Meeting the Neighbors
On return to my apartment, I found a half-dozen students sitting in a semicircle in front of the neighboring townhouse. They were in the shade. They had a hibachi and had grilled things, the grilling looking to be a spell to heat the iron and a very little wood for smoke flavoring. Courtesy dictated I stop and say hello.
“I’m Adara,” I announced. “Moving in here.”
“I’m Tad, your next door neighbor.” Tad was tall, dark-haired, at least almost finished with his transition from young adult to grown up.
The other five rattled off names. “Theo.” “Gail.” “Marjorie.” “Francine.” “Richard.” Four of them were partway through their transitions from young adults; Richard looked significantly older.
“And you are the replacement for Leng the Eternal,” Tad said. “Leng was the prior occupant of your unit. Supposedly he lived there, officially taking courses, for forty years. His House kept paying; they didn’t want him to return for some reason. He was happy to stay here, pay tuition, not work too hard, until family politics changed.”
“Not work too hard,” Francine added, “except for chasing women. He worked very hard at that.”
“And one fine day he wasn’t there any more,” Theo said. “Porters grumbled no end about having to clean out his unit. I’m told it was a mess.”
“I can believe it,” I answered. “I’m still cleaning it.”
“You’re welcome to join us, except we almost finished off our second bottle of wine,” Tad said. “Though there is a last pair of shishkabobs, one lamb, one goat, we have been unable to agree on dividing.”
I realized that by now it was after lunch time. “Happy to join you,” I answered. “I could bring down bread and cheese, if you were interested.” I got enthusiastic nods. “Need to change out of formal wear – we had First Assembly this morning. Back in a bit.” I soon returned in informal clothing, knee-length shorts and elbow-length sleeves on a pale-blue pullover, carrying a half-dozen open-face sandwiches. Dad had told me to pack a camp stool and single-person folding table; he was right. My new acquaintances were soon enjoying the food I’d brought downstairs. The goat was seasoned with cumin and cinnamon; the lamb had on it something crunchy that turned out to be crushed coriander seeds. Spaced in between the chunks of meat were mushrooms, green pepper, and onion slices. I got a taste of their wine, a sweet white that did well with the goat. A taste was enough, thank you; I have less body mass than any of my new neighbors.