In two hours I managed to get to the local U-Haul in my town, rent a 20 foot box truck that ran like crap, and make it to N.W., D.C. on this 90 degree summer day. The rush hour was nearly done by 6:30 or so. I pulled in the parking area in front of McLean Gardens, a nice apartment house across Connecticut Avenue from the National Cathedral. In the lobby is a professional attendant/problem solver guy who manages the traffic in and out. Coffee and pastries were usually available in the marble floored lobby. On the far curb of his former residence was my brother, surrounded by his earthly possessions strewn haphazardly across the median strip of grass that separated the parking area from the access road. I parked the truck as close as I could to the mess, never guessing that it would not start four hours later.
I could not contain my disgust. He sat in one of his chairs reading a book. His arrogance permeated the area and was stronger than his body odor. I asked him again, “Where are all your friends, cuz I don’t see a line of them itching to load you up.”
“Uh, they’re out of town. Really. One’s in Italy. He’s a writer.”
“I’m really so impressed, man. Let’s go.”
I have moved a few folks in my life and started building the necessary structure in the truck that would solidify all the loose pieces. We needed some rope or wire to tie off the walls of furniture/mattress/dresser. We walked to the nearby grocery store, both of us sweaty and stinky from the work we’d been doing. We found some skinny clothesline rope that would do the job. I bought some drinks and food. I just wanted this over.
“Where are we taking this stuff?” I inquired, knowing that he had no plan. This is a guy who did not pay his taxes for years. The IRS finally froze and emptied his bank accounts. That was a year or two back. I remember that phone call. He tried to persuade me to put his expenses on my credit card, and then he would pay me back. Simple. He pitched it like he was giving me a golden opportunity to see how savvy business guys operate. This was the guy who wrote a book on computer systems that was outdated by the time it was published. The same guy who had a poem published in The New Yorker. The world is his, see, and we are privileged to be in his presence. I said no back then. Why was I not saying no now? A lot of anger swirled in my mind and body. How many crazy moments had I endured with this pouty boyolescent?
Once I had to sucker punch him and drag him down a flight of stairs at a college drinking party when he began spitting beer in people’s faces and being despicable. Once I had him out of the building, he thanked me by trying to split my head with a brick. It was too much. I broke and went home, where he was mooching off me and my two roommates. When he finally came home to a locked door, he began kicking it until I thought the glass or hinges would break. I told him to leave. He was not welcome at our place for another minute. It was too much. I remember my friend Sam stood behind me and reinforced what I told my brother. Sam looked like a Samoan Atlas at the time. The drunk insaniac did the violent math and skulked away.
He moved on to another circle of my friends in another town, where he polluted and alienated all of them but one. When you are an arrogant artist/writer/intellectual poser, you never have to say you are sorry. You simply blame the little people as too ignorant to understand your highly cultured mind. Finally he went to grad school and bothered strangers. Thank God for strangers.
It was dark and humid when we finally tied off the last of his junk. I pulled the rolling door down and locked it. My brother said, “Can we take it to your place, you know, find a storage place, and maybe I could live in your basement for a while. It won’t be long. I have a couple of big checks that are coming soon for articles I wrote. I’ll pay for everything.” I called my wife. “NO,NO,NO!!! I don’t want him here for a minute.” Our two other brothers could not be reached for comment or assistance. It was late; I was tired; I was going home where something made sense. I’d figure out the details in the morning.
That’s when I got in the cab and turned the key. Nothing. Dead battery. “No,no,no!!!! It’s impossible. This can’t be happening. It’s too much.” I looked under the hood. No battery! Unbelievable. The truck must have a battery. I called the 800 “Help line”. It was 11:00 p.m. now. The operator was in Las Vegas. He told me that the battery was under the driver’s seat. And sure enough, it was. Now we needed a jumpstart from a willing person. At that point all I could hear were crickets. Not a soul to be seen.
After a while a D.C. cop drove by. I flagged him down and asked if he’d jump us. He complied, but his battery was not sufficient to do anything with my mammoth battery. He left us. I called the Vegas 800 “Help Line” again. I asked for a tow truck to jumpstart us. He said he’d call one in D.C. as soon as possible. At that moment I was tweaked about the idea of a guy in Vegas calling a tow truck in D.C. As you can imagine, my petrified Bloggee, no truck showed up. I called again and got hostile with the Vegas guy. He said he’d sent the tow truck but we weren’t where we said we were. Not actually. He sent the driver to N.E. D.C., ignoring all the landmarks and specific directions I had wasted on him.
Long after midnight the tow truck contractor showed up. He was awesome. He just about had to do a tune up on the truck to get it started. He told me it should never have been rented. Sure, many,many things in this story never should have happened. Finally around 2:00 a.m. we rumbled north with a load of his damn junk and my brother riding shotgun. My anger kept me from falling asleep as we drove home.