Welcome to Story Sunday, where I try to prove Ray Bradbury* wrong. I can write 52 bad stories.
A Composer of Elevator Music
Moves to a new town
He was taunting me now. He had to be, running across the floor like that, sitting up and twitching his nose, then dashing under the stove. I looked at my phone. I had been in this brand new apartment for three hours and already there were rats.
All I could do was sigh and move on. There were rolls of soundproofing foam in the living area. It would probably be a good idea to put them in the spare bedroom so the pest control guy won’t think I am some serial killer. The apartment manager promised someone would come this afternoon. It wouldn’t be soon enough. I sat on the sofa and put my feet up on the foam rolls. Maybe I would just wait. No point putting it up yet – it would be one more place for the rats to hide.
A knock on the door. Finally. I usually wasn’t so impatient, but I usually didn’t share my apartment with rodents. Especially sarcastic, taunting rodents. I opened the door, and there he stood. Pest control guy did not do him justice as a description. He was a pest control god, with straight blond hair and bright blue eyes. I could tell looking at his shoulders that the rats would see him and run away on principle.
“Hello, ma’am. The office said you had a mouse?” He smiled. “I’m Dean with ASAP Pest.”
I wanted to say yes, I have all the mice. Please move in and keep me safe from those monsters. What I said was, “Yes, in the kitchen. I think it’s a rat.”
He nodded. “May I come in and take a look?”
Oh, yes, of course, you can come in. I stepped away from the doorway. “Sure, Please.”
He walked in and stepped around my soundproofing. “Looking for peace and quiet?”
“No, I am soundproofing one of the bedrooms.”
He looked at me, then headed for the kitchen.
“I am a musician and composer, I need to have the right acoustics to record my instruments.” My electric keyboard was leaning on the wall. I pointed to it, but he was already squatting on the kitchen floor. I stood behind him.
“Just saw your new roommate dash under the stove.” He stood up. “I can leave some bait and clear him and any friends out.”
“Bait, so I will have dead rats under my stove?” That couldn’t be good.
“First off, look around. You are standing in a brand new luxury apartment, not a squalid place in the city.” He stood up.”That was not a rat, that was a homeless field mouse. Poor fella was living in the pasture that used to be here before construction. The bait will make him thirsty and he will find his way out to get water.”
“So if I turn on the oven, I won’t be baking a dead mouse?” I didn’t want to admit that was not likely.
“No, but if you small anything, call the office and they will call me.” He pulled out his phone and started typing. “I will have someone from the team come check for openings, to see how he got in. They will seal things up for you.” He started walking toward the door, pausing at my keyboard. “So, Ms. Musician and Composer, what do you write? Anything I would have heard?”
“Depends. How ofter do you ride in elevators?”
“You are one of the demon scum that turns Billie Eilish tunes into Muzak?”
“Something like that.” Not sure I appreciated being called demon scum. “I didn’t know pest control guys feel so strongly about pop music.”
Dean cleared his throat. “First off, I’m not some ‘pest control guy.’ I have a masters in entomology, and should be finishing up my Ph.D. this December. Second, my little sister is offended by fancy pants musicians messing with her Billie.”
I smiled. I liked someone who knew his little sister’s favorite singer. “To be honest, I would rather just play in the symphony, but principal oboists in small regional orchestras don’t get paid enough for anything that doesn’t involve multiple roommates.”
Dean whistled. “I know what this place costs. Maybe I am in the wrong business.” He started to reach for the door handle, then pulled back. “I don’t suppose you’d get a drink with me sometime to talk about how to get into the business?”
“Only if you check under my stove for dead things before we go.”
*From Papa Ray:
The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week—it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden a story will come that’s just wonderful.
-from “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001