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The shotgun situation.

Spider webs covered the world like in a shitty William Shatner movie, or so Tangle imagined. September in northern Texas after abundant summer rains had seen an army of spiders emerge from grimy nooks and dusky corners. The spiders strung webs between tree branches and nearby bushes, across sidewalk paths and, of course, over the driver's side door of Tangle's Chevy pick-up. A nasty web clung to the handle of the gas pump where Tangle stopped to refuel, the spider silk stretching with the hose to his gas tank. He rubbed his fingers across his jeans, but Tangle could not seem to get the webbing off his fingers. The morning air was cool and the sky was clear, a sort of picnic-at-the-park day, but Tangle disliked the mild weather because along with it came spiders.

Tangle spent his morning driving around the city of Denton, slowing down as he passed the various properties under his supervision. He noticed that someone had kicked a few boards out of the fence at one property and he pulled over. Using the hammer he kept in his toolbox he punched the boards back into place. Around noon Tangle finished his tour and drove home for the day. He kicked off his worn leather work boots and stretched out on the sofa with a beer.

Tangle's bad leg had been acting up and his hip ached. Although he was only thirty years old, Tangle felt like an old man. Two years earlier Tangle had fallen from a roof and snapped his femur in two. On the way to the hospital the fractured bone slipped around inside his leg. He required a month of traction just to straighten out the bone and three months in a body cast. The bone healed well enough, but the process had messed up his hip joint and now Tangle walked with a distinct limp.

Tangle imagined little kids pointed at him when he hobbled past them in super markets. Men and women alike took to holding doors open for him. On his first visit back to his favorite pub, Willey's, he shuffled up to a bar stool beside an attractive women and introduced himself. Her rejection was polite, even apologetic, like she feared he was delicate. Her attempt to be kind embarrassed Tangle.

He retreated with his beer back to the pool table. There he struck up a game for fifty bucks with a couple of young roughs in jeans and worn shitkickers. When he started losing, he used his smart mouth to rile the boys. Tangle had long enjoyed provoking scraps resulting in bloody noses or split lips and figured if he were going to lose fifty bucks, he'd at least enjoy a punch or two. But even after he pushed the two around hoping for a fight, they backed off, throwing the wadded fifty at his feet, their eyes on his hip. He knew they refused to fight because he was a cripple. After that night, he spent his evenings alone. He worried that so long as his body looked broken if he tried to stir things up no one would respond.

The doctors told Tangle that in time the hip problems would lessen and his limp would become less noticeable. After two years and little improvement, Tangle suspected the doctors might have miscalculated.

Once he was off the crutches, Tangle found himself in a serious financial pinch. Before his fall, Tangle made ends meet by laying carpet, putting up dry wall and painting houses. When money was tight he worked with a few different crews around town. They took him on because he worked hard and did not mind sharing his cigarettes. He cut a straight line with a paintbrush and he owned his own set of scaffolding which he stored in the back of his pick-up under a tarp. But after the accident, word spread that his bad leg made him slow and a potential safety risk. Jobs dried up.

His brother Stuart owned twenty-seven rental units around the Denton area, mostly low-income housing, and offered Tangle a rent-free place to live and a decent paycheck, eleven hundred a month, to collect rent and deal with renter problems. Tangle needed the money, so he accepted his brother's offer. For the most part, work wasn't work, just opening mail containing rent checks and dumping them in the bank. When a renter's toilet backed up, Tangle arrived with his metal sewer snake to clear the drain. If a renter locked himself out, Tangle dropped off a spare key. After renters moved out, Tangle patched up the unit, which usually took a little effort, but not enough to strain his hip much. Sometimes Tangle had to scrub down scummy bathtubs or scrape clean kitchen counters caked in month old spaghetti sauce. If a renter punched a hole in a wall, Tangle would repair the sheet rock and paint the wall so that no one would ever guess at the transgression of the previous dwellers. On occasion Tangle had to install new carpeting or repaint interior walls or replace bathroom mirrors using money out of the expense account. One thing was certain; renters never got their deposit back.

