Who would have thought a patron saint would be so snarky? His ambivalence, apparent lack of concern, would drip from his emails were it a liquid. And that liquid would smell like crap I was certain, like gasoline mixed with vomit. Helping others? I could do that. Even if Kolbe didn’t want to help me.
ManQuail walked into the living room of our crappy little apartment, still groggy with sleep, as I messed around in the pile of papers next to the computer. “What’s up?” he asked. “Did you hear from that Kolbe guy?”
“I need a pen,” I replied. “Have you seen one laying around?”
The bird flapped his wings to the kitchen counter. A moment later he had a black ink pen in his mouth. He flew over to me at the kitchen table and dropped it near my eight legs.
I kicked it back to him and slid a sheaf of paper his way. “You’re better at writing than I am. I need you to jot something down for me.”
I could hear the man’s booming voice downstairs, followed by a heavy thump. In my mind, I pictured his frail wife being shoved to the floor. ManQuail tilted his head at the sound. He could hear the drama too.
“Why am I writing on a piece of paper? What’s going on?” he asked.
Helping people? I thought about how surprised Saint Kolbe would be when he found out exactly how helpful I could be.
“Write ‘Stop hitting your wife’ and don’t worry about spelling or anything. That’s not important,” I said.
ManQuail set to writing. He added an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. At this point I think he had an idea of what I had in mind. When he finished, he slid the paper toward me. I folded the note in half to make it easier to carry and skittered off toward the windowsill.
ManQuail took flight and landed on the sill beside me. “Dude, wait up. I’m coming with you.”
Once again I tried to shake my head and failed. “This could be hairy, Glenn. It might be better for you to stay here. I can do this on my own.”
“No way. We’re a team, man. Get on my back. I’ll fly us down the stairs.”
Arguing would be pointless. Whether I allowed it or not, Glenn would come with me to the downstairs apartment, so I sprang onto his back and let him do all the work. I felt a momentary rush of air in my face, which ended with a gentle swoop to the front door of the couple living below me. Despite the early hour, I could already feel the heat of the day pressing against my hairy body. With this kind of humidity, I was certain we’d get hit with another monsoon later. At that exact moment, though, I was less concerned with the weather and more with my task.
ManQuail leaned into the door, allowing me to rap it with my powerful spider legs. I banged on it a couple of times before it swung open. There I saw a large man looking into the porch. His face sagged with double chins and his bare belly hung, hairy and pale, over his faded Navy blue sweatpants. The man’s arms, whether composed of fat or muscle, were like fur-covered tree trunks. I held the piece of paper up for him to read, but it took him a moment to look down.
ManQuail jots a note for Doug.
When he finally tilted his pudgy, balding head my way, the look that fell over his ugliness was priceless. His eyes and lips portrayed utter revulsion, then surprise, then shock, all in that order. I held the paper up for as long as I could, hoping the imbecile knew how to read, as he took a few steps into his home. I bounced off ManQuail’s back and followed him inside. The quail came in on my heels, determined to provide backup should it be needed.
“What in the hell is this?” The man finally spoke. I could see a woman standing against the far corner of the apartment, her hands shaky on the kitchen counter. She wore a sleeping shirt that looked like it needed a good wash. I could see a faded image of The Simpsons on it. The woman’s eyes were gray and hollow, full of fear. A fresh bruise covered one side of her scrawny face. The apartment, I realized, offered the exact floor plan as my own. No surprise there really. It meant, at least, that I knew the layout well.
The overweight man turned to his wife in a flash. “Who put this up? Did you? Huh? Who did this? Get rid of those damn things!”
I realized then and there the shock of seeing a tarantula with a sign wasn’t good enough for this man. I tossed the piece of paper aside and put my enhanced strength to good use. The woman screamed in shock when I made my move and jumped as high as I could. The fat man turned back to face me just as I made it to his fat face. With one swipe of my legs, I nailed him across the kisser with all the strength of a solid, human punch.
The man screamed in pain, blood dripping from his lips, and fell back against the wall. I hit the ground and bounced right back again. This time he saw me coming and tried to deflect the blow, but he was too slow. He couldn’t lift his flabby whale arms fast enough. I heard something from ManQuail as I struck the man a second time. This time I knocked him flat on his ass. My bird friend said something about how badass I was. I ricocheted off the wall and gave the man a good wallop across the head before coming to a stop next to Glenn by the front door. When I looked up I saw the wife holding a cell phone to her ears, babbling to someone in a high-pitched voice. She kept her eyes on us as she backed down the hall and finally slammed herself into the bathroom. Her husband, meanwhile, lay unconscious on the floor.
Glenn sounded worried. “I think she’s calling the police, man!”
I let out a deep breath and bounced onto Glenn’s feathered back, leaving the note in the apartment as a reminder to my ass wipe neighbor. The whole thing had happened far faster than I expected, not that I really knew what to expect past showing the bastard the note. Seeing that he now had his ass handed to him by an insect, I hoped he’d lay off his wife.
Glenn made a beeline for the door. We were safely back in the upstairs apartment by the time the police rolled into the parking lot. I decided it was time to send Maximilian Kolbe another email.