I got home this morning at dawn. My landlord was taking out my bedroom dresser. He and his son-in-law were carrying it down the street – they got as far as the house two doors down before I caught up with them.
“Hey!” I said, “That’s my dresser you’ve got there!”
They didn’t say a word – just went on down the street, carrying it on their shoulders. They were both wearing long black coats and top hats. They cast long shadows under the blood red sun.
I followed them. “I need – at least – some things from it at least,” I said.
They put the dresser down on the sidewalk and turned their backs on me. The son-in-law lit a cigarette.
I opened the top drawer and pulled out a yellow scarf that once belonged to my mother. From the middle drawer I took a Christmas stocking my sister once knitted for me, and from the bottom drawer I chose a photograph of the family sitting together round the dining room table – it was old and had spots on it but I took it anyway – it was the only photo I had of us together. That’s all I could carry.
“Just so you know,” I said and pointed at them, “Just so you realize…”
But they lifted the dresser and walked on down the street with it on their shoulders.
I walked back to the house. Out the front door came the landlord’s mother. She was wearing a black hat with a wide brim and a black silk coat – and she was carrying my small wooden rocking chair.
“That’s mine,” I said. She ignored me.
I watched her as she followed my landlord and his son-in-law down the street. Couldn’t see a van or a truck anywhere. But they all just kept marching away like they knew exactly where they were going.
I was just about to open the front door of the house – and out came the landlord’s daughter, six years old. Her face was pale. Her eyes wide and staring under a layer of blue eye shadow. Her mouth yawned. She was dressed in a fluffy white dress with a gardenia pinned in her wispy golden hair – and she was carrying a stack of my books!
“Just wait a minute,” I said. “Before you go, I should just point out –”
She walked away from the house without a glance at me or even a blink. Jesus.
Here’s what got me – how can a six-year-old child carry a stack of books three feet high! How could she have the strength.
This time I got in through the front door and climbed the three flights of stairs to my apartment. Didn’t see a soul on the way up.
The door to my apartment was open. Walked straight into the kitchen. My table and chairs were gone. Opened the fridge door. Empty. They even took my food, the bastards. All the cupboards bare. My dishes – the ones with the blue fish on them – gone. My vitamins my cutlery my kettle – taken.
I didn’t go into the living room – there was a strange chemical smell coming from there. The hall rug was gone. Bedroom door closed. I opened it. Nothing. No bed, no desk, no chair, no clothes. Curtains – but not mine – closed. I was just turning to go. A man was standing in the hall by the bedroom door.
“I live here,” he said.
“Is that right?” I said and pushed past him. “Did you sign a lease? Because my lease hasn’t run out.”
“I don’t need a lease,” He said. He was a short fat stubby guy, that new tenant, chewing on a toothpick and staring at me like I was an intruder.
“Well, good luck,” I said. “I mean with the landlord.”
“I am the landlord,” he said.
“Sure, fine, whatever you want.”
I walked out and down the stairs. Didn’t see anyone. Not the first-floor tenant or the tenant in the basement. I could hear her music playing faintly though. I thought of knocking on her door to ask her if she still had her lease – and her furniture. But I knew she wouldn’t tell me out of fear of the landlord.
So I just walked out the front door and stood on the sidewalk to see which way my books and furniture had gone. No sign of anyone or anything. The street was empty and silent.
The fear got me then – that fear: The one thing that will happen. Nowhere to go. No one to appeal to. No one to tell me what I was supposed to do next – or how I was supposed to do it. And no chance of compensation or reprieve. I got drenched and shivery with the fear. Shook it off. And it came back.
I walked in the other direction away from the landlord, his son-in-law, his mother, his ashen-face daughter, away from all the precious objects I owned and once held dear, and walked towards the police station in our precinct in order to file a complaint – a complaint I knew would never be heard, would never be filed, would never be recorded, considered or even glanced at – not even for a moment.
I walked and walked. The only other person I saw was a mailman coming towards me as I reached the corner of our street.
“Is there anything for me?” I said. “Because I’m moving. I have to move, you see.”
He looked at me for a second, and walked on by.
“Just wait a minute,” I said. “I want you to know that –”
He broke into a run and disappeared down my street.
I was getting tired. I plodded on step after step away from the house and towards the police station – trying to remember exactly where it was. Each step became heavier and heavier until I finally sat down on a bench by the road. The game was up. The sun bled out white.
Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto. She has written radio plays for CBC Radio Drama and a play for the Blyth Theatre Festival. Her short stories have appeared in journals in the USA, the UK and Canada, including Litro UK and USA, Fairlight Books, the Blue Nib, Chiron Review, Fiction International, Into the Void and most recently the great weather for Media anthology. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions.