“Well, you know,” I reminded her, “One of the prime facets of due diligence is you have to understand the custom obtaining in the target’s home jurisdiction.”
“Mmmm,” she agreed in an ostensibly distracted way as if to let me know she did not enjoy being advised in regard to the job she was paid to do. She knew her stuff, and I knew that she knew by the way she skimmed two blood-red fingernails down the side of her wineglass while keeping it perfectly balanced with the rest.
The Stones were playing on the piped-in system but sounding somewhere off in the distance. Low and not at all antagonistic.
… No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you just might find…
Apropos, I thought, but said to her, “Now, there’s a chestnut you don’t hear every day.”
Fully aware of every detail going on around us, she remarked, “We live it, though, don’t we?”
In a black sheath, one I would suppose had never before been worn, and her hair familiarly swept up, she was an enchantress—the embodiment of the lyrics’ character. And I was her footloose man.
“Ah, here he is,” she said as an elderly man in a tux came up beside us. “I take it you and Mr. James have already met.” He appeared too old to be in this or any business and looked uncomfortable dressed formally—probably more at home on the beach in Acapulco with a cuba in one hand and some young coqueta on the other arm, enjoying the perqs of seniority.
We had not.
“Oh my dear,” he said, raising her hand to kiss it, “Are you bleeding?” He took out his handkerchief, wiped her fingers, and added, “Ah no, it is merely the cherry wine.”
I heard his slight Mexican accent and tried to equate it with his English sounding name, wondering at the same time how she had missed the flecks of red as she was so on top of things. There was a disconnect floating over this reception. Everybody had an agenda including the victims. Due diligence indeed!
…She was practiced at the art of deception…
I was aware she was playing us off against each other, and though I had it over him in fresh-faced youth, his wealth and prestige would win every prize, which he would retain only for safekeeping until it was to be delivered over. I hoped at least I was considered a more enjoyable fuck, and though I knew from my morning mirror that as yet there were no hairs sprouting from my ears, I found I had involuntarily brushed a finger over my right lobe as if in anticipation of their growth.
I considered it time to bow out to halve her amusement. I mouthed the words, “Will I see you Monday night?” and she patted her breast. I could not be certain if that was a yes or meant “Let me check my calendar,” but coinciding with her smile found it easy enough to interpret as the former.
“Well, you know,” I reminded her, “One of the prime facets of due diligence is you have to understand the custom obtaining in the target’s home jurisdiction.”
LIKE NOVEMBER IN NOVEMBER
Having my little shared office to myself for the afternoon, I sat at my desk with a lidded thermal cup half-filled with tepid coffee from before my morning class to one side of my laptop and a tax balance sheet to the other; on the screen 372 words directed toward a heartwarming chapter of my NaNo opus, and they, refusing to cohere in a meaningful manner, thrust their collective tongue at me, so that I’d swear they were whispering we dare you to feel good about yourself. I found myself moving my lips in silent prayer, though I’d be the first to acknowledge that kind of activity is strictly outside my realm of occurrence, and I could feel eyes on me, which embarrassed a bit, but not overly so. As I thought it, I saw the word lord appear in my mind, and as I was writing on my brain slate, quickly emended it to read Lord, in case He was the One watching. Lord, I prayed, help me find time to finish all the tasks set before me, but especially those I’ve set for myself, please. In the cooing that followed, I thought He was laughing at the temerity with which I asked for attention to such insignificant (to the Big Picture, at least) details, and thought, yeah, that’s about what I deserve. When the pigeon on the windowsill pecked at the glass pane causing me to turn and catch sight of it before it flew off, Ockham’s Razor crossed my mind, closing those Lordly eyes, and appropriately returning my attention to the balance sheet thereby leaving word 373 to come along later, at home, over a fresh cup of coffee.
ANOTHER THING ABOUT NOVEMBER
On one end of a dream, wormy spaghetti-like fingers that won’t quite let go of a past they have no business holding onto, and on the waking end, bright beginnings which might be explanations of change or at least nubs of desire regarding movement. Who authorized this bad patch, and who vanquished the last? We saw through the flimsy excuses; we prayed in unison; we fell toward each other, bruising a third knee, and when I say we, I am being hopeful. Those slimy fingers carry the rosy odor of humectant. I take credit for your brilliance because loneliness is dry, and it isn’t solace. The waking end will arrive soon enough, but I will leave it to your discretion to rise and quiet the alarm, if you are so inclined, as otherwise we may sleep and march, and wonder together if it is true that music helps the brain relearn words.
YEAH, I’M STILL SIXING
Well, I guess she’s moved on; I mean on and up in the world. I asked her to have a look at something I’d written and posted around the Internet, something that included an oblique reference to our time together, hoping I hadn’t been too abstruse, and that she would know it was directed toward her although I was giving it away for free to all and sundry. She responded with an e-mail providing a link to something she had written, and for which I discovered upon clicking I would have to pay a subscription fee to read more than the introductory sentences (two, count ‘em). I’m not about to ante up six-ninety-nine just to find out if I am as firmly regarded as she had been in my mind or completely incidental in the way of things because I’m not entirely convinced I was on her list of prospective readers until she received the request to read mine which may have prompted her to click another contact without thinking. I want to believe I, or someone resembling me, was mentioned in her piece even if only referenced as someone who will never be anything. Now, she is something else.