In the previous month of August, Tangle collected rent from twenty-six of the twenty-seven properties; only the last house on his list remained vacant. His brother seemed pleased. Over the phone, Stuart said, "You're doing a great job, Tangle. Now if you could only get the shotgun house rented."

Stuart was three years younger and he tended to talk in a way that irritated Tangle. When Stuart delivered Tangle's pay for August, he handed over the check and said, "You earned every penny this month."

Even though Tangle believed he earned every penny of his monthly paycheck every month, he accepted Stuart's words with a silent nod. He had no desire to antagonize Stuart. He appreciated the employment his brother gave him even if the job required he eat shit on occasion, and more importantly, he liked that Stuart treated him hard, like a man. Tangle did not want to screw that up by telling Stuart to back off.

Tangle lived alone in one of Stuart's smaller houses. At night he watched the History channel and ate frozen burritos drowned in salsa. Before his accident, he had lived with a skinny girl named Wendy, but she grew tired of lackluster evenings spent at home in front of the television and ran off with a clean-shaved man who drank fine wines and wore a tie to work. Tangle replaced Wendy with a male German shepherd he named Woof, who licked his feet at night and dug up the back lawn during the day. Tangle read used paperbacks he picked up at the half price store. People rarely dropped by to visit and the stink of loneliness crept into the house. Each night a whiff of stale air greeted Tangle at the door. The smell reminded him of burnt grass with a hint of skunk. Tangle tried carpet fresheners and aerosol sprays, but the unpleasant odor would not come out. He used magnets to pin Little Tree car fresheners to the fridge.

When Tangle called his brother and mentioned the stink was more or less unbearable, Stuart weighed in on the matter. "You need a woman. Women understand smells."

Tangle said, "All women understand is how to complicate life. Who needs that?"

Stuart said, "You should change your nickname to 'Romeo.'"

In the first week of September, as spiders emerged and spun webs everywhere, Tangle managed to rent the shotgun house. He placed an ad in the in the classified section of the Denton Record-Chronicle and within a week had an appointment with a man named Yeeter Lee.

Tangle arrived at seven in the evening to open up the shotgun house. He unlocked the door in the front, walked straight back through the narrow living room, bedroom, kitchen and mudroom, and unlocked the door in the back. He checked that the toilet was flushed and he turned on the lights in every room. Then Tangle stepped out to the front porch and smoked a cigarette or two while he waited.

At seven-thirty, Tangle was climbing into his Chevy to drive home when Yeeter finally pulled up in a hopeless brown Honda, accompanied by two women. Yeeter hopped out of his car and waved his arms, yelling, "Hold up! I'm here. You can relax, boss. We made it!"

Tangle introduced himself and they shook hands. As often happened he had to explain that "Tangle" was just a nickname he had earned because he often was "tangled up" in fistfights as a youth. Tangle did not offer Yeeter Lee his birth name, seeing no point in such intimacy.

Yeeter held his hands up, as if defending himself, and said, "I'm a lover, not a fighter."

Tangle smiled politely.

The two women climbed out of the Honda and without a word wandered into the shotgun house. Yeeter was holding a newspaper and pointed to the ad Tangle had placed. "This here says two-fifty a month and two-fifty deposit."

Tangle nodded. Yeeter smiled, showing off his two front teeth and wide open gaps on either side, so that he looked like a cartoon rabbit. Tangle could not help but wonder how such a thing could happen to a person's mouth. He imagined Yeeter being punched on either side of the face at the same time so that the canines and premolars flew, but the front teeth remained steady. Yeeter was a slender man, bulging at the joints, and round in the belly. He shook Tangle's hand, offering no strength in his grip, like handing over a thawed chicken breast.

"Me and my ma been by earlier and peeked into the windows," Yeeter said. "If the wife likes her, we'd like to sign the lease tonight."

When dealing with Stuart's nicer properties, Tangle did not like to sign a lease without a background check, but the shotgun house was shit, the worst of Stuart's slum properties. Tangle figured people willing to move in would have to be so down on their luck that a credit check was pointless. Tangle said cash up front would be sufficient.

