Alice tried to remember who had given her the key. Had it been Mrs. Hooper, after the developers purchased her late husband’s store in order to convert it into a trendy new Caribbean-Italian-Sushi fusion restaurant called Dine? Or Gordon, after shaking his head and saying farewell to the street here he’d watched his children grow up? The 2 guys in the basement apartment—what were their names?—Bert and Ernie, that’s right. Bert liked to feed the pigeons, before city ordinances were enforced to forbid that sort of thing in this neighborhood. Which was why the big yellow bird was the first one to leave. A psittacosis scare would definitely cause the property values to plummet. And his giant elephantine friend wouldn’t help the situation. So it couldn’t have been either of them who had given Alice the key. They were already gone by the time she arrived with her real estate agent to see the property.
Next to the stoop in front the building was a collection of trash cans. Alice thought she saw someone with bushy eyebrows and beady eyes peering out of one of the garbage cans. There was a lid on his head, and though Alice couldn’t be sure, she was almost certain he was a grungy shade of green. But maybe that’s what years of homelessness had done to him. Well he’d be gone soon enough. On the way into the building, she and the agent passed one of the current tenants, who’d be moving out soon.
“Hi, Bob!” Waved the real estate agent.
But Bob just muttered something about the stress of trying to find another rent-controlled apartment with the same kind of character as the one he was leaving.
“What’s the matter with him?” Asked Alice.
“I don’t know.” The agent replied. “Usually he is so chipper!”
A few weeks later when Alice returned to show the building to her live-in boyfriend, Eddie, a deaf woman who lived on the first floor said something to them in sign language that didn’t look very friendly.
“What’s going on with these people?” Alice asked. “Every time I come here, I get the dirtiest looks from everyone.”
Gordon must have heard her. Leaning from his second floor window, he explained, “things used to be a lot friendlier around here. Until local politicians like The Count started taking bribes from real estate developers. Mr. Hooper didn’t want to sell his store or the rest of his building, but a few months later he died under mysterious circumstances. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”
“Gordon? Are you at it again with your conspiracy theories?” Called his wife from somewhere inside the apartment. Then she stuck her head out of the window next to his.
“Don’t believe everything he tells you. From my understanding, what really happened is The Count got some crooked cops to frame this kid Elmo for selling drugs behind Mr. Hooper’s store. And the city was able to use imminent domain because it was considered a drug house.”
“Oh, so my version of it is a conspiracy theory but yours is true?” Asked Gordon. “What about what they said about the Cookie Monster? That he sent Mr. Hooper some macaroons laced with arsenic? You know macaroons were his favorite.”
“Cookie Monster just doesn’t have it in him. He’s not really a monster, you know.” She replied.
The tales of the sinister goings on in this block were not enough to frighten Alice away from the building. The unit she eventually purchased had been gutted and remodeled. It had hardwood floors, exposed brick, and antique crown moldings that had been painstakingly restored. The rusting fire escape in the back had been converted into a beautiful iron balcony that would be perfect for her new Weber grill.
There was something very romantic about this place. And even though she was a stock broker and Eddie was a lawyer, they could live like artists here in this trendy new neighborhood that would soon become the envy of all their friends. She had moved to New York City from England after a bad experience with her crazy ex-boyfriend, an accessories designer who made eccentric hats, and an incident involving his Cheshire cat. She had no intention to leave. Whoever had given her the key to the building, it didn’t matter. The place was hers now.
Moving day had finally arrived. The movers had gone on ahead of her. She was trailing them on her new mountain bike. But somewhere along the way she had gotten turned around, so at a red light she asked the driver of a cab beside her,
“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”