All Over Coffee By Paul Madonna
The waiting room of the Tenant’s Union was packed like a New Delhi train station. It also turned out to be the same room where the civic-minded lawyers who volunteered to counsel renter’s on their rights held court, so I sat down, and for the next three hours listened to the parade of locals ahead of me voicing their housing grievances.
There was the retired white woman who complained for twenty minutes about her graduate student housemate replacing her statue of Ganesh with an X-files poster. “It’s this huge picture of a bug-eyed alien,” she said, her voice getting louder and more high-pitched with each word. “And underneath, where it says ‘I Want to Believe’? He wrote, ‘In social Media.’”
Then there was the stocky Irishman in flip-flops who, even though he’d just sat through hours of other people’s babbling, thought he should spend a few minutes making small talk before launching into his problem. “So ya moost be all kindsa bizzy these days, eh? What with all the evictions and sooch?”
And then there was the curly-haired girl whose parents were footing the bill for her six thousand dollar a month studio apartment, who casually fondled the top button of her blouse as she went over her ten page lease, line by line, asking questions like, “And so, when it says I have to pay a security deposit, what assurance do I get that the landlord is secure?”
When finally it was my turn the lawyer took one look at me and sighed like a highschool principle who only just that moment accepted the fact that he would never be the next great American author. But having waited patiently, I took a breath, smiled as congenially as I could, and explained that my landlord was, in my opinion, abusing a legal loophole in order to evict me. The lawyer dropped his head into his hand and listened with the eyes of an old hound dog waiting to die, and when I was done, said, “So don’t move.”
“Wow,” I said, with what I realized was the first tinge of hope I’d felt in days. “So then she can’t legally evict me?”
“Well—” And suddenly he was awake and holding up his hands in defense. “—I don’t want to say anything that I can be held accountable for, but, legally? Yes. Absolutely she can evict you. And if you don’t go, she can get the sheriff to throw you out.”
“Okay…” I said, confused. “So then what is it you’re suggesting I do?”
The lawyer shook his head at me as if we were in a locker room and I’d offended his manhood. “I just told you,” he said. “Don’t leave.” Then he asked me to pay a donation and called the next person in line.
Paul Madonna writes and draws All Over Coffee, the weekly series published in the San Francisco Chronicleand on theRumpus.net. His stories and drawings have been published internationally and exhibited in galleries and museums. He is the author of two books, All Over Coffee (City Lights 2007), and Everything is its own reward (City Lights 2011), which won the 2011 NCBR Recognition Award for Best Book. Find more of his work at paulmadonna.com. We are stoked to have his work on our site as well.