from the Section 8 (HUD)case files
Earlier when I rang Joann’s doorbell, no one answered.
This time her brother AJ, a lightning bolt razored onto the left side
of his head, let me in and told me Joann was in rehab again.
What happened to her five kids?
I moved in to take care of Josh, AJ said, and Marty lives here now.
He looks after his two, Rodney lives with my mother and Ellie’s
father came and got her.
Can’t write all this down, so I asked, When will Joann be home?
Can I complete the inspection?
The upstairs was messy but nothing raised a red flag.
When I asked where the basement door was, AJ got tetchy
and flexed the viper tattoo on his lower right arm.
Why do you have go there?
Part of the job, I said.
AJ shook a Marlboro out of a pack and lit it.
Not wanting to annoy him with a lecture on second-hand smoke,
I opened the basement door and heard fluttering.
What was I in for? I’d inspected many basements—
some tenants made a few bucks renting out extra beds,
others warehoused stolen electronics and car parts—
but I didn’t expect twenty or so pigeons in a floor-to-ceiling cage,
several rabbits and cats, a much-too-friendly goat, and two
foul-smelling sofas. The windows had been painted black.
What’s going on here?
AJ shrugged again as if to say I don’t see anything amiss,
while the goat began nuzzling a jumble of Styrofoam containers.
When I came to another room wild with marijuana plants,
AJ averted his eyes and ground the cigarette butt into the cement
with the heel of his boot. If we clean all this....
Sorry, I have to call the authorities.
I heard the SPCA removed the animals; the marijuana
likely disappeared before anyone arrived.
AJ got custody of two of Joann’s kids, because
he hoped with the kids, he could get his own rental subsidy,
but there had been those pigeons, that goat….
Man Stabs Elderly Neighbor, The Home News, 2001
from the Section 8 (HUD) case files
I know they’re making snuff films in the downstairs apartment. They’ve drilled holes in the ceiling so I can watch. Every night a new girl. I got it all on tape. How do you think they get rid of the bodies? The other night I couldn’t sleep. Too much screaming. Called the landlord, but he said no one is making films. Probably loud music or TV. I tell him I heard voices screaming. He’ll talk to the tenants, he said. But the screaming doesn’t stop. Goes on during the day, too. I can’t stand it anymore. I went over to Minnie’s house. She fixed me lunch, hot soup and a tuna sandwich, said not to worry. If there’s something going on, the police will handle it. Not like they did with Mama. I was only trying to help her. I swear I didn’t hit her. Even she said I never laid a hand on her. Fucking police pressed charges anyway, said Mama had bruises on the side of her head and a broken nose that couldn’t happen except if I’d assaulted her. I did six months in County. Lots of screaming there, too. Guards never let you forget who’s in charge. One guy liked to wail when he jacked off. Hah. Pissed the guards. Me and him got into it over breakfast. Said I stole his cap in the yard, then we’re punching each other, and next thing I know, they ship me off to Trenton State. Nothing to it, just two guys settling a score, but you know how it is. I tell the shrink there, make the screaming go away. He gives me pills, dumbs me up so I can have a little peace and quiet. Now they’re downstairs doing another poor girl. Sometimes three or four of them taking turns. I’ll show you the tape. Just stop screaming at me.
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