The Mystery of
Quercus Gardens Apartments
  by Patricia Hilliard - Copyright June 2017

Chapter 3 – The Next Steps (1672 words)

​On Monday morning, Beth pulled on her favorite big wool sweater, kissed Bob good-bye and watched as he headed off to work. She had a lot of things to get done as president of their new tenant association.

She sat down at her computer and thought again about what had happened at the meeting on Saturday. It was disappointing that only June and Jerry came from her building. What was amazing was to learn that so many tenants in the other parts of the complex had problems, too.  

Beth thought about Cassy and Rosie’s story about Mrs. Mary Gilligan. What was all that nonsense about? Murder? If Perez had murdered someone surely he would be in prison. Sure, Beth had never really liked Perez, but Bob had no problems dealing with him. Beth just shrugged it off.

She got up and went to a radiator. One touch of the cold metallic pipe made her feel like she was touching the cold heart of her landlord. She sighed. She opened a kitchen cabinet and perused the labels of the various boxes of tea she had on hand. She decided on green tea with peach flavoring. She filled a cup with water and heated it in the microwave oven. Hot tea would have to keep her warm. She looked at the phone wondering if she should call Perez again. She didn’t want to be a pest. He had left a message saying he was working on the problem. No further explanation from a man of few words.

Beth sat down again at her computer. Mrs. Gilligan was probably a dear sweet old lady who just wanted to plant a few flowers. After all, the place is described as having garden apartments. Why shouldn’t tenants be planting flowers? Gardening would allow them to enjoy the property more. It would give them a chance to get to know each other and make the place look even nicer. Beth began to consider the various locations that could be turned into flower beds. Maybe along the edges of the big green lawns or along the fences between the parking lots. But then she remembered Rosie telling everyone that Ramon Perez was angry at Mrs. Gilligan for planting the flowers. He even mowed them down. How sad. Beth knew her efforts now to bring the tenants together would likely have Ramon boiling over. She decided to forget the flower beds. Too bad, it was such a nice idea.

Beth had to concentrate on how to organize the two-hundred and thirty-six tenants to solve their bigger problems. She felt happy that at the meeting they had chosen her to be the leader. She remembered that she had promised to write a letter to the landlord with all their complaints.  

Beth looked through the pile of ten forms that the tenants had filled out at the meeting. Leaks in the ceiling, broken toilets, no heat, no hot water. Mice and insects in kitchen. Mold on the walls. The place was a mess. How could this be? It looked so charming from the outside. The big green lawns, the tall oak trees. The cute little squirrels scampering along the branches. Birds singing in the tree tops. Beth and Bob had lived here for two years and had never had any problems until now.

Beth made copies of the tenant’s forms then she sat down at her computer and visited the Tenant Action Network web site again. There was a template letter she could use. She downloaded it and included the list of complaints. “Dear Sir or Madame: We, the tenants of the Quercus Gardens Apartments, do hereby inform you that we have the following complaints and insist on repairs.”

Beth looked it over. For now, it seemed to do the trick. She put the letter and the complaints into an envelope for mailing. Next, a flyer would be needed to let everyone—yes, everyone in the entire complex, know of the date of the next meeting. She pulled up her original flyer and updated it with Alice’s laundry room, Building K, as the new location. “Bring your own chair,” she typed.

Now it was ready to hand out, door to door, to every tenant in the complex. That would take some time, but the walking would be good exercise. Beth was looking forward to it. But first, maybe she should check the emails from TAN.

The Tenant Action Network had sent out twenty new messages. She began to read. The group was doing all kinds of legislative work, meeting with state representatives to get new bills introduced. There were even a few attorneys working on a precedent-setting case opposing eviction. Beth’s cup of tea was now empty. She went to the kitchen and made another cup, same flavor.

For the next two hours, Beth learned TAN’s terminology, pondered their action plans, reviewed their meeting agendas and memorized the names of important people of this new group that she had sent her dues money to just last week. At noon, she stopped and fixed a lunch. She got away from the computer to eat.

Even though she was unemployed at present, Beth tried to keep herself on a “regular” work schedule just to stay in the rhythm of holding an office job. As she munched on her sandwich, she contemplated what she should do next to bring more people into the association. After lunch, she sat back down at the computer and began working as if she were getting paid for it. She decided to do her job hunting tomorrow. She just needed to get this tenant stuff out of the way.

Having completed the letter and flyer and finished the emails, Beth pulled a template newsletter from the Tenant Action Network website. It had a lot of useful information that tenants would find helpful. Beth inserted her tenant group’s name. Now, it needed a unique logo. She went outside and took a few pictures of the bright red oak leaves that hung down near her door. From this she made a symbol for the Tall Trees Tenants Association. She would give the newsletter out to tenants who came to the meetings.

She sat back and reviewed her work. Nice. A flyer announcing the next meeting, a letter to the landlord (to put with the complaints filled out by the tenants) and a very educational newsletter. The easy parts were done. Again she left her chair to touch the radiator. It was still cold.

Beth looked at the work. This flyer would have to be printed and handed out to every apartment in the complex. That would mean she faced the cost of a large amount of paper, ink and printing. Beth looked to see if there was any way to get some money from the Network. No luck there. TAN was asking for donations for their work.  

Worse yet, Beth saw a warning to organizers not to put flyers in tenant post office boxes. Those were legally only for postage-stamped mail. This was disappointing. Beth would have to put the flyers under each door. Door mats and rugs might prevent her from slipping them under. Beth got up and made another cup of tea. Peppermint this time.

Obviously, the tenants needed an internet website. That’s where the newsletter could be published for those who could not come to meetings. They needed a group email address, too. Beth was soon looking into how to create web sites. She found one that was cheap and reasonable. The cost of it would be much less than the cost of paper flyers. Unfortunately, she would still need to print the flyers to make tenants aware of the web site and email.

She returned to the Network and looked for fund-raising suggestions. The best suggestion they gave was to collect a small amount of money from each tenant. Beth had been in organizations before, so she knew there was no way around it. She and Bob would have to be the first and best investors in this project to get it rolling. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and tried to warm herself. Was it getting colder out? She checked the weather report. Yes, a cold front was coming in.

Beth walked over to the large window near the dining room table. Outside were the trees that she and Bob gazed into as they ate their meals. Over the course of a year, they had seen the bright green leaves of early spring, the reddish-brown leaves of autumn, and the frosty look of the first snowfall on dark tree branches. Today, a squirrel was sitting on a limb directly across from the window. It seemed to be looking in at Beth. She stared at it and wonder how squirrels survived. Last year, Bob had pointed to a ball of leaves in the crotch of one of the trees. They agreed it might be a squirrel’s nest. They watched it for weeks, but never saw any baby squirrels. Even now, from time to time, they checked the nest hoping someday to see little squirrels scurrying about.

With a quick look at the clock, Beth realized the afternoon had disappeared. Bob would soon be coming home from work. It was time to stop using her skills for the Tall Trees Tenants Association and get dinner on the table. She looked out the window at gray skies. Life seemed bleary. When would she ever get a real job? She took her empty cup to the kitchen sink and set it down.

Beth watched out the kitchen window as the wind blew more acorns down from the trees. The silly squirrels scurried around gathering the fallen nuts. From the radiator at her feet, she could hear clicking sounds. The air began to smell of warm metal. The heat was coming back into their apartment. Beth smiled.

Finally.  But now she had made a commitment to the other tenants. She could not drop out just because her own problem was solved.