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07 May 2017 @ 01:56 pm
LJ Idol Season Ten: "Crown Villas"  
Crown Villas
idol season ten | week 17 | 1082 words
The Rent I Pay


I've been here the longest of anyone—practically since the beginning.

The other inhabitants have changed over time, and so have the surroundings. Let's face it, things aren't perfect. The roof leaks in some of the units, the heating and A/C don't always work, and I could swear the space is shrinking. I mean, it grew for a long time—years even—but then it started to go in reverse.

It's a jumbled mess in here. I just try to steer clear of the riff-raff and keep an eye out for squatters.

Sometimes, I'm not even sure where my own place is. I used to be next to Giles, years and years ago. Giles is a very physical guy, kind of obsessed with movement. At one point, he owned half the building, but it didn't last. Others started moving in, like language lady (I forget her name), and Max.

That Max was something. "I'm an idea guy," he kept telling everyone.

"We know," we'd say, "you already said that." Like, a gazillion times already.

He was a smart enough guy, but he never shut up. If you're wondering whether that would bug you, let me tell you, Yes—it definitely would.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though, and forgetting some of the other tenants who have been here almost as long as I have. Serena, who was all about feelings, and moved in maybe a week after I did. Harold, who was interested in everything, and became a real scholar over the years. Later, there was Libby, who was completely boy-crazy. It wasn't so bad at first, but after a while, it got out of hand. Things would be going along safe and smooth, and then the hormones would ratchet up and so would Libby.

Or course, all of this was way back in the past, before everything got really nuts.

Nowadays, I don't know half the people here. We try to pretend things are still fairly normal, even though the place is bursting at the seams and we're hardly ever where we belong. We all spend way too much time jammed into the common room, trying to get our fair share of the popcorn and fighting over the remote.

That's usually about when the landlord pays a visit.

He's been here since the beginning too, and like me, he's pretty much given up on names. Who can keep track of all of them now? We mostly just call them what they are. What can they do about it, leave? I don't think so.

He comes in now, carrying his clipboard. "Anybody seen Responsibility?" he asks.

"I think he's at the office," someone says. Which is a fair bet—he usually is.

"He's behind on the rent again."

That's fairly typical, too. The rent here is paid in sleep, nutrition, and other bodily maintenance, and Responsibility has never quite gotten the hang of how things work. He isn't the only one…

"Hey," the landlord says, 'hey!" He stomps over to the sofa. "Stress, who the hell is that canoodling under the coffee table?"

Chocolate and Carbs pull apart, looking sheepish. Computer Solitaire and Mystery Novels stop throwing cards into a hat, and try to fade into the wallpaper.

"You know the rules," the landlord says. "No sub-letting! How long have these clowns been here?"

"Um, maybe a month or two, off and on," Stress says.

Hah, I think, more like a couple of years! But I don't say it.

"Out!" the landlord bellows. He smacks Carbs on the head with the clipboard as it runs past. He yanks Stress up off the sofa. "Go to your room and rest, what the hell is wrong with you? Pull yourself together!"

Creativity is already sidling out the other door. Everyone knows his place is total chaos—it looks like he's running a flophouse in there. If he's smart, he'll sweep up the smattering of loose ideas and clean up the chewing gum and pencil stubs before the landlord drops by. I swear he must have nine lives, that guy. Even when he's gotten kicked out of the building, he somehow eventually makes his way back in.

The landlord looks around the room. It's deathly quiet, for a change.

"Now listen up, all of you. We go through this again and again, and I know you're all thinking the same as always. Oh, it's so hard to take care of myself, I hate sleeping, boo-hoo-hoo. Don't give me that look, Impulsivity, I know you. I've seen you surfing the Net at three a.m."

I struggle not to look away as he says this. There are times I've been just as guilty.

"All of you think you can keep this up forever, and nothing's gonna happen," the landlord continues. "Oh, it's okay, you say, I'm not goofing off, no really—I'm just multitasking." He glares at us. "Hah!"

"Multitasking is the biggest lie since Double your money, guaranteed!"

Procrastination and Inertia are trading glances, looking like they wish they'd turned in a couple of hours ago and avoided this whole tirade. I know exactly how they feel.

"So, I'm here to tell you that things can still get worse, and they might. You think they won't?" He looks at each of us in turn, waiting for as much as a smirk or a roll of the eyes. No one blinks.

