MY landlord, Morse, said that only one person was allowed in my basement apartment. I had difficulty abiding by this rule. He was not popular among his tenants. The woman who lived directly above me claimed that he tried to cheat her out of a month's rent when she first moved in and that he made her pay for a parking space even though she didn't own a car.
Another neighbor said that when his sink clogged, his refrigerator stopped running, and his key broke in his door lock, our landlord sputtered aspersions and told him to take hold of his life.
Some people, I was told, had moved out because of the unreasonable man. This is difficult to believe, considering the housing crunch in the Boston area, and that the building is under rent control.
First it was my rat. ``Do you realize, Morse,'' I said when he first saw my white pet, ``that virtually all rats in the pet stores are sold to snake owners and that few of the poor rodents live more than a few months?''
``Get rid of that rat!'' he thundered in his German accent, ``or I'm putting you out on the streets.''
My sister moved to Boston and I let her stay with me. Morse barged in one night when she was away. He looked around the apartment and noticed the women's shoes by the closet.
``I know you have a honey, Roger. I know you have a honey, and that rat, it's still here.'' I weaseled out of that encounter but then my sister bought two goldfish.
I was preparing supper and she was taking a bath when Morse stormed in. ``So, Roger,'' he said, looking at the fish and rat on the bureau, ``you're going to be difficult, are you?'' He scowled for 10 minutes, then left.
While she was growing up, my sister had always wanted a bunny, so on her birthday I presented her with a dwarf rabbit. The metal cages at the pet shop were small and looked very cold. They seemed like miniature jail cells. I made my own rabbit house out of wood.
When the house was finished, I biked to the pet shop and bought the black fur ball and necessary supplies. Everything fit into a back pack I had brought, except the rabbit. She was housed in a box that I balanced on the handlebars with one hand as I rode through heavy traffic back to the apartment.
With the baby rabbit hunched in the corner of her new dwelling, the surprise presentation was ready. I heard steps outside the back door and draped a sheet over the house. The door cracked open and I whisked off the sheet.
``Have you gone mad?'' my landlord hollered.
``Now, Morse'' I said, ``my pets don't cause a disturbance. They're not doing any harm. I don't see why you object to them.''
The rabbit stared at Morse's red face and I saw a smile sheepishly form between his lips. ``Real cute, Roger, real cute,'' he said, trying to sound cynical. ``Get rid of this zoo or I'm throwing you out.''
A short time later my sister came home with two finches. The tiny, three-inch-tall birds were beautiful. Their bellies were a blend of orange, bright blue, and purple. A yellow stripe stretched down their backs, and their chirp was light and pleasant.
Once again my landlord burst into the apartment. The evidence to evict me was increasing and I thought this might be it. I wasn't going to part with my growing family, however, and was prepared to accept my fate.
``So,'' he said, as he nodded at my sister, the rat, the fish, the rabbit, and the birds. ``That's it, that's it. No more pets.'' I waited for more growling but he just kept nodding at the animals.
``Oh, I see you've painted your kitchen bright blue,'' he finally said. ``It looks good, real good. . . . See you later.''
I haven't acquired any more pets and Morse just nods when he drops by.