The sign said, SLEEPING ROOM FOR RENT, out in the front yard with snow all around. Had a number you could call, 260-745-0931, and the name of a landlord down below. He wondered how many people called, thought that a room sure would be nice for a change.
He called the number from a pay phone on the corner. He had quarters on him; always had quarters. His mom told him to never be caught without change on you; only piece of advice that stuck. They wanted $325 a month for a room with the kitchen and bathroom down the hall. The old man said he’d take a look at it and felt ’round in his pockets for a few bills. Earned em by working day labor jobs. Had $500 on him. He knew his money would soon be gone.
The old man drove over to the place on Clifton. Outside waiting on him was a real pretty Mexican girl who couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. You James?, she asked. The bony old man nodded his gray head. Come on, let’s go look at the room, she turned the key and the smell of old trash smacked the two in the face. Sorry ’bout the smell, she said. They’re supposed to keep the halls clean, he smiled.
As she opened the door, yelling could be heard from down the hall in another room. Something about giving him till Friday to pay his rent. He screamed, the eagle fly on Friday. The Mexican girl shook her head. It’s always something, she said.
Right away the smell of urine ran rampant in the room. There were dark spots on the carpet where blood and piss had soaked in. Over in the corner was a twin bed with a blanket waded up on top. A pillow with brown stains lay across the bed as well.
You want $325?, the old man asked. She smiled, then informed him that actually they needed $650 to move in; security deposit. He shook his head and said he’d continue to look.
Do you have enough to cover it?, she asked. The old man told her he did not. Well, how much do you have?, she put her hands on her hips. He told her $450. We can work something out. Can I see the money?, he took it out and handed it to her; keeping a $50 in his pants pocket. She counted and smiled at him. They had a deal.
That night he fell asleep with springs pushing up on his body. He was awakened by sirens and couples fighting down the hall. He lit a cigarette and watched it burn in the beer can he had on the floor; crushed by his boot. This is home, he said. This is home.