Some Jokes Won’t Die

Lewis thought his apartment had thin walls. When he first heard the knocking, he assumed one of the walls was up against his neighbor’s bedroom—sex banging, maybe. Or, maybe it was the kitchen, and some clumsy chef was trying to get out the proper pan. Each time he heard it, the banging did not last long. Whoever it was, his neighbor had moved onto something else. Because of this, Lewis took care to not make too much noise making soup if it was at an odd hour of the night. After all, if he could hear whatever was going on in his neighbor’s apartment, surely that went both ways.

Until one day, when he walked by the other apartment and found the door open. The whole place was covered with sheets, and a crew was inside, painting the walls white. There also appeared to be some holes being patched up on the walls, and in the middle of the floor a pile of bug killer made Lewis feel uneasy about his own abode. One of the workers was standing outside the door, smoking in the hallway.

“What happened to who lived here?” Lewis asked.

“No one’s lived here for months. We’re just trying to make it look better to rent.”

“That’s not true. I hear people in there.”

The worker pointed back into the apartment. “In there? Not unless they’re trespassing. Plus, we keep it locked up good.”

The next night, Lewis heard the knocking again from the empty apartment next door. He froze, adrenaline filling all his veins to bursting. The knocks repeated several times, until it became a familiar pattern, one of those things that you know from an early age, “shave and a haircut.” He paused, still holding open the fridge door, as the knocking on the other side repeated the beginning of the phrase several times. It amazed him that he’d never noticed the pattern before. After listening through several more rounds of the knocking, he neared his own wall. When the phrase came around again, he responded with “two bits” in knocks. On the other end, there was silence. Lewis stood, leaning against the wall, waiting for the knocks to come again. But they didn’t, and they never returned.