David Howard was back to see me again.
“You didn’t call me back.”
David had He had been drinking.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to.”
“You lawyers all are the
same....you never...” same . . . You never—” [An ellipsis ( . . . ) for speech that momentarily pauses before resuming or that just trails off; an em dash (—) for speech that is interrupted by another speaker.]
“David, what can I do for you?” I tried to remain as low-key as possible.
“I’ll tell you what you can do. You can get that
fuckin idiot fuckin’ idiot of a landlord off my back, because I’ll pay him when I get my fuckin’ check. I can’t pay no one till I get my check.” David got up. “You can tell him that.” He stormed out of the room. [Insertion of preceding sentence, “He stormed out of the room,” okay? Otherwise, David will still be around when Sherri is with you.]
Sherri Bacinano sat Next, Sherri Bacinano sat down. Sherri was heavy-set She was heavyset, thirty-five, had dark stringy with dark, stringy hair, and wore a and wearing a baseball cap backwards cap backward. [Suggested revision (“She was heavyset, thirty-five, with dark, stringy hair, and wearing a baseball cap backward.”) to fix syntax: “She A (was heavyset), B (was thirty-five), C (was with dark, stringy hair), and D (was wearing a baseball cap backward),” where all four lettered attributes complete the verb “was”; the original had faulty syntax: “was” goes with A and B, but not with C (it has “had”) and not with D (it has “wore”). An alternative would have been to add “was” to B: “She was heavyset, was thirty-five, had dark, stringy hair, and wore a baseball cap backward.” Do you prefer the alternative?] She was sporting an old T-shirt that had coffee stains down the front. Sherri was homeless and living at the Family Inn along with her two young sons, Nicky and Brando Dion and Brando. [Change okay? She talks about Brando in chapter 8, and in chapter 10, Dion is one of her two sons who accompany here to the soup kitchen, and he is the one who is talking a lot (whereas “Nicky” is never mentioned again).]
“I think I finally found a place to move my family into.”
“What can I help you with?”
“The landlord “The landlady [we later learn that the owner is female (“What if she insists on keeping it in?”)] wants me to sign this lease and lease, and I need to have someone look it over. There’s a bunch of stuff I don’t understand.” Sherri played with a strand of her hair as she spoke.
“I could do that right now. Let me see it.”
Pulling it out of her sweatshirt pouch, the folded lease smelled of cigarette smoke. [This is another dangling modifier, implying that “the folded lease” was “pulling it [whatever “it” might be] out of her sweatshirt pouch,” whereas it was Sherri, not the folded lease, that was doing the pulling. Yes, the reader will figure it out, but this kind of noise impedes (slows) comprehension. See my suggested two-sentence revision:] She pulled the folded lease out of her sweatshirt pouch. It smelled of cigarette smoke. [I got rid of the paragraph break here] It was a standard Blumberg lease standard “Blumberg” lease, [suggested revision okay? (many readers will not be familiar with the Blumberg brand, but the quotation marks reinforce that “Blumberg” is just another way of saying a standard, default lease, used pretty much all over New York State); alternatively, you could just have “standard lease” (forget about “Blumberg”); which do you prefer?] but the owner had added a few clauses. One stated that if Sherri was late Sherri were late with the rent, she could be evicted without going to court. [“she could be evicted without going to court” implies that unless Sherri would go to court, she could be evicted—clearly not your intention. See my suggested revision:] she could be evicted without the need for a court judgment. That wasn’t good.
“I would cross that clause out and go with
the boiler plate clause that says the boilerplate clause, which says you could be evicted only after a court proceeding.”
“What’s boiler plate? “What’s ‘boilerplate’? I ain’t paying for no heat and heat, and it’s supposed to come with a stove.”
“Boiler plate means “Boilerplate means that it’s standard language for a lease. It has nothing to do with heat.”
Sherri was afraid of losing her chance for getting out of
the ten- by- ten welfare the ten-by-ten welfare motel room. Very few landlords were willing to take a chance on renting to welfare families with young kids.
“What if she insists on keeping it in?”
“Then go for it. But you are more protected without that clause in there.”
“My kids really are looking forward to having their own room and getting a
kitten....a kitten . . . a black and white one.” Sherri took the lease back.
“Let me know how it goes.”
smiled, “Thanks smiled. “Thanks. I’ll invite you over for some dinner when we get settled in.”