He led Yeeter through the shotgun. They found the two women in the kitchen. The larger of the two, a silver-haired woman with a body shaped like a yam, nosed about inside the empty refrigerator. Tangle could hear her sniffing. She said, "The box smells like sour milk."

The younger woman, her thinning red hair a rat's nest of confusion, gripped Yeeter's boney elbow. She whispered, "This can be our house. We can live here." Tangle noticed a slur in the woman's words, as if her tongue was too thick for her mouth.

Yeeter pulled out a black leather billfold. He said, "Today was payday at the shop."

Within the next half hour, they filled out and signed a lease. Tangle handed over a pair of keys and accepted twenty-five twenty dollar bills.

As he drove home, Tangle called his brother and bragged that he had rented every property. Stuart said, "I knew you were the right man for the job. Keep it up!"

A couple of weeks later, Stuart called Tangle and said, "The city of Denton has issued me a notice of nuisance." Stuart explained that Denton had mailed a formal letter allowing thirty days to mow the lawn at the shotgun property or the city would fine him five hundred dollars. "What's going on, Tangle? I thought your renters took care of mowing their own lawns."

"They're supposed to," Tangle said.

Stuart said, "This needs to be taken care of today. I can't be as patient with you as I usually am. I need you to move on this one and get this situation fixed."

Tangle promised he would handle everything. He went to his files and found Yeeter Lee's lease and phone number. Tangle dialed the number, but a computer voice told him that at the subscriber's request the phone number in question would not accept incoming calls.

Frustrated, Tangle drove to the property. The grass stood well over a foot high, a miniature jungle surrounding the shotgun house. He cursed himself for slacking on his duties; he hadn't made a tour of the properties in a couple of weeks. The driveway was empty except for a small stack of empty cardboard beer cases--Miller High Life and PBR--and Tangle guessed that Yeeter was at work. He mounted the three concrete steps leading to the front door and noticed a sticky black pool congealing on the left half of the porch like someone had poured a quart of oil underneath the front window. Tangle looked up just in time to wrap his face in a monster-sized spider web. He cussed and pawed at the webbing.

After peeling himself free of the spider silk, Tangle knocked on the front door. There was no answer. He tried to peek through the windows, but the blinds were pulled shut. He found a pen and a pad of paper in his truck and wrote a short note explaining that he had stopped by because the lawn needed to be mowed straight away. He wrote that Yeeter needed to clean the oil slick on the porch and added that as per the lease he required a working phone number. Tangle placed the note in Yeeter's mailbox and drove home.

That night Stuart called. He was disappointed with Tangle's lack of progress and made Tangle promise to mow the lawn himself the next day if need be. Stuart said, "I need you to fix this right away. You can't wait for these low-lives to solve your problems for you."

The next day Tangle threw his lawn mower into the bed of his pick-up and drove back over to the shotgun house. He knocked on the door and again nobody answered. Tangle poured gasoline into the mower, pulled the cord and tore into the tall grass. The sun was hot on Tangle's back. His hip ached and sweat rolled off his clean-shaven scalp.

On the side of the house, he discovered a plastic grocery bag hidden in a clump of grass. The bag had been tied shut. When Tangle picked up the sack he could tell something soft and wet was inside. Tangle shut down the lawn mower and worked at opening the bag. The stench of rotting meat assaulted his senses. Tangle dropped the sack and coughed and spit. Holding his breath, Tangle again picked up the bag, glanced inside and saw what looked like five or six pounds of rotting bacon, like a stack of rancid animal tongues. He hurried around the house and dropped the sack into the oversized plastic bin the city provided. After slamming the lid down on the trash can, Tangle stood on the front lawn and smoked three cigarettes, hoping to destroy any hint of the awful smell that haunted his nostrils. He wondered why anyone would buy so much bacon and then let it spoil.

