Coughing Blues

My next-door neighbor is a large bearded-and-bespectacled man from somewhere in the South. I've only talked to him a couple of times, and both times felt he was in a hurry to end the conversation. Occasionally, I see packages left for him down by the mailboxes. They are invariably from a Time-Life series or from a science-fiction book club.

A couple of times the smoke alarm in his apartment has gone off and continues to beep for hours. Once it was beeping throughout the night (he must have been out at work) and I had to call the landlord in the morning to send somebody over to stop it. What exactly sets off a beeping fire alarm yet doesn't burn the building down? ... I envision him having some sort of home laboratory where he's cooking up some mad-scientist experiment or maybe his ham radio blew a tube and is smoking. This dude, combined with my downstairs neighbor - who blasts new-age Enya crap that vibrates throughout my apartment until I call her and request that she turn it down - makes me wonder when I will lose it and unleash the aggressive side of my passive-aggressive personality.

Let it be noted that I have followed a policy of restraint with my insensitive neighbors. But when I freak out (and it's gotta happen sometime: the relatively cool place I envision myself living in gets disrupted by freakin' Enya??) I'm gonna go atomic. It won't be tit-for-tat in the noise area. I'll be blasting Corrosion of Conformity, Public Enemy, Gorillaz, Run-DMC, early Metallica, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, etc. etc. I may even shout at the top of my lungs about the Freemasons. Scorched earth policy, motherfuckers, scorched earth policy.

Anyway, my large next-door neighbor has a large cough. It started about a couple of weeks ago, I would hear him through my living-room wall now and then during evenings. Later that week, it got worse. He would awaken me with his coughing fits at three a.m., which was scary considering that his bedroom has got to be twenty-five feet from mine at least, and the noise is also going through a wall or two. I would lay in bed and wonder if he was dying and if I should go knock on his door or call 911. Then he would stop coughing and I'd fall back to sleep. This bugged me for a few days. What if he was one of those sorts who refused to see a doctor? What if his lungs got so clogged that he croaked and the authorities found his body a week or so later? What if the cops quizzed me and I said: "Oh yeah, I heard his hacking cough every night for a week or so..." I could just imagine Dan Barrerio talking about me on KFAN: Did you hear about this guy in South Minneapolis who heard his neighbor basically dying every night and never even checked to see he was okay? Never called the landlord and said 'I think something's wrong over here.'? We've come to the end as a society...

Eventually the coughing subsided, and I was able to log some solid Z time. He still flares up every now and then, and after those nights I wake up with a need to listen to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. Because I realized his cough is the exact same as the one that opens "Sweet Leaf," and after hearing that cough, I expect to hear that killer Iommi riff followed by Ozzy screaming: All right now! I don't think he's gonna die, but I do have a half-bottle of codeine-laced cough syrup in my medicine cabinet, and it's due one refill. Maybe I'll order the refill and leave it, along with a copy of Master of Reality at his doorstep. I'm a pretty good neighbor, y'know.

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