There were homeless people
living in the upper part of the parking garage, where they could easily
go in and out, until the super, god bless him, hired the Resident Agent
of The Bureau of Extermination. The homeless had quite a hoe-down going
on in middle of the night, banjos, bongos, accordions, and cat calls.
The Agency posted a notice on the door in large, all capital type, announcing,
WAIVER OF LIABILITY. The Agency installed a special trap in the middle
of the parking garage. The sign urged tenants to stay clear of the garage,
and not even to stray downwind from the garage. Naturally, the man complied
up until a couple of days ago, when he noticed that the homeless person
problem hadn't improved, but had become worse. At night, lines of ragged
strangers shuffled into the garage. More troubling, still, was the coming
and going of the brown Agency van. During the night, he looked out and
saw the van rattle out of the garage and turn onto the street. The Interurban
Extermination Agency had painted their cheerful yellow logo on the van
roof, a bright yellow cockroach with a red X over its head. The man
had a mind to complain to the super about that van, because it needed
a new muffler.
No longer did he hear the
music of the homeless people as he went to work in the morning. No longer
did he hear that faintly haunting guitar chords and the growling moan
of their weird songs. During the day, everything seemed pretty quiet.
That was when he noticed that the papers had begun to accumulate on
several of the doorways down the hall and that the super did not respond
to his note.
He went down to the front
desk and didn't notice the super. He went outside and smelled something
wonderful cooking, some wonderful smell the man hadn't noticed before.
Someone was cooking some incredibly exotic aromatic dish, vanilla. Maybe
it was a cake or muffins or cookies or a savory tea? He tried to follow
the smell, but it seemed to be coming from the garage where he knew
it couldn't be coming from. He circled the building and it must have
been coming from the basement and out through the parking garage. He
went into the parking garage and the smell, he didn't know how, grew
even stronger; his mouth began to water. A delicious hunger and appetite
grew in him and he wanted to bury himself in the almond vanilla scent.
A black velvet curtain hung over some sort of structure in the middle
of the parking garage. It was empty now except for a discarded tennis
shoe and a couple of leaves of the daily paper. A faint, flickering
light, like a flame perhaps, came from the structure. The man decided
the construction must be a tent and he was certain then that the smell
came from under its flaps. Maybe someone was making white chocolate?
As he approached, the smell grew, until the man thought if he could
bury his head into a bucket of chocolate covered almonds and eat until
his stomach exploded, he would. He threw back the fabric and found the
super with his head buried in a five-by-six-foot brick of whitish, aromatic
material. A man with only one tennis shoe lay with his shoulders buried
in the block. Before the man thought anything, he buried his head in
the stuff, as silly as this seems, because he was afraid they would
eat it all. It tasted beyond his wildest expectations and he ate mouthfuls,
until substance stuffed his esophagus. He wouldn't remove himself even
if he could, because if he died through self-gratification, so be it.
If this was extermination, he thought, exterminate me.
Matt Briggs is the author
of The Remains of River Names published by Black Heron Press.
He lives in Seattle where he nurses a furtive addiction to the aroma
of roasted beans.