After he finished mowing the back lawn, Tangle wrote a note. The note said that Yeeter would have to pay an additional thirty dollars for the lawn mowing service Tangle had provided. The note reminded Yeeter that his lease had an upkeep clause that included mowing the lawn on a regular basis. As a postscript, Tangle again requested Yeeter call with a working phone number and insisted that the oil spill on the porch be sopped up "pronto." Tangle did not mention the plastic sack full of bad bacon.

When he arrived home, Tangle found that the mailman had delivered an envelope containing four keys and no return address. He spent fifteen minutes comparing the keys with his spare sets and made a few calls before he determined that one of his renters had moved away without the courtesy of giving notice. That night he received calls from two other renters who announced they were moving out at the end of the week. In both cases Tangle pointed out that the terms of their lease required at least thirty days notice before they vacate or else their deposit was forfeit. One renter said she was sorry. The other said, "Oh well, bro."

His weekend was spent cleaning up the three abandoned units. Tangle ran his vacuum cleaner over filthy carpets and scrubbed linoleum floors at each property. He patched up nail holes in walls, emptied refrigerators of abandoned groceries, scrubbed stained toilet bowls and in one house Tangle replaced two broken windows. Using a rag and foaming carpet cleaner, he scrubbed red punch stains out of a carpet. He drained an entire bottle of 409 on kitchen cabinets and greasy oven tops. When he was finished, Tangle locked down the three houses, leaving For Rent signs in the windows.

On the last day of September, Stuart stopped by during Tangle's dinner. They sat on the couch and spread bank statements and receipts across Tangle's coffee table. They reviewed the work Tangle had done and the rent money collected. Stuart was distressed by the money Tangle had pulled out of the expense account to pay for repairs on the three recently vacated properties. "September was going to be a good month for you, but then this happened," Stuart said.

"The deposit money covered any expenses."

Stuart said, "I'm just saying that if you found higher quality renters, maybe they wouldn't trash the houses and we could make a few extra bucks. You have to screen these people."

Tangle said, "I screen them."

"Well, we have three empties going into October." Stuart made a tsking sound. "Maybe you should run an ad in the paper."

Tangle resented Stuart's instructions. He knew how to find renters, had done the job dozens of times. He swallowed his retort and turned his attention to scratching at Woof's long ears. "I'll fill the vacants," Tangle said.

Stuart tore Tangle's monthly paycheck out of his checkbook and dropped it onto the table. He said, "If you ask me, eleven hundred's a pretty good wage for basically opening envelopes and plunging a few toilets. Especially considering we have three houses vacant."

Tangle scratched behind Woof's ears. He knew that Stuart was waiting for thanks. Tangle recalled how his kid brother would irritate him when they were teenagers. Stuart often stood in front of the television during Tangle's favorite shows. One time Stuart threw potato chips at his face. Always little things, but irritating. Tangle would try to ignore Stuart, resist the urge to lash out for a minute, maybe two, but inevitably he hammered Stuart with his fists. He would lay into Stuart's gut, pounding the soft center of his little brother, and finish with a warning: "Never stand in front of the TV again!" or "Toss anything else at me and I'll beat your ass." Stuart would retreat for a day or two, but soon he would return, this time poking Tangle repeatedly in the arm or maybe sneezing on the back of his head.

Stuart continued to irritate him, but now he provided for Tangle as well. Tangle knew with his limp he would struggle to find a payment plan as generous as what Stuart offered. But free rent and decent pay and the not so demanding workload made Tangle feel caged by his brother, submissive in the face of his wages. Tangle slid the check into his back pocket and said, "Thanks, Stuart."

Before he left, Stuart chastised Tangle's habit of smoking. He said, "Forget lung cancer. What about if you want to bring a girl home? This place smells like rotten cauliflower."

Tangle said, "I smoke out on the front porch."

Stuart said, "Well, the stink's following you back in like a fart."

After Stuart left and Tangle had smoked a couple of cigarettes on the front porch, his cell phone buzzed. The name "Renter Yeeter Lee" flashed on his phone's display screen. Yeeter apologized for calling at such a late hour and explained that his number had been down for a bit because of payment issues, but that his phone was back in service. Yeeter explained that the toilet was broken and he insisted he needed Tangle to "fix the damned thing Ay-sap."

