Part One | Part Two | Part Three
I stagger out of the elevator, my heart still bouncing around my chest like a demented pogo stick from the miniature heart attack Bob so kindly bestowed on me moments earlier. All this could have been avoided if we just did the strata meeting over Zoom, but as you might suspect, the same factors preventing people from moving out of an apartment building with a giant man-eating bird in it also tend to prevent them from owning computers and an internet connection. Not everyone, of course, but enough.
The only space in the building large enough to accommodate all of us is the lobby, so naturally we all cram ourselves behind the solid door of the optimistically-named “games room.” These meetings are humans-only, you see. Of course it’s not fair to Bob, after all he lives here too. But he refuses to respect the difference between the renters and the snacks, so we are forced to exclude him.
Speaking of snacks…
I enter the stuffy games room, making sure to close the door behind me, and make a beeline for the snack table. It’s really the pool table with a plastic sheet over top, but it may as well always be a snack table since there’s only one pool cue and half the balls are missing. I suspect they’ve been absconded with as Bob-repellent devices. There are a couple plastic trays of muffins on the table, and they are just as uninspiring as I expected. But there is also a knot of people clustered in front of the table, and suddenly I find myself irritated that they would deny me something I didn’t want much in the first place. I risked my life to attend this meeting, is a mediocre store-bought muffin really too much to ask?
Terry, the superintendent, barks at everyone to sit down so the meeting can get underway. As the knot of people disperse, I scoot towards the table. Terry catches my eye and scowls at me. I sit down.
“Alright, let’s get this started. We’ve got quite a few items to get through.” Terry frowns at the rumpled piece of paper in his hands. “Don has a proposal he’d like to make about the fire doors.”
“Yes,” Don stands and addresses the room. “The fire doors exist for a reasons. They are for our safety.”
Carly crosses her arms and sighs audibly.
“Please hold all comments until after I’m done,” says Don.
This topic isn’t new to me. Don, and a few others, think we should leave the fire doors completely closed to make sure they function correctly. Others point out that this will leave Bob stuck on one side of the building, which isn’t fair to the people who live on that side of building. I tune out Don’s speech on fire safety and glance over my shoulder at the snack table.
The chairs are arranged in a tight horseshoe. The opening of the horseshoe is four chairs down from me, and I know there is no way I can get up and walk that distance without incurring the wrath of both Terry and Don. However, I could slip between my chair and the next one and stealthily duck over to the snack table without being too obvious. It’s not like no one would see me, but it might work depending on how heated the fire door debate gets.
“So, in conclusion, we have no choice but to–“
Carly cut Don off. “Are you volunteering to have Bob on your side of the building then?”
Numerous grumbles of dissent arose from others who also lived on the west side. Incidentally, I also live on the west side of the building, but I believe too strongly in the power of controversy to stifle decision-making to get worked up about this.
I examine the space between my chair and its neighbors. Could I fit through? Yes. Without drawing the ire of those sitting next to me? Assuredly not. But, if I scooched my chair to the left, the gap on the right could become large enough to reasonably slip through. Fortunately, Carly is to the left of me, and she won’t mind me sitting a bit closer for the remainder of the meeting, especially if I bring her a muffin too.
“Now just wait a minute.” Don raises his hands to quell the rising arguments. “We can still share the burden of Bob equally, as we have always done. Periodically, we can transfer Bob from one side of the building to the other.”
“And who’s going to do that?” said Carly.
“Well now, as it’s a matter of building safety I think the superintendent–“
Terry let out gruff snort of laughter, which served more to dampen Don’s suggestion than any verbal refusal could have.
“Well how about Don just closes the fire door on his floor?” says the skinny guy who lives on the first floor.
“Oh sure,” says Don. “It won’t matter if I’m baked from a fire from below because nobody else wants to put in the effort.”
I shuffle my chair an inch to the left. Carly glances at me, but I pretend nothing has happened.
“I don’t think we should be closing doors at all,” says Molly, anxiously clacking her knitting needles. “Bob is used to having them open. Suppose he finds one closed, and bangs on it until he breaks it down. We can’t have Bob trying to break down doors.”
The room is quiet for a minute. We all rely on the sanctity of our closed apartment doors for our survival; the thought that these barriers could be breached seems profane.
“We don’t know that Bob is strong enough to do that,” says Don.
“Well, if he is, we sure as heck don’t want him knowing that,” says Carly.
“Or…” says Todd.
“Oh good grief,” says Don.
“Now, hold on, Todd. We’ll get to your suggestion in a minute,” says Terry.
“It’s pertinent to Don’s agenda item,” Todd says.
“Like heck it is,” says Don.
“It is, because if we do it we won’t have to worry about Bob anymore,” says Terry. “We feed Bob.”
A cacophony of protest arises from the room. Amid the hubbub, I scooch my chair another inch to the left, and slip out of my seat and over to the snack table.
“Now, now. Come on. This would solve everything. If we feed Bob, he won’t be hungry. Then we won’t have to worry about him eating us,” says Tod’.
I quickly scan the offerings on the table. One muffin coquettishly suggests it is a chocolate chip muffin, even though I know perfectly well it must be raisin bran.
Despite Todd’s assurances, objections to his idea flood the room. Old Roger, who’s lived here longer than anyone else, shakes his head. I think I hear him say, “that would only bring more.” I shove that thought out of my head and pick up the raisin bran muffin.
“No, you can’t feed him, Todd, because someone else already does that,” Molly somehow manages to make herself heard above the commotion.
The room falls silent again, and everyone notices me standing at the muffin table. Obviously, I have not been feeding muffins to Bob, and I stare haughtily back at them. I snatch up a lemon-cranberry poppy seed muffin, return to my seat, and hand the raisin bran muffin to Carly.
“Thank you, honey,” she says.
She likes raisin bran, mind you. I can’t fathom why, but she does.