Nobody ever went broke underestimating hippies and artists. That’s why I’m rich and they’re not.
Brad told me he knew he had to move when he invited this garage band from Ozone Park to party at his pad. Lead guitarist insulted Brad’s crib, calling it an “Effing shoebox,” before the entourage trooped out to a joint on Canal Street.
Well, yes, Brad’s place was a studio, for chrissakes, and those don’t come cheap in Greenwich Village. Brad pays twenty-two hundred plus four hundred maintenance, so next day he Craigslisted it for twenty-five. His old girlfriend, Annabelle, a chick from Montreal with purple hair, snapped it up without knowing it was an illegal sublet. Hey, this is New York. Everybody beats the law. That’s why they come to a lawyer like me, to settle their Con Ed bills, fight parking tickets and mediate differences.
Brad moved to a loft in Dumbo — a warehouse Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The loft was nineteen hundred and no maintenance since it was an AIR — artist in residence, meaning technically you can’t live there.
So every month Annabelle gave him twenty-nine. You following me? And Brad gave the landlord twenty-six, earning three and saving seven. Got it now?
But there was more weird about Annabelle than purple hair. She was an artist. That means she clerked in an Italian bakery to make the rent. You don’t think artists can live by selling their goddamn paintings, do you? What planet have you been living on?
Brad announced he thought he loved her again, now that she was back from Montreal. He said love means being intimate whenever you want, but I think it was that she gave him free cannoli when he dropped by. That’s why she was fired a month later — for stealing the cannoli, not his love-making.
Now Brad was stuck with a tenant who wanted him to cover her bills, an illegal sublet and a pissed-off landlord waiting to get the housing court to remove her and the furniture. The landlord was also considering charging breach of contract.
“It’s a living hell,” Brad told me while we were having a drink on Cornelia Street. “I think I no longer love her.” He sounded like Anna Karenina.
“Why’re you laying your grief on me, Brad?” I knew the answer already.
“You’re my fraternity brother, my buddy, my lawyer.”
“So you’re picking up the bar tab as my client?”
“Stephen! My bank account’s sinking faster than a mob informer in the East River! I don’t want to break the lease on my loft, I can’t pay for the Jane St. pad, and Annabelle says she can’t pay me. My life’s a living hell.”
“So, let’s get rid of Annabelle. I’ll call Immigration and tell them she’s a hooker. They’ll deport her. My fee is your late mother’s Haviland Limoges china.”
“You can’t deport her! She’s an artist who’s down on her luck.”
“Brad, this is moving day. You want to banish hell from your Jane St. pad? I’ll eliminate the hell and pick up the china.”
He sighed like the Hindenburg going down at Lakehurst. “Okay, do it. There are times we have to play God, reluctant as I am.”
“Now, I gotta run. Going to a benefit that cost me fifty bucks. I’ll give you a ring in a day or two.”
And I was off to a dive on East 6th St. The benefit had something to do with the arts, which means there’s lots of frustrated chicks and unlimited wine — a great combination. I didn’t need to tell Brad it was Annabelle’s party to raise some walking around money.
That’s where I walked into hell herself.
“Stephen,” she said hanging her arm around my shoulder. “Brad just called me. What a nice person to warn me about ma petite problem with Immigration. The landlord. Housing marshals.” She smiled so her teeth looked like a piano keyboard.
“It’s the law, Annabelle. I’m truly sorry things have gotten so messed up.”
“No, pas de tout, Stephen. Don’t pity me. Pity your client, playing God. My lawyer has already issued an estoppel.”
“What the hell does he…?”
“She said, ‘an estoppel protects an aggrieved party — c’est moi — if the counter-party — c’est Brad — created an expectation from the aggrieved party, and the aggrieved party reasonably relied on that expectation and would suffer detriment if the expectation is not met.’ C‘est à dire, Brad said I could live at Jane St. and it would now only cost me half the rent I paid.” She posed with her finger under her chin. “What I think is he ate so many cannoli he couldn’t think straight. Sugar high, except he called it undying love.”
I was choking on my Chablis. “Where do you get off accusing my client…?”
“The proof’s in one of his love letters. Well, pas de problem, bébé. I’ll sue for damages to my reputation as an artist, my credit rating, my mental anguish.”
I was aghast at coming up against an artist chick with purple hair who could outwit me. No one does an Erin Brockovich on me!
“Don’t be angry, Stephen,” Annabelle said. “I’m sure we can negotiate. I’ll take Brad’s loft and he can have the Jane St. pad — if he can get the marshal’s lock off the door. I already have the Limoges china as security.” She turned and looked back. “Moving days are sheer hell, n’est-ce pas?”
Those artists and hippies. I absolutely and truly hate creative people.
Walt Giersbach‘s fiction has appeared in Bewildering Stories, Big Pulp, Every Day Fiction, Everyday Weirdness, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Northwoods Journal, Paradigm Journal, Short Fiction World, Southern Fried Weirdness, and Written Word. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child.