Tangle asked Yeeter a few questions about the nature of the problem, but Yeeter was entirely unhelpful, repeating that the toilet wouldn't flush. Tangle loaded his tools into his truck and made the twenty minute journey across town to the shotgun house.

He knocked on the front door, waited, and then knocked again. Finally, Yeeter slid open the dead bolt and let Tangle in. The living room was an unholy mess. Every inch of the floor was covered in discarded clothes, dirty blankets, stacks of newspaper, soggy cardboard boxes, crusty plates, half-eaten tacos, crushed beer cans, withered pizza slices, empty two-liter soda jugs, smears of cigarette ash, mud-splattered shoes and boots. Four sticky fly strips hung from the ceiling, the yellow tape of each freckled with dozens of dead flies. A gym-sock smell tainted the air. The air conditioner sat silent and the steamy Texas night oozed in through half-open windows. In a corner of the room, resting on an orange beanbag chair, sat Yeeter's red-haired wife. Her Fred Flintstone legs and feet were bare, as were her shoulders, her skin damp with sweat. Spread over her midriff was only a threadbare beach towel. Tangle wondered if she was naked underneath the towel and the thought distressed him.

Tangle said, "Isn't the air conditioner working?"

Yeeter said, "There's mold in the machine and I'm allergic, so we can't run it."

Yeeter led Tangle through the bedroom, which was in a similar state of disrepair with the addition of a stained queen-sized mattress. The older, heavy-set woman, was stretched out on the mattress, snoring. Her right arm hugged an open box of Cheerios to her body.

"Sorry about this," Yeeter said.

At first Tangle thought he was talking about the mess he had to step over walking through the house, but then he opened the door to the bathroom and the reek of shit smashed into him. Tangle entered the cramped bathroom and saw that the toilet bowl was filled with human waste. Flies crawled over the open bowl. The putrid reek of fecal matter rolled over him and Tangle fought down an urge to gag.

"How long's the toilet been broken?" Tangle asked.

"A few days. I should have called sooner," Yeeter said.

"It was broken and you kept using it?"

Yeeter shrugged. "Where else'd we go?"

"Jesus." Tangle held his breath and stepped past Yeeter. He lifted the porcelain lid from the tank and looked inside. He saw that the lift arm was broken, so that when the handle was pressed, the tank would not flush. Tangle dunked his hand into the clean water of the tank and lifted the flapper. The toilet flushed and much of the bowl cleared. After waiting a minute for the tank to refill, Tangle reached into the tank again and lifted the flapper.

Once the bowl was emptied, Yeeter shook his head and said, "That's all it was? I thought for sure she was stopped up."

Tangle walked back out to his pick-up. He dug around his toolbox and found a new toilet handle with a metal lift arm. Breathing through his mouth, Tangle walked back into the muggy shotgun house and replaced the piece in less than two minutes. He set the tank lid back in place.

Tangle looked at the bathroom sink in hopes of washing off his hands, but saw the entire basin was drowned in wet blonde whiskers. He called Yeeter into the bathroom.

"Yeah, boss?"

Tangle did not like that Yeeter called him "boss." Something about the word made him nervous. Tangle pointed to the sink and said, "This hair will clog the drain. You have to clean this out. Tonight."

Yeeter promised he would, smiling his rabbit-toothed grin. Tangle instructed Yeeter to follow him out to the front porch. Once they were outside, Tangle closed the front door and pulled fresh air deep into his lungs. While Yeeter waited for him to speak, Tangle considered his position. The house was a calamity. Plenty of other renters left homes in bad shape, but nothing like what was happening inside the shotgun. Tangle realized he had to have Yeeter out immediately, before they did more than destroy the carpets and clog up the pipes.

"This won't fly," Tangle said. "I can't allow it." He ran the toe of his sneaker along the edge of the oil slick that remained on the front porch.

