ONCE UPON A TIME…
Long long ago Miss Bliss lived in an apartment with four guys. Hers was off being a total jerk and the others were off being nice guys. Miss Bliss was left alone to fume. She sat on her porch, hugging her knees.
Mike, a guy who looked like a god, came out to sit on his porch too. He looked at Bliss, patted his step and she hopped across the grass to sit by his side. Its unwise to deny a god after all.
They were joined by Mike’s roommate, Ron, the organic grocer. Ron brought fortified wine and Mike pulled out a fatty.
As they giggled, Steve… the guy who lived in a tree behind the apartments walked past. (Yes, he lived in a tree.)
Steve had once been a normal person, but abuse of drugs fried his brain to a cinder. He was declared by the state to be unable to earn a living due to mental inability. So the state gave him a check to use on more drugs every month. He lived in a tree to be sure that all his money went to drugs and not to frivolities like food or shelter.
Trees lack certain things. Steve clearly believed that the people as well as the state should support him. Creatively, he let himself into all the apartments and ate and relieved himself in a variety of ways… yes, oooh, ick..
If one unwisely left their door unlocked while watching TV, Steve would barge in, head for the fridge and begin to stuff food into his mouth until you could drag him out. This included whole cubes of butter.
Steve was a very large pest.
Mike and Ron had experience with rescuing Miss Bliss from this fridge crashing a time or two and tossed him out of their own abode a number of times. They were all sick of Steve’s behavior. The fortified wine and fatty set a plan moving toward fruition.
They waited for night to fall. Creeping through the shadows on their stomachs like soldiers on TV… in their hands they clutched Chinese firework strings. These would be lit and tossed under his tree. Giggling madly, all would run quickly away. (The crawling on the way there was just for fun.) They could hide behind the hedge and laugh at his terrified reaction. Sweet!
They rounded the hedge end and found Steve, not in his tree where he belonged, but right there on the ground beneath it. Ron stopped short. Mike ran into Ron. Miss Bliss ran into Mike. Hisses and sssshh sounds. More giggles and a few snorts.
Ron rolled onto his back, pantomimed lighting and throwing the string of crackers like a grenade. Heads bobbed in agreement. The zippo was produced by Mike and the strings were lit and flung in the direction of Steve and his sleeping bag.
Oops. All three strings landed not near the bag, but ON the bag. For each crack, a puff of down exploded in a mini plume! They watched in absolute horror as the puffs increased and down filled the air. Holy crap! One lit up a tiny flame that was blown out by the next explosion.
No pretense of sneaking remained. All three fled as fast as their feet would go to the apartment. The door was slammed shut and locked. The lights were put out. Hearts hammered in the darkness as Mike peeked out the window toward the tree.
“It’s over…” Mike announced.
Bliss and Ron crowded the window to check it out. There in the bright moon light lay Steve… the tip of his head visible at the end of the tattered bag. Down like snow flakes scattered around him.
“Ah… guys… shouldn’t he be wake?” Ron asked. Ten minutes later there was no movement still. Crap.
“One of you guys need to go see if he’s all right.” Bliss informed the other two. The stare she got back was unsettling.
Three greatly sobered individuals crept through the shadows to the hedge. Three pair of eyes regarded the still form of Steve. He lay like a rock.
Physical pushing and verbal obscenities propelled Mike forward. He crouched next to Steve and poked him in the shoulder. He looked up at the two who waited and shrugged. Nada. Mike shook Steve, who lay still.
“I think we killed him.” Ron said back in the safety of the apartment.
“What do we do? Should we call the police?” Bliss asked.
“No!” Mike shouted. “Maybe he just passed out.”
“You can’t kill someone with fire crackers.” Ron agreed.
They sat on the sofa not saying a word until the jerk got home. Bliss said good-byes and hurried off.
The next morning Mike and Ron were at her door early.
“There’s still no movement.” Mike hissed as they stepped inside.
Ron went to the corner phone booth and called the police to report that there was a vagrant in the lot behind the apartments. The three waited nervously for the police to arrive. When they had not shown up before time for class, they had no choice but to leave, still not knowing.
Many nervous hours passed. Once home again, it was discovered that Steve and his bag were gone. He was either dead or arrested. No one said much of anything. All hoped he was just in jail. That was a comfortable solution to believe. Yet nervously they had also begun to call him “Dead Steve”.
The following weekend the court had a BBQ. All the tenants showed up. Talk focused on how lucky it was that Steve had moved on at long last. Doors and windows were left open to the breeze.
To their combined horror… through all the happiness and celebration… wandered Dead Steve. The tattered sleeping bag drooped under one arm and he held a bean burrito in his other hand. Down feathers drifted to the ground to mark his path. All the tenants groaned. Crap. Dead Steve was back.