"The powers-that-be are seriously considering letting this place go condo. If that happens, you'll be so compartmentalized you won't be able to put on your pants or even drink a glass of water. So, is that what you want? IS IT?"

There is nothing but stunned silence and a rising hint of nervous perspiration.

"Because if not, you'd better start shaping up!"

The landlord storms out of the common area, leaving us quivering in his wake like leaves in the aftermath of a narrowly-escaped tornado. There's a pause, and then everyone's piling over each other in a mass surge toward the exits, each of us rushing back to our rooms or closets or corners to take up better habits.

I vow things will be different this time, as I slip inside my apartment and lock the door. I will eat unprocessed foods, starting now with an exquisite kale and quinoa salad, whatever those actually are.

I will find the patience to meditate, I will forswear sugar and caffeine.

I hardly make it past the living room before I am hit with a sudden, compelling urge to nap.


If you liked this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here. All entries for this week are on this page, by topic.

fodschwazzle on May 8th, 2017 04:09 am (UTC)
Oh, I know these tenants. I know them well enough that even tonight I felt pretty guilty reading this. It's funny the way that Impulsivity has been subletting to all kinds of really great people.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2017 06:04 pm (UTC)
I know these tenants all too well! And I wish Stress would behave better, but when he's continually invoked with no end in sight, I understand the lack of discipline.

The MTTSS (mean time to spider-solitaire) numbers are a fairly accurate indicator of how well or badly things are going, sadly. :(
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on May 8th, 2017 04:11 am (UTC)
mmm, nap.... this is so weird! but i really like it. it's oddly cozy, with all the renters hanging out together.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2017 06:06 pm (UTC)
It's probably the first threat-inspired nap ever!

At least the renters aren't fighting over much besides the remote. They're not working together either (or even working that well on their own), but at least they aren't fighting...
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on May 8th, 2017 11:51 am (UTC)
This reminds me a little bit of the movie, INSIDE OUT.
They way you express this is so creative!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2017 06:08 pm (UTC)
The tricky part with crack is usually the same-- introduce while obfuscating, but not so much that when the real context becomes clear, the reader says, "Huh?"

As opposed to, "Aha!"
(no subject) - rswndrlst on May 10th, 2017 12:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eternal_ot on May 10th, 2017 06:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
i_17bingo: toileti_17bingo on May 8th, 2017 03:37 pm (UTC)
I used to think of my brain as being under the control of miniature mes, but it was more like the bridge of a starship than a roommate share. This is brilliant! Even if it did give me flashbacks to my days living with those I wasn't married to.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2017 06:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, why is the brain not as well-behaved as we want it to be?!?

As we get older, we gain cognitive abilities and maturity, and you would think there would be huge increase in control... but at the same time, the quantity of separate traits and responses and parallelisms and the growth in complexity serve to undo much of what we would expect to gain. :O
messygorgeousmessygorgeous on May 9th, 2017 02:08 am (UTC)

Such a fun piece. Carbs and chocolate have built a permanent addition in my brain. I think Stress IS my landlord, lol.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 9th, 2017 06:59 pm (UTC)
I wish carbs and chocolate were easier to control, but since the stress isn't (boy, going on several years now for me), I'm not surprised they keep showing up. ;)
dmousey: owldmousey on May 9th, 2017 11:14 am (UTC)
This is marvelous! I read it twice and am still chuckling. I love where your imagination went with this piece! Another gem for your collection! Hugs and peace~~~
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:24 am (UTC)
I'll bet the beginning of the story struck you a little differently on the second read-through, too. :D

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that it made you smile. :)
tonithegreat: cattonithegreat on May 10th, 2017 01:50 am (UTC)
Brilliant! My tenants are doing pretty well at getting along, but they haven't got enough sleep to go around and they keep compensating with sugar. I absolutely love what you did with the prompt.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:26 am (UTC)
My tenants have similar problems. Not enough sleep, too much stress, it mostly heads toward chocolate and other sugar. And "avoidance entertainment."

