A Hot Time in the Old Town

"The other reason they were unpopular was the impression each of them gave. Bill and Frank were pretty rough around the edges. They looked like the sort of people whose names showed up in the Police Blotter section of the paper, followed by 'no fixed address'. Ezra? His only fault was being black.

"Is it okay to say 'black'? African-American, maybe, but that hasn't really caught on in casual speech, has it? At any rate, either is better than what the neighbors called him when he wasn't around.

"Bill Lundy took the first floor. He had a decent job down at the glass plant. You probably don't remember where that was. He was rude and abrasive, and he poured most of his money into a shot glass. Frank Conway was a carbon copy of Bill, down to the job and the bad habits. He lived on the second floor. Both were pretty despicable characters, really, but they paid their rent on time. That makes up for a lot. Probably more than it should.

"Ezra took the basement, which was the cheapest. He studied chemistry at City College by day and waited tables by night, and so he needed to economize. I didn't see too much of him; between his work and his studies he was gone most of the day. When he was home, he usually kept to himself. It was hard to get to know him.

"Already I can see you're thinking this was a pretty volatile situation. But God's honest truth, for the better part of a year we lived under that roof together and nothing bad happened. Oh, I'm not saying that Bill or Frank ever invited Ezra up for dinner or anything like that. But the three of them could sit on the front porch in the evening, the two of them at one end with their booze and their portable radio, Ezra at the other with his books and papers, and end up having an actual, civil conversation.

"So it was okay, you see?

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