This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 820 words.
In my mind, I always called it the block. But it was known to the outside world as Spencer House, a boring block of flats at the edge of a much larger estate. Unlike the nearby tower blocks, Spencer House was small. Just six floors, with two flats on each one. At least the height guaranteed it had a lift, which saved walking up the stairs. The other big difference was that it was not owned by the local council. Everyone who lived there either owned their flat, or rented privately from whoever had bought it. That gave it a modicum of class, which was sadly not reflected by its outward appearance.
At one time, the small balconies would have been a blaze of colour, window boxes full of bright geranuims, or whatever was cheap at the garden centre. Recent years had attracted owners and tenants with little interest in horticulture, and the best on offer was somone’s washing, drying on a few pegs clipped to a short line or wire stretched across the space. Despite the ridiculous cost of buying one of the flats at the time, you would never know that any of the residents had a pot to piss in.
Still, the service charges paid for a cleaner to mop the staircases, and entrance hall. The entryphone system guaranteed no random visitors or criminal elements, and the lift was maintained to a good standard. Just as well, as I lived on the sixth floor. At one time, I knew a few names, and would even stop to chat on my way in or out. But then that became nods, or an occasional “How you doing?” With a high turnover in the rented properties, I hardly recognised a lot of the people coming and going, and became convinced that tenants were sub-letting. And those sub-letters were likely doing the same.
In the absence of familiar faces and names, I started to give them my own names, just in my head of course. ‘Frizzy-Haired Sexy Girl’. ‘Fat Bald Bloke’, ‘Loud Couple From Second Floor’. I had names for them all by the end.
The trouble really started over the parking spaces. When the block was built, I presume they wanted to save money on land, or thought everyone would have just one car. So they built a parking area outside, with just twelve spaces. But they didn’t bother to number them, just painted white lines that left a gap about the size of an average car. Well, we all know that most couples have two cars these days. Even a single Mum with a teenage kid might have two cars as well. And then there was ‘Middle-Aged Biker Man’, who wanted to use his space to park his sad little fake Harley in, as well as his sporty hatchback..
I never told anyone, but I was probably the only one living there who didn’t have a car.
One weekend, Fat Bald Bloke reversed his van into the motorbike. Whether this was accidental or intentional, I never found out. But I heard the shouting all the way up in my flat, and went out onto the balcony to look down on the fun. The bike was on its side, and Middle-Aged Biker Man was waving his arms around, looking a bit like a mushroom in his American-style crash helmet. Fat Bald Bloke gave him the finger, climbed back in his van, and drove off. I enjoyed watching Biker Man trying to lift his bike back up level, and even timed how long it took him.
Then I spotted Possible Junkie walking toward the entrance carrying two blue plastic bags. He had obviously come from Vijay’s shop near the precinct, as Vijay always gave out those bags for free, even if you only bought a Snickers or something. Possible Junkie looked like he had never eaten anything. You could see the bone structure of his face and head, and count the individual bones of his hands. He wore skinny jeans so narrow, I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to ever remove them. I was sure that only a heroin addict could exist being that thin, fuelled solely by drugs and cans of cider. He could have got a job as a skeleton, every Halloween.
The drilling woke me up early that Sunday morning.
Biker Man was standing watching two guys drilling into the tarmac on the corners of his parking space. Well, the space he always insisted was his anyway. I made some tea and toast and went back out onto the balcony to watch. They were bolting metal posts into the corners of the space, and judging by the rolled up heavy chain next to them, it seemed to me that Biker Man was about to fence off his space with chains. I gave a low whistle, and smiled.
Fat Bald Bloke was not going to like that one bit.