The strenuous exercise helps too, but somehow the lure of sugar is always the strongest of all!
Shadow Wolf Byrdshadowwolf13 on May 10th, 2017 05:36 am (UTC)
LOL It's like you peeked into my head. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:27 am (UTC)
Hahaha-- if only we could kick some of those tenants out, or make them be a little more disciplined. But the more of them there are (as we get older), the harder that sometimes becomes!
Teo Sayseternal_ot on May 10th, 2017 06:52 am (UTC)
Fantastic approach to the topic. I enjoyed the Chocolate and Carbs bit along with the creativity part. These people felt like I have known them for years :D Superb! Loved it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 10th, 2017 07:30 am (UTC)
I'm glad (and possibly sorry?) to hear that other people are very familiar with these tenants as well. Their bad habits are very predictable, even if they sometimes lean more toward greasy foods and salt, or soap-opera TV marathons, or what-not.

This one is kind of 2/3rds crack and 1/3 meta, and it seems to be a lot of people's meta as well as mine!
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on May 10th, 2017 09:29 am (UTC)
So cute! Also...true, and scary because this is so familiar. My habits keep messing up my life! I think I need to be a better landlord.

As always great writing, clever and ingenious take on the prompt. And. Inspiring.

Now off to shout at bad habits. ;-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 06:21 pm (UTC)
I wish my habits would behave themselves better, but they can be very stubborn! And really, going toe-to-toe with chocolate, it almost always wins. :O

So glad you enjoyed this. I hope you're more victorious over your habits than I've been!
penpusher: Bisonpenpusher on May 10th, 2017 11:03 am (UTC)
So cute and fun! Takes me back to my college days, that's for sure!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 06:23 pm (UTC)
Hahaha-- I _wish_ this were just my college days. Really, my work stress has caused so much havoc in the last year, and before that it was other intermittent life stress. But at least, intermittent!

Now, it's just the hope of things becoming less hellish before I retire and knowing I'm too close to retirement to start over. Argh.
bleodswean: pic#126855595bleodswean on May 10th, 2017 03:11 pm (UTC)
You're really an adept at this kind of exploded organic schematic! Glad that there was someone/thing in charge inside that small space! ;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 06:27 pm (UTC)
That landlord is always in there, but sometimes he gets shouted down or trampled over by everyone else doing their own thing-- not always because they want to, just because it's who they are!

I'm going to have to resort to something like regular cat-video consumption soon to balance out all of this stress. :(
rayasorayaso on May 10th, 2017 05:41 pm (UTC)
What happens if the tenants have a rent strike? I loved this! So much of it was familiar -- I think we all have such tenants. It was this familiarity that made it so much fun! You are brilliant at writing crack fiction, especially the misdirection kind. I will always remember the cardboard advertising man. You are a very versatile writer, and I never know what is coming next.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 06:28 pm (UTC)
Hoo boy, if there were ever a rent strike I think it would result in a heart attack! Or catatonia. Hard to tell which. Explosion from the inside out, or party-party-party occupying all the circuits? \o?

At least we know that stock market chocolate shares are unlikely to drop in the near future, thanks in large part to me...
encrefloueencrefloue on May 11th, 2017 08:14 pm (UTC)
Such a charming spin to the prompt! I like the idea of the new "tenants" coming in as the host ages and becomes more complex of a person. It does seem like big bad society is coming to gentrify us!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 08:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, when you're just a baby things are pretty simple. There's some concept of "me," but the bulk of your brain is focused on emotion and physical things, and then learning language. As the years pile on, there is more and more going on in there, and often parts of it are competing with one another. Things like the pull between two emotional obligations where only one can win... thank goodness you can't foresee that kind of thing in the early years!

OTOH, too much internal discipline and you begin to starve the life out of what makes you "you" (good or bad), so that's not the best choice either. Though some people choose it!

flipflop_divaflipflop_diva on May 11th, 2017 09:06 pm (UTC)
This is so fun! First I thought it was maybe game characters or something, but it turned out even better. I love how creativity keeps getting kicked out but then keeps coming back. So, so true!

Also: "Multitasking is the biggest lie since Double your money, guaranteed!" I laughed. That's hilarious.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 11th, 2017 11:00 pm (UTC)
creativity keeps getting kicked out but then keeps coming back.
It's a metaphor for Idol itself, in a sense!

I find multitasking hard to resist, and often it isn't even a choice, but... it is the opposite of relaxation. Often, you're doing multiple things in a bad or mediocre way, which... \o?

Thanks for reading and commenting!