UNITED STATES—The Jones moved in. They were the picture of happiness. The young couple who had been wed in Las Vegas got Mac’s recently vacated room, the nicest and most spacious in the house. It had a window bay and a huge closet, where Mac had stored all the illicit street signs. If that closet had had its own entrance, Mr. Wylie would have rented it out on a dime.

With one room filled, there were still plenty of leaks at 1980 Estrella, to feel that my job was on shakier ground than Portuguese Bend. The quiet fussy gentleman from Islamabad would be vacating, likewise Rachel from Marin County, leaving the attic open, and now there was another in arrears.

To be honest, I was already on the fence about the census office job. It was taking a toll on my management decisions and writing. Even I, not the most stringent manager, felt the Jones’ got too much of a break and robbed a more qualified tenant from getting Mac’s nice room.

Meanwhile my friend Brad, who had invented the management job for me in this motley household, Brad and his wife Jennifer were contemplating a major change. He had plans—he had been accepted to go into the Forest Service and would be leaving Los Angeles. The owner, Mr. Wylie, was looking for a qualified person to take over managing all his six or so properties between USC and Mid City. Unknown to me, Mr. Wylie put a want ad in the Los Angeles Times. And they got a whole stack of resumes that if you piled one on top of the other, they all might reach a height of 3 feet and 8 inches.

I got wind through Brad of the foiled attempt to recruit a manager via a want ad: “Rental Property Manager Sought EXLNT people skills, SALES experience a plus.” The ad neglected to say that you would be working for The Man and had to be fluent in spin.

“Jim Wylie couldn’t find anybody,” Brad told me. “He’d like you to consider doing the Job.”

(I bet Brad had already sold Wylie on the advantages of hiring me and he would be able leave for the Forest Service with a clean conscience). Anyhow, Brad gave me his best sales slant—God knows he must have honed it, being manager for all Wylie houses in Mid-City, from the fringes of Korea Town to U.S.C.

There was perks involved—there would be paycheck on top of free room—and the greatest perk of all: “You will get a company car,” Brad told me, my first wheels in Los Angeles.

This enormous sweeteners of car and paycheck left me strangely unmoved, unless you knew my quiet quest for literary glory, of which screenplay money was just a stepping stone. On one hand, I could leave the census and say yes to the management job, yes to the unknown. On the other, with those steady U.S. Treasury paychecks that had been coming in, I already felt the lure of returning immediately to Mexico, where one pay period could cover three months of room. For a whole week the choice hovered excruciatingly close to the surface of my thoughts.

Wylie invited Brad and me for Saturday lunch at El Cholo to discuss the job. It was an overcast day, reminiscent of childhood days in Northern California, and I walked up to the showy Mexican eatery not having the least inkling of what my answer would be. I walked in blank, wholly blank in regard to what I would tell Mr. Wylie. It made the situation spicy as the enchiladas suizas I ordered. Well, at least I was getting a good meal out of this.

Brad would be leaving for a training camp in West Virginia, or some such place, in five days.

Grady Miller is a humorist. You should read his early pieces in “Late Bloomer” (on Amazon) selected from when he used to be funny.