My pal Darren thought he had gypsy blood,  psychic powers that with a little training and effort, he could augment. He claimed that a lot of times he’d be talking to someone and get an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.  It wasn’t that he’d had that conversation before but that he had foreseen it, or rather, fore-heard it. He could turn on a baseball game and know the score. Giants 3, Brewers 1.  He admitted this was all small potatoes. After all, he still hadn’t won the lottery or even figured out a way to keep from getting parking tickets  but he was wise enough to know that money wasn’t the goal of the exercise of his powers.  They could be of use to humanity.

My take, which I censored, was he was as accurate as a fortune cookie.

He began taking dubious classes from venues like the Institute of Parapsychology and the Consortium on Paranormal Exploration.

Why did he need the paranormal?   I would have been happy to have his normal life. His parents owned a large apartment building near the college which he managed in exchange for an apartment; the penthouse no less, with a fantastic view of the bridge and bay.  He was set for life but he complained about how his parents weren’t supportive of his true self. If he was such a good psychic he would know his true self  was an ungrateful jackass.

Spring is party time in our college town. Beer flows from unquenchable wells. I’ve graduated, so I’m past the age of complete depravity.  I use a little discretion about which parties to attend but when Darren told me that two former Sigma Chis were hosting a party in one of the apartments in his building I asked him, more as a joke than anything, if he could get me an invite. The Sigmas were the hottest sorority on campus by a tropical mile. He said he’d work on it.

It wasn’t exactly an invite but as good as one. Days before  the party Darren met Darlene, one of the hosts, and she mentioned that she was expecting a mob, and she didn’t know where she’d put everybody. Darren was permanently crushed out on Darlene.  It happened that a graduate assistant and his wife had just moved out of an apartment across the hall from her apartment, so Darren offered to let Darlene use it for the evening if she and her roommate needed the extra space. He would unlock it the night of the party. She was so effusive in her gratitude that his basic common sense, not to mention his psychic powers, couldn’t see that this was an invitation to disaster. Horny frat boys would descend like rats. I once was one. I tried to warn him. He seemed to think that the two of us could keep things from getting out of hand. Our strategy? We never got around to discussing one.

By midnight the building was rocking on its foundations. Guys were pissing off the balconies. I felt sorry for the other tenants in the building. No, that’s painting it with too fine a brush. I just pissed in the toilet, like a human being. The girls, the ones with any brains, had already left for saner habitats.

Poor Darren. He was scurrying around like an agitated squirrel. Sweating he told me he had a strong premonition, as clear as a vision, of the balcony collapsing, and he kept shooing people back inside. As a final recourse he locked the plate glass doors. That done  he rushed across the hall to the main party and tried to do the same. He was met with hostility, like who’s this shit, the landlord spawn, telling us what to do in our place? By the time he got people inside, someone had kicked out the glass doors in the apartment opposite and there were even more people on the balcony.

“Help me,” he begged me. “I have a really bad feeling.”

I couldn’t dismiss his agitation as groundless paranoia. A balcony collapse had made national news not long ago, eight people dead. But what  was I supposed to do?   Clock any revelers that stepped onto the balcony?

The bathroom was the only spot in the apartment you could hear yourself think. The time it took me to make a call was enough to make me wish everyone had pissed over the balcony.

I doubt it was the first call, but it may have been the tipping point to get get the cops off their butts, tear them away from world wide wrestling. What did they care about dead frat boys? There were always more where they came from.

When they showed up around one A.M, the party was at is most outrageous. One thrown beer bottle would have started a melee. The revelers were a privileged subset and nobody was going to ruin their fun. In the nick of time Darlene and her sorority sisters defused the male tension and one by one the frat boys streamed out of the building, taking their havoc elsewhere.

The party made the front page of the campus paper. Apparently there had been a mini-riot later that night, trash cans on fire, rocks thrown, the kind of asinine stuff that happens after a victory, or a loss, in the Big Game.

Probably due to the recent famous balcony collapse, the presshounds smelled meat. Soon there were articles about the heartless landlords and the lack of up-to-date inspections. Tenants aired grievances, filed lawsuits. The fact the landlords were Serbian immigrants added some measure of guilt.

To pay the lawyers, Darren’s parents had to rent out the penthouse. He moved back in with them just about the time he’d scored his first date with Darlene. That, of course, stopped things cold.


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