"I was gonna have that clean for you tomorrow, boss."

Tangle held up a hand to quiet Yeeter. Tangle explained that the oil on the porch, the unmowed lawn, the issues with the phone not accepting his calls were all problems. "And what was that bag of bacon I found around the side?"

Yeeter said, "Oh, shit, I near forgot about that." He explained that a friend had given him a real bargain on some lean bacon. "Buck a pound. That whole bag for five bucks!" But when he came home, Yeeter discovered he was locked out without a key. He hid the bag on the side of the house in the shade and set off in search of his wife or mother. "They were at the Shell buying jerky. By the time we all got home, I dang forgot about that bacon. Shit, what a waste."

Before Yeeter could say anything more, Tangle started in on the condition of the interior of the house. He apologized but given the sorry state of things, he was going to have to evict them. Yeeter clasped his hands together like he was praying to Tangle and begged for a second chance. In the end, Tangle promised Yeeter three days to either clean up the house or move out.

Tangle's hip throbbed the entire drive home. When he walked into his own kitchen, Tangle noticed a black dot on the shin of his jeans. He lifted his leg and looked closer. A flea. He ordered Woof out of the room and inspected his legs. Tangle located and crushed five fleas. He stripped off his jeans and socks and threw them into the washing machine, running the water at hot. Boil the fuckers, Tangle thought. Then he cooked his own skin under a scalding shower.

The next day he dropped by the shotgun house with a small box containing three bug bombs. He knocked on the front door for a few minutes but there was no answer. Tangle reached into his pocket where he had put the keys for the shotgun in case he needed to get inside while Yeeter and his women were out.

The property had two keys, one for the front door and one for the back. To his surprise, neither worked on the front door. Tangle knelt down and examined the lock. The steel was polished and new. Tangle realized that Yeeter had changed the lock. He cursed as he walked around to the back of the shotgun house. The back door key worked. He slid the dead bolt, turned the knob and let himself into the mudroom.

"Hello?" Tangle called. The door between the mudroom and kitchen was shut. Tangle turned the knob and pushed, but the door refused to open, as if someone on the other side were leaning again the door. Tangle pounded on the door a number of times, pushing against it with his shoulder. There was a half inch space underneath the door and Tangle dropped to his knees, his bad leg stiff and his hip popping with the motion. Peeking under the door, Tangle saw that Yeeter had moved the refrigerator off the kitchen wall and parked it directly in front of the door. Tangle was barricaded out.

He circled the shotgun, pounding again on the front door, trying to open the windows along the side of the house. After ten minutes of frustration, he dialed Yeeter on his cell phone. The call went to voice mail and Tangle left a stern order that Yeeter move the fridge away from the kitchen/mudroom door. Tangle considered dropping by the police station and asking about his options regarding breaking down the front door, but his hip hurt and he felt a deep weariness weigh down on him. He decided to drive home. He kept the bug bombs, sure that one way or another in a few days, he would need them.

That night Tangle sat on the back steps dressed only in his boxer shorts and tossed a worn tennis ball across the yard. He watched Woof lope after the toy. After a while, Tangle limped inside and sprawled out on his couch. He flipped through stations looking for something of interest. The phone rang.

Stuart's voice was agitated. "Have you seen the shotgun house?" Tangle knew to keep silent, not offer more information than necessary and let Stuart say whatever he needed to say.

After a breath, Stuart explained that he had driven past the house earlier that night and seen great piles of trash strewn across the lot. Stuart said, "Some wife-beating ramrod and what looked like his two dogface girlfriends were piling all sorts of shit on the lawn like some kind of retarded yard sale. What's wrong with you renting my house to this kind of scum?"

"Shit," Tangle muttered. He felt something cruel stir inside.

Stuart added, "There was a shit-stained mattress leaning against the mailbox."

The thought that Stuart was checking up on him, driving by even after he said things were under control, infuriated Tangle. After taking a breath in hopes of controlling the slow burn of anger in his system, Tangle said, "Why'd you drive past the shotgun, Stuart?"

