Once Pilot moved out from Mom and Dad’s, one of the first resistant creatures s/he encountered was the Landlord.
Apparently, everyone* in this space-time continuum had one, once they left their Mom and Dad’s, and he had heard it was an unforgettable experience!
Mr. Farley ran the big brick building that would become Pilot’s home for the next few years. Mr. Farley didn’t rent him the suite, nor did he own it, but Mr. Farley was the Landlord and he set the Rules. Pilot found the Suite in an advertisement. It read:
Roommate wanted, character building, high ceilings, mostly furnished, 2 BR. $405 incl utils GWM Phone 991.4568
The advertisement seemed to be written in some kind of code he did not recognize. However, when he called the number using a Phone, he found he was invited by someone named Robert to an address in the grid not too far from where Pilot was posted during daytimes. There was a large ornate sign fixed to the front of the building that announced its name to the world: The Medieval Mansions. He walked there after his post and pressed a number on the intercom outside.
The door buzzed and Pilot swung it open and walked up to the second floor and down the hall as he had been instructed. At the appropriate door, he found a small indent in the hallway with a stained glass light in the door and beside it a a small metal handle underneath, inviting his touch. He turned the handle and was instantly rewarded with a mechanical RRRringggg on the opposite side of the door. Pilot could see the outline of a figure approaching through the stained glass and a moment later Robert opened the door and invited him in. The suite was very different from Mom and Dad’s house and had many strangenesses to it. For instance, the floors were mostly made up of Wood, with an intricate pattern inlaid around the edges. The Stove had burners that emitted flames, Robert explained they were Superior to the Electric Stove that Pilot had been used to. And the bathroom, in addition to having a floor made of thousands of tiny ceramic hexagonal tiles, had an enormous Bathtub that stood on Feet and was not Built-in, like the ones Pilot had seen before. There were three large rooms plus the bathroom, a foyer and the kitchen, which had a window that opened not to the outside, but to a Light Shaft.
“You will have to meet Mr. Farley,” said Robert, his large brown eyes rolling dramatically up and around as though to imply Mr. Farley was Everywhere including in the cornice moulding and the plate rail that ran high up on the walls and around the dining room.. Pilot didn’t quite understand, but he nodded nevertheless. That seemed to be a way forward in such situations.
“He wants to meet Everyone living in the Building, even if they don’t hold the Lease. He will want to show you the Laundry Room and tell you the Rules.” Robert bobbed his head, thick black recalcitrant curls spilling over a large rectangular forehead. Pilot wasn’t sure what all the eye-rolling or head-bobbing was about; NEVERTHELESS he consented to meeting Mr. Farley.
Robert took Pilot further upstairs around the huge wooden staircase, lit by enormous stained glass windows, to Mr. Farley’s suite. The entrance to Mr. Farley’s looked identical to Robert’s but had a different number fixed to the door. They rang the little bell. Inside, Pilot could hear shuffling footsteps. The large wooden door opened a crack and a gimlet eye fixed itself first on Robert, then on Pilot, then shifted back to Robert, quizzically. The stench of stale cigarette smoke drifted outside the apartment, into the hallway. Mr. Farley opened the door further, enough to squeeze his rotund figure out through it half into the hallway while obstructing the doorway and view through it.
“Ah Robert, I see you’ve brought the new roommate for Approval.” Mr. Farley didn’t seem to need much telling of what was going on. Pilot began to see why perhaps Robert had rolled his eyes around so significantly. “So, you’re wanting to move into the Medieval Mansions, are you?” It was a question, but the tone was a statement. Mr. Farley grimaced unpleasantly when he talked, as though the act of speaking pained him, somehow. Pilot nodded.
“Well, if Robert says you’re okay, we’ll see.” The Landlord sounded dubious, but grabbing a large ring of keys from behind him, inside his apartment, Mr. Farley squeezed the rest of the way through his half-closed doorway and closed it behind him with a thud. Pilot thought he could hear the sound of a cat meowing plaintively, over the sound of well-oiled mechanical locks doing their job as he did so. “Come with me!”
Pilot looked expectantly at Robert, who shrugged, and they followed the lumbering but surprisingly fast moving Mr. Farley, who was already halfway down the hall to the staircase. Pilot followed, trailing Robert. Mr. Farley was speaking non-stop.
“..built in 1903. There’s steam heat. Some people don’t know how it works. It works! DON’T bang on the pipes! Here, this is your floor. See you Robert.” Mr. Farley had a peremptory air, so Robert took off to his suite and Pilot kept following Mr. Farley further down the stairs.
“There’s no smoking and no pets: instant eviction! Intercom was put in in the 70s. Don’t prop open the front door. Use your key. Don’t loan out your key. If you lose your key you have to pay $50. Your buzz code is 218.” Mr. Farley didn’t stop talking. Much of what he said was unintelligible to Pilot who understood neither the context nor many of the references, but this didn’t seem to phase the lumbering Landlord, who was now heading off down towards the dark end of a long corridor. Pilot was still standing in the lobby.
Farley turned his head briefly, for once acknowledging Pilot, “Come on, I have to show you the Laundry Room: it takes pride of place around here.” Ah, at once, a word Pilot knew! Pilot tilted forward and followed his Landlord to the end of the hall and down a narrow staircase of 13 steps into a cavernous cement room that was cool, being partly subterranean, with high narrow windows, far out of reach. It reeked unpleasantly like the combination of dirt, dust and a thousand long-gone bleach bottles, all held together within the rancid bouquet of some putrefying chemical air freshener. There were several large white enamel boxes of varying vintages, something like the ones Mom had at home. “Here are the Washers and Dryers. Washers take 3 quarters. Dryers take 25 cents every fifteen minutes. Don’t leave your laundry here. It will disappear. Not liable for lost belongings. Keep an eye on it. No tie-dying. No washing after 10 pm. No washing before 8:30.” Mr. Farley droned on and on. It seemed to Pilot there was no end to the promises, threats, warnings and rules. Many things seemed obvious to Pilot, but on the other hand, many seemed very odd indeed. Why must he keep an eye on his laundry, for instance, what made it disappear? And what about his other eye?
That weekend, Pilot took a few personal possessions in a couple suitcases and a trunk from Mom and Dad’s to the Medieval Mansions. He saw Mr. Farley briefly, in the hallway, conducting a similar tour to another newbie—someone who looked equal parts terrified and relieved that Mr. Farley deigned to provide his monologue, and grant his permission to reside there. On this occasion, Mr. Farley ignored Pilot almost completely, except to sneer and nod, ever so slightly in his direction. Pilot rang the bell at Robert’s apartment. Robert opened the door, smiling brightly. Seeing Pilot with his bags, he ushered him in. “Welcome!” he said. “Did you see Farley this morning? He’s on a raggy rampage. Don’t mind him. If you follow the Rules (here he rolled his eyes significantly) he can’t bother us. But don’t cross him!”
Dragging his steamer trunk behind him, while Robert took both his bags inside, they crossed the threshold into what was now Robert and Pilot’s place. Pilot closed the door behind him and he heard a satisfying click. This was home! Was it? Had he actually found home? It had all seemed too easy, somehow.