“You heard me dumbass.  Gimme your fuckin’ money.”

“Get lost dipshit.”

No sooner was the sound “–it” out of Fred’s mouth than an elbow flattened the bridge of his thin straight nose and sent the back of his head ricocheting off the brick wall on the side of the convenience store.  A few well-placed stomps to the face from a size twelve boot insured that the mugger got a fair wage for his trouble.

Stirring after a few minutes, Fred pushed himself into the crevice of the wall and pavement to recuperate his senses.  “God damn it, that was all my money!” he screamed out loud.  A loitering black man glanced from the other side of the street.

Chicago, like most old-line cities has its good parts and its bad, mostly bad.  This part, the south side, was decidedly bad.  So bad, in fact, that the mugger didn’t bother running away even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.  He managed a sort of trot, however.

Fred soon felt the hot sun stomping him.  Mid June and facing the direction of the sun was like being mugged all over again.  Slowly pulling himself together and trying out his legs as if he were a miraculously recovered paraplegic he lurched in the direction that he was pointed prior to the unpleasantness.  “Great, I can sweat my balls off in my sweltering room,” he said to himself.

Hobbling along, holding his nose and squinting his eyes he looked like he had been run over by a bus.  After two blocks of this labored movement he was within site of his three-story apartment building.  It was a great place to stay in 1952.  Now even the cockroaches were moving out.  The carpet was ratty and coming up in the corners, the layers of paint were about ¼" thick, the doors stuck and the windows let more air in than they kept out.

Since squinting eyes tend to cut one’s vision by half, Fred didn’t notice his obese landlady standing in front of his building sunning herself like a walrus.  He didn’t escape her notice though.  She started hollering from about 75 yards away.

“Fred, you piece of shit, where’s your rent money?”  No time for evasive action, he thought. Time to play nice to this sweat hog.

“I was…I was just mugged again, Miss Whaley.”  He spoke with extra deliberation to add to his seeming physical pain, but only after limping an extra fifty yards so that he didn’t have to shout.  Besides, this time he really was mugged.

“I don’t care.  It’s now the fifteenth.  You pay today or I start the eviction process.”

“I’ll get it to you.  It’s just gonna take a few days.”

“You don’t have a few days, asshole.”

“I had the money and now a mugger has it.  Go get it from him.”

“Don’t talk to me that way, smartass.”

By now Fred was in front of the door to the building and ready to go in.  He didn’t break a step, or hobble, as he reached for the door.

“Don’t walk away from me, Fred,” her voice ratcheting up in intensity.

“You smell like dried urine,” he said while proceeding forward without looking back.

“Fuck you!”

Fred’s apartment or, more appropriately, room had a faded floral print sofa with a hideaway bed (though the bed was always out), a small kitchenette and of course, the obligatory toilet and shower stall.  Everything was old with a dingy film of cigarette smoke. A round table and two chairs were partially in the kitchen area and partially in the main area.  These things constituted the elegance of Fred’s living quarters.

After throwing cool water on his face at the bathroom sink he stared into the mirror.  His nose was swollen and his eyes were already starting to blacken. Besides this, wrinkles were starting to develop under his eyes and grey hair was starting to sprout at his temples.  Still, Fred was a good looking man by anyone’s standards.  He had dark brown hair and brown eyes that had a sincerity in them.  He was of average height and on the thin side.

“Fred, what the hell?”  He said audibly.

“Why can’t you get it together.  You’re not some piece of shit.”  At that moment a fly landed on the top of his head.  Fred’s eyes stared at his visitor through the mirror until it decided to go elsewhere about 20 seconds later.