad.” Earl’s voice changed. It was a serious voice and he was shaking his head in an “oh my God” kind of way. Then he backed up three steps. “That right there is sewer fly larvae”.
“Larvae whaat?” said Sheila.
“Sewer fly larvae. Maggots. These here creatures gonna change into full blown sewer flies pretty soon. They feed on shit.”
“What kind of shit?” There was nervousness and urgency in her voice for him to answer quickly.
“Shit, woman. Human shit. Organic matter. Ya git me? Shit that gets flushed and goes into the sewers. There’s a busted septic line somewhere down here I bet ya.”
In the days that followed, the source of the raw sewage was detected from a crack in the basement wall. Rats became part of the situation within weeks. They infested the entire building. Sheila could hear them burrowing under the kitchen sink in her 3rd floor apartment. She set up a box full of heavy books to block that cabinet door and fully expected a rat to bite on her the ass as she sat on the toilet. While making dinner one night, she had a face to face encounter with a rat the size of a cat. It scurried away when she screamed, but how long would those vermin stay afraid? Sheila never cooked another meal in the kitchen again.
On her final trip to the basement to wash clothes, a large, dead rat lay at the bottom of the steps. It was rotting and stinking and full of rigor mortis. Countless calls to Earl to come get the dead rat went unanswered. That’s when pee-boy (falsely accused) from Apartment 2 mustered up enough bravery to haul it away using a stick and plastic bag as his clean up tools.
Sheila made plans to move out before the building was finally condemned. She was buying her first home. No fancy 1920’s architecture this time. It was a townhouse in the suburbs. Much less chance of rat attacks out there.
She pulled up to her new-house-to-be on the day of the home inspection. The inspector was already there. He exited through the front door in an anxious frenzy and rushed toward Sheila with his clipboard, still writing down notes.
“You buying this house, lady?”
“Yep, that’s me!” Sheila said proudly.
“Well the damn thing is infested with termites…”
And that was the end of that. Sheila moved in with a friend while her house hunting continued. Their living room couch was a peaceful place to rest her head without worrying about rats or termites or perverted men named Earl.
As she lay on the couch, she reached down to scratch her leg. For some reason it had been so irritated the last few days. Sheila didn’t know it yet, but that was beginnings of a staph infection (MRSA). You know, from her failed jump across the sewage water in her old basement.
Hopefully she won’t lose her lower leg. Sheila just can’t get a break.