“What’s your name child?”
“Oh, you must be Yvette’s granddaughter.”
That’s usually where the conversation ended. Unless that person had never crossed onto my grandmother’s bad side, but my grandmother was generally well liked in the community. You got out of her what you put into her. You’re nice to her, she’ll be nice to you. Over the course of my interesting life I’ve witnessed her set straight a handful of asshole neighbours and and a few landlords. Growing up without much money and on the wrong side of town we often didn’t have a choice but to bounce from one run-down place to another, just seeking something better for ourselves.
One time in March several years ago William, the landlord, seemed like a sympathetic guy and I was really looking forward to finally having peace of mind. It took quite a bit of cleaning up when we moved in since the house had been left in terrible condition by the previous tenants but the place was spacious and it would be quiet. The previous tenants had left a lot of messes and broken appliances in the house but William had a friend who was a plumber that fixed it up nicely when we moved in.
At first William didn’t give us any trouble. You’d see him once a month when he came to pick up the rent money and you wouldn’t see him again after that. I thought that he was an okay guy. There was nothing about him that would set him apart from any other property owner. Rumours went flying that he had cashed in a considerable inheritance which he had used to purchase the house. He had lived in that house about three months before renting it to three young men. He told us that we could stay as long as we wanted, and we had been looking forward to settling in nicely and finally having peace of mind.
The roof leaked a bucket of water a day next to the patio door and after a while the wood on the doorframe expanded and it was impossible to open the doors to access the deck in the backyard. We had to take down all the security cameras and the crazy wiring attached to them. Whoever had lived there before had an extreme case of paranoia and I would later learn why when the cops came pounding on the door during a lazy summer evening, but for the most part I really enjoyed living there. I had never lived in an actual house before and even though I still suffered from insomnia, at least the nights were peaceful at last.
None of the doors inside the house would properly close since the floor was crooked but it never bothered me until I finally managed to close the bathroom door and got trapped inside. I freaked out while it was happening but looking back I can’t help but laugh. Each wall in a room was of a different colour and the floor on the first floor was severely crooked to the point where we’d need to cut out small pieces of wood to place under the furniture so it would be on even ground. Despite everything that was wrong with the house I was as happy as I’d ever been in my life up to that point. But like everything else that had happened previously, it got real sour real fast.
Within just a few months we began to have trouble with William, our landlord. We hadn’t ever had trouble with him in the past. He asked us if we were interested in buying the house when he came by to pick up the rent money one month. Even if my household had wanted to buy the house, neither one of us was financially capable to making such a large purchase, plus the house needed to be repaired too. So much for staying as long as we wanted.
“Then I’ll have to put the house up for sale,” he told us that day.
“Why would you want to sell the house now?” my grandma asked him, “You have good tenants, and you told us that you bought this place as an investment. We haven’t even been here a year!”
“I want to buy myself a new truck, and I need some quick money. This investment just isn’t working for my anymore.”
At first we bought his story of needing a new truck because he did have an old truck and if nobody fixed up the house it would lose its value over time as well. We were rightfully disappointed and angry but on some level we understood his situation. He hadn’t put up the house for sale but a few days after that he came back with a young woman who was apparently interested in buying the house but we would soon learn that it was all a setup. William told us to move out because this girl wanted to “try” the house for a few months and then maybe buy it in the summertime if she liked it. He told us that she had already made the $10 deposit too!
“William,” my grandma told him sternly, “I can pull $10 bills out of my ass! It’ll take a lot more than that to kick us out.”
He probably thought we were stupid enough buy his crap because in his mind we were three quiet and defenceless ladies, but he was wrong. My old lady got in his face and he got lucky that Vladimir didn’t live with us at the time because he would’ve had the same taste of wrath Anton did. He never bothered us after that, but eventually the house came to be falling apart and we had to find another place to live anyway.
At school I was a terrorist. Not only had I never cared about school, I thought that all my peers were idiots. One time they pushed my buttons a little too much and when it came to settling the score I took after my grandmother. I taught them what they needed to learn to put them mildly. Of course I was sent to the principal’s office for that offence and that idiot wasn’t about to scare me by attempting to call my parents, something that usually worked on kids from “normal” families, whatever the hell that meant anyway. Since my mother was at work, it’s my beloved grandma who showed up that afternoon.
“Did they piss you off?”
“Did you set them straight?”
The principal looked completely devastated as my grandma and I burst out laughing on our way out of his office. I had an amazing sense of satisfaction that I had won again despite his attempt to try to scare me by calling my parents. What followed was me bragging to anyone who would listen about how I got rewarded for my bad behaviour. And it was true, when I acted out I was sent home, which is exactly what I wanted. So I began acting out deliberately regardless of if I was angry or not just to go home and enjoy my time off.
I ended up in plenty of petty trouble after that. Honestly, I was willing to do anything just to not go to class. Apparently making someone sit by themselves in silence is supposed to be a punishment, but in reality it gave me a great opportunity to plot what I was going to do next. My “rebellion” cost me most of the few friends I had, but once again I gained many supporters along the way. Many students hated the principal for many reasons but I hated him mostly because he didn’t do his job. He promised us things we never got, never solved any conflict in school, and never responded to any of the inquiries people made for various reasons.
At the end of the day nobody disciplined me anymore. Nobody cared if I desecrated my schoolwork anymore, they didn’t care if I even did it or not. Most of the time, I’d watch movies on my laptop in class instead of paying attention because I frankly just didn’t care anymore. One day I watched a documentary about Leonard Lake and Charles Ng in English class when I noticed the teacher standing behind me. I turned around ready to show defiance when I saw that most of the class was behind me watching the movie. I giggled and went back to watching something else.