Stuart said, "Hey, I can check up on my properties any time I want. But if you must know, after that notice of nuisance, I was making sure the lawn was properly mowed."

Tangle concentrated on not throwing the phone across the room. He lifted his feet onto the couch and crossed his legs, tucking his body up into a ball, hoping to rein in the desire that was swelling inside to lash out at the nearest living person in the room. Primarily because in this case that person was Woof. Into the phone, Tangle said, "I'll call you back." He could hear Stuart's voice starting to form a word, perhaps "wait," but Tangle's thumb cut the connection.

After tossing the phone onto the coffee table, Tangle stepped out on the front porch, not caring that he wore only boxer shorts, and lit a cigarette. He dragged the life out of the cigarette, pulling the smoke deep into his lungs. Tangle was drained of patience with Stuart's demeaning tone. The fact that Stuart was checking up on him proved that his little brother considered him to need looking after, like a child. Stuart did not see him as capable. As he snubbed out the butt, Tangle decided he was done eating shit. When Tangle went back inside, the phone was buzzing. Impatient Stuart.

Tangle lifted the phone to his ear, thumbed the receive button, and barked, "I told you the lawn was mowed. And I'm taking care of the shotgun situation. You need to back off!"

Stuart's voice was strident. "Don't you ever hang up on me."

"I'm working with the renter. Leave me to it."

"I'm not paying you to work with people, Tangle. You're not the good guy here. You're a goddam janitor. I want this mess cleaned." Silence for a moment, and then, "And I want an apology."

Tangle let his hand holding the phone drop to his side. He looked around the living room, at the worn couch and the second-hand coffee table. His thirty-two-inch television set and his particleboard bookshelf. Even Woof, lying on his side, his black eyes open and watching, seemed more a piece of furniture than a companion. These things, these items that populated Tangle's life, meant little to him, yet he felt bound by the items that he kept inside his brother's home, like they gripped him, glued him to his own life.

Stuart's voice reached Tangle as if from far away. "I mean it, Tangle. If you don't want to do the job, I'll replace you tomorrow."

Tangle knew he could be replaced, easily. He considered a life free from Stuart's help, working a nine-to-five gig, his hip always sore, and renting a shack like the hole he leased to Yeeter. Tangle thought about Yeeter calling him "boss" and pleading with him to allow him to stay. The thought of falling even further horrified Tangle.

Tangle lifted the cell up to his ear. "I'm sorry, Stuart." Filled with shame, Tangle knew he was a delicate man.

The next morning, Tangle peeled webs off his Chevy door and climbed into his truck. He drove across town. The shotgun was deserted. Yeeter had left a note on the kitchen counter. Using some rather creative spelling, Yeeter apologized for the mess he left Tangle to clean up. The note stated that he and his wife had decided to move down to Florida to live with her sister. Further, they could only take what would fit into the Honda. As such, Tangle was free to do what he pleased with the "goods" they left behind.

Of course, everything needed to go to the dump. After setting off two bug bombs, Tangle tossed Yeeter's junk into the bed of his pick-up. The Chevy made three trips. He tried to stuff the four fly strips into a trash bag, but they clung to the plastic in such a way that he finally balled the whole sticky mess up and shoved everything into a paper sack. Tangle scrubbed and painted. The carpets were shredded and had to come out. Stuart complained about the three hundred dollars Tangle pulled out of the expense account to pay for replacement flooring. Tangle handled everything himself and when the ache in his hip and thigh started to scream, Tangle sat down on the front porch of the shotgun and enjoyed a smoke while waiting for his tendons to cool.

The evening air was thick on Tangle's skin. The grind of automobile engines thundered from nearby streets. Despite the tobacco smoke in his nostrils, Tangle could smell the sweat of his tired body. Tangle watched as a bleached spider the size of his thumbnail frolicked on eight frail legs between the metal rails of the front porch railing, weaving a net of fragile silk strands.
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Author:Sylvester, Louis
Article Type:Short story
Date:Dec 22, 2008
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