Wells Tower, “The Landlord,” September 13:
Thank god for Wells Tower. Having just recently read his fabulous debut collection, I was excited to read his offering, and I felt certain they had saved him until near the end on purpose.
In fact, the story, though very good, was a bit disappointing. The narrator is a landlord (shocking, I know). The story, in pretty linear fashion, walks us through the conflicts he faces with some of his tenants, like: a man, Armando Colon, who owes him a lot of rent (the landlord just keeps giving him more chances); a woman with cockroach problems that the landlord has a thing for; and Todd and Jason, the tweedledum and tweedledee of the story. They’re meant to work together for the landlord, but they hate each other and one ends up punching the other and abandoning him, all of this creating financial problems for the landlord.
The best thing about Tower’s writing is his dialogue. Each character that visits the landlord sounds plausible and real, and Tower nails their dialect and word choice. He’s also great at describing the bugs and critters that beset the landlord’s properties (my girlfriend was squirming as she read the descriptions of roaches). But the climax comes when the landlord goes to check up on Armando and finds he has fled without paying the rent he owed. It isn’t much of a climax.
He left a note that says, in Spanish, “Money comes easily and frequently,” and the landlord reasons that the note was more for Armando than for him. And that’s… it. This was maybe the only story in the collection that felt to me like it should have been a novel excerpt, when in fact it was indeed a standalone short story (Picador confirmed this for me via Twitter). I was left wondering what the landlord would do to track Armando down, or how he’d deal with the financial loss, but that’s it, there is no more.