When I went downstairs to get my coffee, I found that the television was smashed. I knew immediately who was responsible and went back up to my room to get my camera. I should have been carrying my camera anyway as I had been trying to get pictures of the rats that infested the building for my blog.
The building was a graduate student housing slum that I called ``the orphanage'' because it had formerly been the Mary Hammond Home for Children. It was Saturday morning and the previous night had been rather loud, not just from the street noise, but also from people banging around downstairs.
After I took pictures of the damage and had some coffee and bacon, I decided that investigating the crime would be more interesting than working on my doctoral dissertation. I went out the front door, blinking in the sunlight from the dark of the poorly lit orphanage, and headed down the block.
I went into a shop called Sassos after the former owners. They had been a nice old couple who cooked good food cheap. The new owners had come in recently and I had made friends with them, but didn't buy much food as their prices were too high. I still got my beer there, though.
``Good morning'', one of the owners greeted me. ``How is everything in the orphanage?''
``Not so good. Did you sell the Indian students a lot of liquor last night?''
``Yeah, they got a big bottle of scotch and a big bottle of rum. Why? Did they go on the war path?''
``They aren't that sort of Indian, but yeah, they smashed the TV.''
``They buy a lot of booze every weekend.''
``I know. And the TV has been on the fritz the past couple of days, still that is no excuse for smashing it. Do you want to see the picture?''
I got my camera out and put it in preview mode. I showed him the picture on the camera's little screen.
``Holy shit. They busted it good. Would you like some crab cakes? I have to get rid of them before they go bad.''
Back in my room on the second floor, where the exposed wiring matched the exposed plumbing in the hallway, I sat down at my computer. The taste of cold crab cake was still in my mouth. I resized the picture and uploaded it to a web server. Then I wrote a blog entry revealing the crime and what I had learned about it.
When I went back downstairs, I found Tom, the residential coordinator, looking over the remains of the TV. ``Do you know who did this?'' he asked.
``I'm pretty sure it was the Indian kids. I took some pictures of the damage when I got up this morning. Also, the guy at Sassos said that he sold them a lot of booze last night.''
``That's what I figured. Could you send me the picture?''
``Sure. Right after I get back from the supermarket.'' I pointed to my light blue backpack.
``Thanks. Please cc ResLife, too.''
I put the backpack on and headed outside again. It was a little less than a mile to the big Shoprite where I needed to get my groceries. I walked down the streets of Hoboken with the sun on my back. It was still early, maybe seven o'clock, and there wouldn't be many people in the store.
When I went in the store, a man in a suit with a leer on his face looked me over. He was obviously the store detective. As I went into the vegetable area he followed me. I didn't know what it was about me that he didn't like, I was wearing blue jeans, a tee shirt with the name of the university on it, and a backpack padlocked shut.
I pushed my cart to the string beans and filled a bag with them. I weighed it, finding that it was about a pound, and put it in my shopping cart. As I moved on to the meat, I could feel the creepy guy following me.
I went over the steaks carefully, finally selecting a porterhouse that I wanted to eat for my big weekend steak dinner. I also got a pound of ground beef and some hot Italian sausages.
As I grabbed a bag of small shells in the pasta aisle, I heard someone ask the creepy detective what he was doing. I started planning the letter that I was going to send to the store's corporate headquarters.
When I got to the checkout counter, the creepy guy was standing there with the cashier. I paid for my groceries and stuffed them in my backpack. Then I hiked back to the orphanage with my food for the week on my back.
When I got back to the orphanage, the university police were there looking at the TV and conferring with Tom. It seemed like a waste of time. Everybody knew what the university would do. The Indian students would be forced to find non-university housing and that would be the end of it. We had been to more than one rodeo in the five years I lived there.
I put Emeril steak rub on my porterhouse and put my other groceries away in a refrigerator I shared with two other students and my cabinet. We had six refrigerators for the eighteen students who lived in the building. Every student had a numbered cabinet.
I planned to grill my steak at three, so I had plenty of time to work on my dissertation. Intentions are like diplomacy, meaningless unless backed up with action. Which is to say, I didn't do any work on my dissertation. But why should I have? It was Saturday and I slog through every weekday in the lab working on it. I decided to take a short nap.
At three o'clock, I went downstairs to have some steak and string beans. I got my pasta cooker with the steamer basket out of my cabinet to cook the string beans in. I took it in the kitchen to get the water heating, but three Chinese students were using the stove.
``I need to use the stove!''
``We be done five minutes.''
I left my pot in the sink and sat down on the couch facing the defunct TV. I liked to watch Fox News while cooking if possible. The usual kink in that plan was students who wanted to watch awful movies on the movie channels. I figured that no TV was better than those movies.
Soon the Chinese students came out with a pot of fishy-smelling food. ``We all done now. What happen TV?''
``The Indian kids smashed it.''
I went in the kitchen and filled my pot a quarter way with water. I put it on the stove and turned the gas on high. Then I lit it with the lighter on a shelf above the stove. *Poof!* It caught fire with an explosion. I put the steamer basket in, covered it, and left it to heat.
I took the lighter out to the back yard to light the grill. The word yard was generous for the back, as it was small and covered in cracked concrete. On one side was the wall for the residential coordinator's apartment (once the home of the keeper of the orphans) and on the other side was a fence.
I had bought the barbecue grill when I moved into the orphanage, convincing Tom that it would be great for the building. ResLife had assembled it and Tom drove me to a garden store periodically to get propane. I was the only one who used it though. The international students seemed to be afraid of propane.
When I went back inside, Tom was carrying a new TV into the dining room to put where the broken TV was.
``That was fast!'' I said.
``An undergrad left it behind in the dorms last summer, so now it is ours.''
``Isn't that where we got the last one?''
I took my steak out back and started it grilling. When I came back in, Tom had it hooked up to the cable box. I turned it on. The remote had been confiscated a long time ago to prevent students from ordering pay-per-view porn movies but I had used my own remote to program the cable box to come on to Fox News Channel.
I chopped up some garlic and started it cooking in oil in a little pan. My water was boiling so I put the string beans in the steamer basket. Then I turned my steak over. Five minutes later my dinner was ready; string beans in garlic and oil and a porterhouse steak.
I was about to cut into my steak when a Chinese student said, ``Tell me about traditional American cuisine.''
``An important part of traditional American cuisine is steak,'' I said. ``And I am about to eat one now.''
He went to the cable box and started changing the channel.
``Hey! I'm watching that!'' I said.
``I'm sorry. I turn it back.''
I got my beer glass out of the freezer and poured myself a Sam Adams. ``Beer goes well with traditional American cuisine,'' I commented. ``Particularly steak.''
I threw the bottle cap at the garbage but missed. I got up and picked it up off of the floor and put it in the garbage.
Four beers, one pound of beef, and one pound of string beans later, I took my dishes into the kitchen to clean them. I noticed that we were out of dish soap again. Fortunately, I had my own stash of dish soap in my cupboard and I was able to get all of my stuff cleaned and put away.
I had a pretty good buzz from all of the beer, so when I went upstairs I put on some music. I listened to music and surfed the web until around eight. I went downstairs to fix myself a snack. A drunken French student was changing the channels on the TV which a couple of German students were watching.
``We're watching that!'' a German student said. ``Stop messing with the channels.''
``You've watched enough of that, now we are going to watch my show,'' the Frenchman said.
I grabbed a snack out of my cupboard and fled the scene.