SMALL BEANS, HARD CHEESE
Friend Dorothy remarked that time together is never wasted or lost, but an episode can send us into freefall, and I guess that is exactly where I am at the moment I write this, suspended between the life I thought we were living and the actuality of going nowhere. A sudden need for self-reliance sent me scurrying to Emerson to see what he had to say about digging oneself out, and I was disgruntled in being reminded that, well, he probably would never have found himself in such a situation to begin with given his ability to override unwanted advice. He’s a comfort.
I do like the idea of transcendence, but that could be because I get to wallow first, for it is said we never appreciate that which comes easily, and you cannot swim with dolphins without getting wet. I have mucked about long enough. The return on my investment is greater than I could have imagined, for though the beans are small, and the cheese hard, they are unquestionably edible, sustaining, and of a singular provenance.
Tuesday night, I sat in the absolute darkness of what is jokingly called my living room and lit a single candle. When I realized I was becoming mesmerized by the tiny ovoid flame, I blew it out.
My left temple ached, and I could feel my hands trembling because I knew Lilith was not coming back. I could live alone if I wanted to, but the truth is I have accustomed myself to falling asleep by aping the rhythm of her breathing, so I thought it best to search for a battery for the louder ticking, but currently disused Baby Ben. No matches remaining and no torch at hand, I patted the dusty shelves of the catchall bookcase in the alcove hoping to reuse one of the not discarded Duracells.
I heard a plunk, which had to be the candle falling off its dish and rolling toward some place even darker than my mood. I could still smell its smoldering scent.
Unable to smoke my last cigarette, I sat and tried to doze off until I could function properly in the clarity of dawn, but sleep would not come.
When I could see my way upstairs and find something to wear, I would attempt to review my meager finances and perhaps get out and pay part of the electric or phone bill.
I told myself, morning, if it ever did, could not arrive soon enough. I knew the sun would rise eventually, and nothing in my solitary existence would be illuminated.
I turned the key and nothing happened. They must have changed the locks again. At the depot, they were always doing things like that—too many boxes broken into—but it was Sunday, and what I had to deposit could not wait for another day. I was torn between a terrible sense of depravity and a feeling of accomplishment. Cosmos’ head, inside the tan paper bag was starting to weigh heavy. I had met him coming from church and tried explaining to him the sad fact that we must pay our debtors, in full, and on time, or face the awful consequences, and after cutting him off, I extracted his lock box key from the pocket of his Yankees jacket. It being early afternoon, I had thought it fortunate he would have the rest of the sabbath to sit in a small dark space and contemplate his broken luck before anyone else could put the pieces together, but my intentions were moot at this point.
She was sweet-faced, silver-haired, imperturbable, as plump fingers turned the pages of her novel every afternoon on the bus going downtown. The roughnecks would laugh a little too loud and their girlfriends would howl at most of what they said as if they were dating the world’s top comedians. Occasionally, they disturbed other passengers, but the old doll never seemed to notice.
Leonard silently fumed. He had never been like that as a youth. Sure, he had done some offcolor things, but never in an ostentatious way. He wondered why the bus driver didn’t stop the bus and throw them off when they got like that. They were daily passengers – too old for school, likely not yet working, piking off parents – and frequently boarded through the back door of the crowded bus, fare-beaters acting haughty because it was easy.
One morning, he was sitting beside the woman. He glanced down at her book, and took in the words, “…and then you stole into her room and took advantage of the situation, didn’t you, Mr. Dodd?” Agatha Christie or somesuch. She looked the type.
“Do they bother you?” she asked.
“I only ask because you look as if you’re ready to boil.”
“They’re punks. For two cents, I’d…”
“They’re just kids. We were kids. Could anybody tell you anything when you were that age?”
“I never provoked people just for the sake of trying to amuse my friends.”
“I see.” She returned to reading, not speaking until the bus reached her stop. Then, she excused herself to pass Leonard, and as she did, said, “My name is Martha. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She got off and walked westward, but not far, when one of the roughnecks stuck his head out the window and called out, “See you tomorrow, Martha.”
Leonard glared at him. The kid said, “Oh sorry, man, don’t wanna step on your toes. She’s a little old for me anyway.”
Leonard said, “Don’t you respect your elders?”
The kid pointed to his tee-shirt which read QUESTION AUTHORITY.
“Smart ass,” Leonard said.
The kid laughed. His friends laughed. Their girlfriends laughed.
Leonard had never enjoyed being the butt of a joke. In days gone by that kind of thing would have been enough for him to take action. He promised himself if he ever came up against this punk while he was alone, he’d make him sorry for laughing.
Leonard got off on 34th Street, and the kid wolf-whistled through the window at him. He did not turn around as the bus continued toward the Village.
