It’s 1977, and Captain Scum takes a full minute to convince his keys to unlock the front door of his building, and he absently puts them in the pocket of his brown leather jacket even though he’s going to need them in another minute here, to get into his apartment.
His feet thud up the steps, the air warm and damp, and he even more absently slides his jacket off as he creaks down the hallway, the doors bobbing past him, silence under some of them, television noises under others. Even the televisions are soft and muted – it’s very late.
When he arrives at his door, he has to wrestle his jacket around to pull the keys out again, and when he tries to use them in his door, he can’t get them to work. He grows frustrated, rushes the job, and soon the keys are wedged in the key hole.
Captain Scum gives it another couple of tugs, and then he takes a step back, a deep breath, and blasts his shoulder against the door, knocking it off the hinges and flat onto the floor.
It’s a very loud noise, but it’s only one noise. Captain Scum knows from associating with all sorts of folks that late at night, you’re generally allowed one really loud noise before anyone investigates – sometimes even a gunshot.
He’s got a gun, too – right there in his pocket, and it’s loaded. And a bank bag in the other pocket – four thousand dollars from the drawer of the bar he owns.
Captain Scum stands there in the hallway, waiting to see if any of the doors open, down the long hallway in either direction, making no sounds and not really caring either way.
The building creaks and hums exactly like normal, and he can pick out who has cable and who doesn’t, of the televisions nearby that he can hear. A couple of them are pure static – it’s after sign off for most stations.
A door opens behind him, the sliding bolt and creaking hinges echoing down the hallway, deafening in the quiet night. Captain Scum is very careful as he turns around, so as not to lose his balance and fall over.
It’s an old man, about sixty, his door on the same side of the hall as Captain Scum’s. From his angle, he won’t be able to tell that the door’s been knocked down. He blinks at Captain Scum, the two of them vaguely familiar from nodding at each other in the hall.
“Everything okay?” The old man asks.
“Everything’s hunky-dorry,” Captain Scum tells him.
So the guy closes his door, and then Captain Scum lumbers across his own door as it lays flat in his apartment, bending his knees the weight on the doorknob. He leans to remove his keys from the key hole, but they’re still stuck and he pulls a muscle in his back.
He makes the rest of the journey to the couch hobbling and bent-over, and he collapses onto it, and then suddenly there’s a man in front of him, yelling at him.
“Yo! Yo, tough guy!”
Captain Scum opens his eyes. Sunlight comes in through the window, and there is a bad taste in his mouth, and a pulsing headache behind his eyes.
The man is standing on his apartment door, sort of surfing on it, having the same weight-shifting doorknob problem. He’s familiar, a bit older with a gunmetal moustache and bushy eyebrows, and a Bud Light ball cap and a denim vest.
The landlord, sure.
“What? You think you’d do a little redecorating? You don’t like the door, you go ahead and knock it down?”
“The lock’s all screwed up. The key wouldn’t turn. I fell against it and it just snapped.”
“Yeah, you sound like my kids,” says the landlord. “I’m looking down here at a key sticking out of this doorknob says ‘Ford’ on it clear as day, you think the problem’s the lock, that about right?”
“Well, I didn’t kick it in, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Guess that’s your Mustang out there, in the grass.”
“Yeah, it was leaking coolant. Listen, I’ll pay for the door, just relax.”
“You’re damn right you’ll pay for the door.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said. You can inspect it and all that. I’ll have it done in a few hours, let me call some guys.”
So the landlord leaves and Captain Scum gets the phone and calls the bar, says, ”Let me talk to McCoy.”
He tells McCoy what’s going on, and then goes back to sleep for forty-five minutes until McCoy arrives, with a couple of guys. They get the key out of the door knob, and McCoy takes Captain Scum out to the Mustang and puts him in the shotgun seat.
Then they drive on over to the Riverfront and have a couple of drinks while the other two guys move all his furniture and clothing out of the apartment and into the truck they’ve arrived in.
That night, Captain Scum is sitting in a new apartment, the same keys in his hands, unloading his bathroom stuff onto shelves in his medicine cabinet. It’s really not that big a deal, and he likes the new place – feels right at home.
And in the months and years to come, when letters and bills arrive for his broken lease and repair bill on his old apartment, he writes “DECEASED” across the envelope and drops it back in the mail, and he never sees – and certainly writes a check to – the landlord again.