"I had the strangest day..."
Well, actually, it started with an even stranger night. Mind you, I didn't plan it that way, it just sort of usurped the normality I had grown accustomed to. I had been listening to The Doors' Strange Days--you know, "strange days have found us..." and thinking to myself, "how many times does it take to ...?" when there was a loud bang next door. At first, I couldn't be sure whether it was a gunshot or the Putfarkin's dog barking again because of the music--I mean, because of the music I couldn't be sure, not that Putfarkin's dog barks because of the music. Putfarkin's dog barks at nothing. Then there was scream and a thud, as of a body hitting the floor. I thought to myself, "the last 14 times they did that and I called the police, it turned out they were just horsing around and I looked pretty silly." I didn't think the police would fall for it a 15th time; they had me down on their list of midnight hoax callers already. But then, I thought, if someone really did want to murder a spouse, what better way to set it up? Pretend you were a Richard-and-Liz sort of tempestuous pair, stage fake fights until the neighbors just thought it was 'normal'--and then, one night, you really do pop your wife off. I mean, one could get away with murder!
I lay there on the bed, The Doors droning on, "with a little girl in a Hollywood bungalow..." The Wilbertsons usually turned on the tv after these jousting matches, and so it was last night: about 15 minutes later. All perfectly normal, for our tenement block anyway.
At 1:15 a.m. Mr. Sweeney would come home, utterly pickled, his boots clumping on the wooden stairs and his key scratching around the keyhole until he got it the right way round and properly inserted. The door would bang against the sideboard stupidly placed where the door would bang it, and his wife, a grizzled nag, would greet him with, "wipe yer boots, you sot!" To which he would retort, "Hold yor tongue, witch!" Whereupon they would fall to bickering about something trivial and end up creaking the bed tempestuously until Mr. Sweeney dropped, exhausted, into a snoring stupor. Mrs. Sweeney would then get up and take a bath, the water gurgling and whistling along the pipes on our common floor, singing softly to herself in a mournful lilt which I took to be Gaelic.
I would finally get some peace and quiet about 2 a.m. Normally.
Not last night. Something strange happened to disturb my sleep: an insistent pounding coming from the floor beneath ours. Ours being shared by myself (a lone lodger), the Sweeneys, and the Wilbertsons. The floor below was occupied by three families in theory. In actual fact it may have been 23 families; it was hard to tell. They had moved in not all at once, but in drips and drabs at first, then in droves. Foreigners. Not like us. Not like us at all. I don't know how many fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles and grandfolks and cousins--one simply couldn't keep track. One never even saw their women folk--kept shut inside mostly. Very strange.
As I was saying, a pounding came up through the floorboards from their group of apartments. An insistent pounding on their ceiling, our floor. I rolled over and tried to bury my head in the pillows. To no avail. The wretched pounding continued. I looked, bleary-eyed, at my alarm clock: 4:13 a.m.
Indistinct scuffling noises began to emanate from the apartment next door, the Wilbertsons'. Eventually, the pounding from below and the scuffling from next door merged into a troubled torpor teaming with dreams full of intense and intricate details which, however, vanished instantly upon being startled awake--this morning. The start of a strange day.
As I later learned at the police station, it had been the Sweeneys who had finally called the police. The Turks or the Albanians or whoever the hell they are wouldn't have dared to--probably on account of too many unregistered aliens on the premises. It was they who had noticed blood seeping through their ceiling and started pounding in the wee hours. And now the police wanted to know whether I had noticed anything strange during the night. I hardly know what to say.