Below, an excerpt from my incipient novel. Be merciful. Or not. As you wish.
The letter taped to my door was pale pink, the paper of good heavy cotton stock. A faint smell of gardenias lingered about the seal. As I unfolded the letter, my heart quivered with anticipation, for the missive was from my landlady, Mrs. Annasheika Ward.
Mrs. Annasheika Ward is my goddess, my tender, pure goddess. She is tall, reed thin, buxom, and brown as a berry. Her hair falls in silky black waves; her white-gloved hands and shapely calves and dainty ankles enthrall me. Her sequined hats and fur trimmed shawls, her seamed stockings and her perfectly bowed lips - her eyebrows, permanently poised in a perfect arch - these dazzle me. To enter Mrs. Annasheika Ward's rooms is to watch a ribbon of heavenly womanhood unfurl herself across a plush chaise lounge, - to enter Mrs, Annasheika Ward's rooms is to have tea with in the presence of angels - in short, she is my heroine, my angel. I love Mrs. Annasheika Ward to distraction; from the moment I tapped on her door and rented my room at 505 2nd St, New York, NY, I was besotted with her.
Her letter was not, as I had dared to hope, an invitation to dinner. I have been living on the second floor of her brownstone on 2nd St for twelve years, but alas, we have not been the best of friends. Her living is composed of the rent checks she collects from her tenants - me, two strumpets pretending to go to college at NYU, and a bumbling law clerk who never bathes and who pulls his pants half way up to his chin. Our charity is her only means of support, and if she does not receive it in due time, she becomes the obliteration of my equanimity. In short, she is a shrew. My goddess, yes. But a shrew.
Her letter informed me, in perfect schoolteacher script, that rent for my room was now $1000 per month, beginning sixty days hence, on October the 1st.
To a seasoned New Yorker, this may seem a modest sum. And it would be - if I could produce it. I am a man of many interests and delights, but regrettably, a man of few saleable skills. My most recent foray into the world of modern commerce terminated in me being, well, terminated. No matter. It was not an engagement befitting my gentlemanly comportment, nor was the society pleasing. I neither enjoyed making the sandwiches, nor making conversation with my compatriots. The patrons of the establishment were not worth my notice – most refused even a simple greeting, and some openly bristled if I asked for clarification. “Would you like whole wheat or white, six or twelve inch?” These questions were often answered only with a ravenous jerk of the head – or a one word: six or twelve or wheat or white. I toiled amongst these smug adolescents for only a month before I (or they, I don’t remember) determined as I have already disclosed: the foray was not for me. And certainly not for them.
When I was employed, my salary was nearly $7.20 an hour; in fact, it was $7.15. After working twenty-five and a half hours a week (for who can work forty and still consider himself a gentleman?) my weekly pittance was $138.57 – hardly enough to keep a personage such as myself in cognac and cigars – let alone rent. How was I to pay it?
Mrs. Annasheika Ward knows as well as I that I cannot, will not, pay $1000 per month. My room at 505 2nd St is my birthright, my legacy from my late father, H. E. S. Skimpole. He rented this very room from the late husband of Mrs. Annasheika Ward for over twenty five years before the rent controlled lease was bequeathed to me. I had to live in a one room apartment with my progenitor for five years to earn rights to the easy terms of his lease: a mere $170 per month. Mrs. Annasheika Ward is my goddess. Do not, reader, misunderstand me. But to demand for her maintentance a charge so exorbitant as this? Of Joel U.Q.T. Skimpole? It must be illegal. It does not need saying that the charge is immoral. I, Joel U.Q.T. Skimpole declare it so. Any man of sense and education would, I am sure, readily agree.
And yet, I fold the note and place it in my breast pocket, next to my heart. Annasheika. Calves, lips, voluminous feathered headdresses of feminine glory. Anna. May I call you Anna? In the mildest language, I adore you.
On the morrow, I will beg of you not to turn me out on account of my love of cigars – and the city’s most inconvenient revision of the rent control provision. My angel. My poppet. How might I, Joel U.Q.T. Skimpole serve thee?