Molly Giles is the author of four prize winning collections of stories and a novel. She recently retired from teaching in the MFA Program at the University of Arkansas and lives in West Marin.
Val dresses like he buys his clothes at the Salvation Army but he owns buildings all over town. He’s one of those money guys who pretends to be poor. I despise those guys. I have nothing but contempt for them. Never answers the phone himself of course, just some poor girl slurring AG&P Apartments Please Leave A Message in a hillbilly accent. I left messages every week for the entire nine years I lived at AG&P Apartments and let me tell you the shower still dripped, and whenever I met Val in the courtyard or in the halls he’d act like he was too busy to listen to the rat sounds in the wall or come into the kitchen and fix the busted disposal. Because he’s from Lithuania Val acts like he doesn’t owe anyone anything. And his English! He says “pitcher” for “picture.” I said “A pitcher may be a baseball player or a vessel for containment of fluids or even someone’s name as in Molly Pitcher who brought water to the Continental Army at the Battle of Monmouth, but it cannot be a picture.” So I cannot say I was surprised when weeks passed after I moved back to my mother’s and I didn’t get my cleaning deposit back. Five hundred dollars. Not a lot of money maybe but with the Breeder’s Cup coming up I could have used five hundred dollars and frankly I earned it, because when I start cleaning I am scrupulous -- three whole days scrubbing grout with a toothbrush? That apartment shone. Well, weeks passed and no refund so when I saw Val at the coffee shop on the corner I marched right in but Val’s not a people person and he scurried into the men’s room and even though I lingered he did not come out. So last week I went to his house. He lives in one of those monstrosities up on the Heights. He wouldn’t come to the door but I could tell he was home. I could hear children inside and I could see a woman half-hidden behind some curtains and I could see her half-turning to talk to someone behind her. She would not let me in so I stood outside and shouted his name. Val! I shouted. Val! Finally she comes to the door. What do you want? she says. I want to talk to Val. He’s asleep, she says. Now I know that’s not true, because it’s almost 7 in the morning and Val’s an early riser. Wake him up, I say. She closes the door. I go on to my AA meeting but I am fuming let me tell you. The meeting is on, what was it on, oh yeah, resentments. So I start talking about my resentments toward Val. I say I should slash that fucker’s tires. I say I should take spray paint to the sign that says AG & P Apartments and write Avarice, Guile and Parsimony Apartments. (Of course they didn’t get that.) I say I should phone the Immigration Department and tell them about the Mexicans Val keeps down in the basement. I would too. But I’m not a snitch. I can’t stand snitches. I say I’d like to buy a bag of those fish, what are those smelly fish, mackerel? Catfish! Buy a bag of catfish, unscrew the light fixtures in the hall, and drop the fish behind the light fixtures so they can stink up all five floors of AG&P Apartments. After the meeting three lawyers come up to me. They ask if I’ve spoken to Val to ask for the money back and I explain about the coffee shop and the message machine I mean what’s the point. So you haven’t actually asked him, they say. Two of them walk away but the nice one tells me that if Val hasn’t sent me my refund in 30 days I can take him to small claims court. All I have to do is write a letter, she says, and as soon as I unpack my stuff at my mother’s and find the letterhead from my last job, that is exactly what I am going to do.