A Hot Time in the Old Town

The old guy ceased his narration and tipped the nearly-empty bag of peanuts up to his mouth, shaking loose the stragglers and crumbs.

Pretty heavy stuff, that story of his. Yet that kind of thing couldn't have been easy to share, and I was glad he'd done so--and a little ashamed for my near-revulsion at the thought of sharing my bench with him.

He balled up the empty bag and tossed it in the trash can next to our bench. "A real hot time in the old town that night." He laughed bitterly. I must have looked perplexed. "It was a song," he explained. "Before your time. Before mine, too, actually."

"So you sold the house after that?" I asked. "They probably ran you out of that neighborhood on a rail."

"Oh, no," he said. "I stayed. There've been a few people in this life whose opinion I cared about, but none of them lived on that block. I fixed up the house easily enough--the damage was confined to the basement, and I made it habitable again pretty quickly.

"It was a while before I got tenants again, but I got them--for the first and second floors, anyway. A cheap apartment in a safe neighborhood was a desirable thing, even back then. But that basement, well, it was quite a long stretch before I found someone to live down there. Oh, I'd get a prospect every now and then. I'd show him the apartment, we'd dicker, maybe reach an agreement, sometimes even get a lease signed. But then he'd get fifty feet down the sidewalk and one of the neighbors would strike up a conversation with him and 'casually' mention Ezra Bowman's murder. And sure enough, I'd get a call later in the day, asking to cancel the deal.

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