Good lord, I need to get out of this slum. While watching TV the other night, a knock came at my screen door.
“Does José live here?” the man said, pointing down to indicate he was inquiring about my apartment complex but not my specific apartment.
“What’s he look like?”
“Short.” He held out his hand in an identical pose to that of a cartoon pirate indicating how tall a child must be to ride a rollercoaster.
I pointed across the courtyard. “Yeah. There.”
José had a job once, about a year ago. He was a day laborer, recruited from hardware-store parking lots. I’d see him after work, behind the apartment complex, on the tailgate of his truck. He was covered in tiny specks of flung-off paint, his hair matted down, his jeans dirty with stone dust. He always had a tall can of cheap beer and his tattered boots taken off, sitting next to him in the bed of the truck — the working man’s pipe and slippers. Then there was more beer can than working man. He stopped working, substituted drudgery for leisure, shrugged off opportunity for cold alcohol relaxation, all day and night. Soon his truck was gone and so too were his boots. Sitting in the empty spot his pickup formerly occupied he and three homeless friends yammered in loud Spanish and spilt their foamy beer across the oily concrete.
A parade of shady people, each shiftier than the last, stopped by José’s empty spot behind the complex. José stopped saying hello when I passed by, instead relying on a slurred joke: “I’m going to steal your truck today. I don’t have mine anymore. I’m stealing yours.” After which he’d howl at his own cleverness. His eyes grew glossier every day, eventually like frost covering a pond. Bicycles around the neighborhood disappeared, their chains and locks left in slack coils on the cement.
Then the stranger came and knocked on my door and asked for José. After I pointed to José’s house, the unmistakable grunts, crash of overturning furniture, and cried pleas of a debt-collection beating blared through José’s screen door and carried over to mine. The lungs act as a drum when hard swift fists beat ribs.
“¡No no no no no, por favor, no!”
I shut the door so I could hear my TV. José doesn’t sit in his empty parking spot anymore.
WHAT I WILL AND WON’T WATCH THIS WEEK, AS DEMONSTRATED BY A LIST OF THINGS THAT ARE CREEPY AND NOT CREEPY
Thursday, October 2
The Early Show
CBS 7:00 a.m.
Wigs creep me out. Even though clowns wear wigs, I don’t find clowns creepy, although 87 percent of the population does. Even though I myself am a morning person, I find morning-show people creepy; they’re just too damn happy too damn early. You need to stop smiling if you’re going to talk, or you’re going to CREEP ME THE HELL OUT!
CBS 8:00 p.m.
Frogs are creepy. Probably because they’re wet and slick and bumpy. If they weren’t wet and slick and bumpy, they wouldn’t be creepy, they’d be dogs. Tiny dogs, sure. Some as small as your pinky toe, but they wouldn’t be creepy. Unless they dragged around their hind legs because they were paralyzed or something. Dogs that do that are creepy, even if they had previously been frogs that had lost their creepiness.
Friday, October 3
Sam the Cooking Guy
CASD4 9:30 p.m.
Spoons that have been licked are creepy. Here’s the creepiness test: if you woke up and one (of anything) were on the pillow next to your head, would you be creeped out? A spoon with a little half moon of peanut butter still in it and its back kind of wet: creepy.
Saturday, October 4
ESPN 9:00 a.m.
You know why licked spoons are creepy? Because a guy might’ve licked it, and guys’ tongues are creepy. Even pictures of guys’ tongues are creepy; nobody wants to see that. Football players do this a lot. If you’re a football player and someone’s about to take your picture, don’t stick out your tongue because everyone who sees that picture is going to go, “Hrblrblrbrrrhrrr, that’s creepy!”
NBC 8:00 p.m.
Campers are creepy. Not campers as in Boy Scouts, but campers as in those little houses in the back of pickup trucks: creepy. It looks like a house for short witches, and a camper is an ideal place for the selection, feeding, and care of spiders. A witch with a spider hatchery lives in that damn thing, and one day it’s just parked on the street in front of your place. EEEEEEE!!!
Sunday, October 5
Paris Hilton’s My New BFF
MTV 10:00 p.m.
Cow tongues: creepy. A cow tongue is wet, covered in the cow’s throw-up, and it pops out of their head at odd intervals. Nothing about that is pleasant. Unicorn tongues: not creepy. Unicorn tongues are not creepy because they’re not wet. Unicorn tongues do not secrete saliva; instead they manufacture glitter and wishes. Unicorns also fart rainbows; therefore, their butts are not creepy.
Monday, October 6
NBC 10:00 p.m.
Breastfeeding is creepy. Yes, yes, I’ve heard all of the “it’s natural” and “women’s rights, blah blah blah” arguments. Bottom line: creepy. I don’t need to see a short person eat something you made in your body. And that blanket over your shoulder is not fooling anyone; we all know what’s going on under there. GROSS AND CREEPY!
Tuesday, October 7
CW 9:00 p.m.
Home-schooled kids are creepy. They’re tiny, red-haired hermits who are smart and don’t trust people. I can’t relax when I’m around a home-schooled kid because I’m always waiting for his jaw to unhinge, swing open, and his poison-dripping fangs to sink into my ankle. Keep that damn, weird, little snake-child away from me. He’s creepin’ me out!
Wednesday, October 8
FOX 8:00 p.m.
Blah. I need to un-creep myself. I’ve got all these creepy things dancing around in my head like spindly, bitter, sinewy sugarplums on the night before zombie Christmas, when zombie Santa’s boots crunch across the dried weeds and he opens his sack filled with antlers and cans of motor oil. Zombie Santa knows when you’re asleep, and he knows when you’re lying in bed wide-eyed, trying to not blink or breathe.
Thursday, October 9
Out of the Woods
Hallmark 9:00 p.m.
That didn’t help. What if I’m stuck like this? What things aren’t creepy? Beavers aren’t creepy. Sure, they could bite the livin’ snot out of you, but they’re not creepy. I think it’s their big teeth and that flat tail. I doubt the sincerity of all beavers and sincerity is probably the heart of creepiness. Beavers: not creepy. Ah, that’s better.