Monday, November 21, 2011

"Dungeons and Degenerates" by Matthew Dexter

I opened the door to apartment 43 of the tenant who died, let his mother inside and bowed out into the courtyard by the swimming pool where rainbows were bouncing on the abandoned raft, spectrums of what used to be. The young man lived alone and if my husband, the maintenance man, had not visited to fix the disposal--the tenant would still be in there rotting; he had his rent paid for the next three months.

“Thank you,” said the woman hidden behind sunglasses, her breath reeking of scotch, onions, and eggs. “I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Take as long as you need,” I said.

The woman let the morning sun hit her face and lifted her palm into the warm raindrops as she lit her cigarette. Perhaps the man called to report the problem so that somebody would pick up the body. Nothing was wrong with anything in the kitchen. The man had a refrigerator full of Budweiser, removed all foods that might spoil and took out the trash. He left a handwritten note and obviously cared--went to great extent to make the incident clean and not mess up any of the carpets. He slit his wrists and castrated himself in the bathtub, with the shower curtain closed and the wall covered with plastic like a painter places to protect the floor.

“I lived in a basement, and the view of the pool is special,” he said when he paid his security deposit and inspected the shiny new key as if it were a diamond.

He was quiet, kept to himself, but smiled and waved when he came and went. Once he ordered an inflatable woman and had to pick it up in my office because the mailboxes are so small. I signed for it and opened the packaging to see what one of those things felt like, taped it shut and left a note on his door with a smiley face. He also ordered a fake vagina. The boxes were unmarked, but I open all the packages, especially those meant to conceal what’s inside. Once found five ounces of psychedelic mushrooms and a mannequin; not from this tenant of course; he was only interested in the sex toys.

The woman screamed from the apartment and the rainbow disappeared. The raft was being splashed around by the fat tenant of Apartment 76, who wrestled and struggled to get onboard, only to have his weight submerge the air-filled plastic so that only the ends folded upward at ninety degree angles, as if offering a supplication to the heavens. Not giving up, the man let the plastic rub against his groin, half-supporting his genitalia like a pair of plastic underpants as it sank. The bubbles rose to the surface and the edges submerged as the woman yelled again and stormed out of apartment 43.

“Is everything alright?” I asked.

The body had been removed, but apparently the tenant had neglected to clean out his bedroom closet.

“Thank you,” she said. “This is terrible--his father will return in a few days to remove his possessions.”

She nodded and convulsed as the gardener walked past with an erection and shears, the former inspired by the college girls sitting underneath the umbrella waiting for more sun and the latter for shaping the bushes.

“Anything else--just call,” I said.

The maintenance man catapulted a small bag of marijuana from the paint-chipped seesaw. The plastic soared across the pool toward the girls. It landed in the corner near the filter and one of the ladies did a cannonball to retrieve the green treasure from one of the evicted tenants. I shook my head at my pothead husband. One day he was going to get us in serious trouble. I walked into the open door of apartment 43 and noticed the rubber lady on the floor. The resemblance was uncanny: a painted replication of the woman who had just been inside. The facial details and body image where almost identical.

“What are you doing?” asked the fat man.

I tossed the rubber woman into the pool and waved at the college girls whose parents always pay their rent on time.

“Maybe you can use it,” I said to the fat man who had given up on the raft.

The man paddled over to the inflatable woman and dragged her by the leg out of the pool, leaving a trail of chlorine as he carried it up to his apartment. The poor ladies head slammed against the steps and I knew the man would burst it somehow.

Back in the apartment I headed to the bedroom. The closet was closed but a glass bong was sitting on the table beside the futon the loner used as a bed. There was still some weed in it so I sparked it and my eyeballs hurt as I stretched them downward to watch the smoke rising through the water, filling the chambers. My job as manager of this complex is a disaster waiting to happen, horrible, like living in a labyrinth of dungeons and degenerates. Why did I inherit this from my mother? I shuttered as the smoke filled the closet and all these perverse objects came into focus: dildos, fireworks, fake vaginas, crack pipes, child pornography, and unrecognizable paraphernalia. I noticed the images of children who lived in the complex: pictures of naked tenants who laughed on the playground in front of my office for years. They had grown serious in recent months and many had moved out without saying much about why, just that their children wanted a change.

“Lord help me,” I said.

In one instant, the perfect tenant had turned into the demon that filled little boys with appendages and semen. I ran from the bedroom. Tripped over another inflatable woman, this one shaped like me. The features painted on the face were so lifelike, down to the hairs on the moles and the constellation of freckles on my shoulders. He even drew little dots around my nose that indicated blackheads. How had he seen me so close?

I grabbed the rubber woman and began wrestling with my image on the floor. At one point I got my elbow stuck inside one of the orifices while struggling to puncture the bitch. Bashed my head against the carpet, cursing my doll, this replication more majestic than the skin I was trapped amid. There were no wrinkles; just lines. The doll wrapped itself around my waist and we ended up on the bed, naked; defacement the only option, struggling for air, possessed by the smell of a fresh rubber woman.

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