The bathroom would be a tough sell to Marie I realized as I began to survey it. Walking down 13 steps in the middle of the night to take a leak was the least of it. The bare light bulb on the ceiling was a chain-pulled on/off type. A long string was attached to the pull chain and threaded its way through a series of eyelets screwed into a strip of wood molding where the wall joined the ceiling as it ran up the stairway. At the top the string was terminated by a cream-colored plastic piece such as you might find on window shade pulls. Flared and fluted, it wouldn't slip through the top eyelet. Although there was a railing made of plumbing pipe and angle joints all the way down, it was necessary to turn on the light even during the day because of the complete isolation from natural light if you closed the door at the top of the stairs. Concealing my trepidations, I called Marie to come over and check out my new digs.

Marie's enthusiasm about the shorter drive from her apartment in Holyoke tempered her reaction to the upstairs decor but I had trouble affecting the sanguine manner of my landlord when she asked about the bathroom.

"This is like a dungeon," she exclaimed, as we descended the stairs.

I put my finger to my lips. "Shhh," I whispered. "Listen." There were nearly audible voices coming through the thin walls.

"This bathroom is in the middle of whatever is on the first floor," I cautioned. "I'm sure if we can hear them than vice versa." She considered this as the voices of several people conversing continued.

"What's on the first floor? More apartments?"

"No, its offices of some sort -- I'm not sure."