His annoyance fazed him less in the open air. He should be thankful to the kids for one thing. His response to their activity had caused the old doll to break the ice. She must have been a stunner at one time, not so long ago. He recalled his being quite the ladies man, never finding difficulty making small talk. How she unsettled him. He watched her reading every day without ever screwing up courage to start a conversation. He was losing his touch, no doubt, and at only fifty-nine.
He figured she might have a couple of years on him, but kept herself in good shape – stylish hair silver-white in a way that doesn’t occur naturally. And she just let bothersome noise flow past – he envied her calm, lacking in his own character.
Next morning, she was in a window seat, but someone was already next to her. He tipped his hat when she looked up. She smiled.
A few of the kids got on two stops later, but not the wiseguy. He and his girlfriend came onboard three stops further down.
It was not intentional, but Leonard’s foot, a little too far out in the aisle, caused the gangly youth to stumble. His friends laughed as he almost fell. Righting himself, he looked a little foolish. When he screwed up his mouth in annoyance, they stopped laughing immediately.
Leonard said, “Jesus, I’m sorry.”
Intentional, or not, Leonard had triggered a situation. They were enemies. Rather than attempting to move toward the back, the tough stood over him and crooked his leg slightly, pressing his knee into Leonard’s thigh. He couldn’t move because the man in the window seat was huge.
When his thigh started to throb, Leonard said, “Do you mind?”
“Jesus, I’m sorry,” said the kid, imitating him, “But if you weren’t sitting next to Fatso, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Hey,” said the other man.
“Watch it, kid,” Leonard said, “You’re going too far.”
“I’m going to the Village. Where are you going?” the kid said. “A nursing home?”
“The hell you say. I’m old enough to be your father.”
“Exactly my point. We put the old man in a home when he started acting feeble.”
“Feeble? Why you punk,” Leonard said. He raised himself with difficulty and backhanded the kid across his jaw, forgetting he wore a signet ring, and regretted his action immediately. The kid’s face was knocked sideways. He lost his grip on the overhead bar and fell onto people behind him. Through the gap, Leonard saw Martha. She was not smiling. Before the kid was on his feet again, a bruise was already evident.
The driver called out, “What the hell is going on back there?”
“You’re dead,” the kid said to Leonard. “You’re dead, old man.”
The driver stopped the vehicle and wended through the passengers to assess the ruckus. Tall and broad, he said, “Son, I think you should switch buses,” and doled out transfers.
He didn’t argue, but as he exited, said with a smirk, “You should’ve warned your boyfriend not to mess with us, Martha.”
That was too much and Leonard started towards the exit also, but felt a tugging on his jacket. Martha was shaking her head. He looked at the kids getting off and looked back at her. Other passengers were staring at him. Several options crossed his mind.
There were less than two months until Philip’s thirtieth birthday, and all his hinting to Tony about the thing he wanted most seemed to be aimed at deaf ears. Big Mama had given him one hundred dollars so he could get a tattoo saying “Mom” on one of his shoulders, preferably the arm of the hand he wrote with, but she could not remember which one that was. He had opted instead for a charm on the back of which he had had inscribed All my love, Big Mama, and made up the difference to purchase the gold chain he would wear around his neck and from which the MOM would dangle. He could not fathom why she had suggested a tattoo this time, but was fairly certain she would appreciate the charm just as much.
In front of the monument on Barrow, he stood waiting for Tony, his oldest friend, and if anyone should remind an old-timer of the role John Travolta played in Saturday Night Fever, it was he. Other acquaintances remarked on Tony’s brown teeth, but Philip paid them no mind. To him, Anthony Manzana in his leisure suit was a vision. So, he couldn’t see how he was trailed after by the younger boy as if by some large forlorn puppy—no sorrow there. Shit, he thought, in two months I won’t be a boy anymore.
Big Mama, whose Christian name was Bunny, though nobody called her that since she had put on all the weight, was going to make a party for Philip’s thirtieth, and it was going to be a blow-out. She had told him to invite all his friends, and checked with him every Friday for updates on the guest list. He had invited many people, but in the end the only one he was counting on was Tony. Ray, whom the B.M. liked to refer to as Big Daddy, even though he was not Philip’s father, and wasn’t even big, really, would borrow the neighbor’s karaoke machine in return for a few beers and some of the B.M.’s special lasagna, and the two of them would get bombed sitting, watching from a corner, and there would probably be a few kids whom no one knew in attendance, but hey, good times don’t come cheap.
He looked at his tiny watch and started fretting a bit. Tony was late, and Walmart was going to close. He asked himself why he was always the one waiting, but as he knew the answer, he did not dwell on it. “Never any benefit from fretting,” Big Mama was wont to say, “All things come with time.” And she was right of course. In any case, here came Tony, ambling down the street. God, he was still wearing the clothes he’d worn last night to the bar! And who was the ugly, skinny number walking beside him?
“Hey, Curly Joe,” Tony said, “Here you have me. Let’s go shopping.”
Philip wanted to fret despite his philosophy, wanted to glance at his watch and glare at the other, wanted to shout, “You always do this. It’s too late, now,” but said nothing. Instead, he eyed Tony’s friend and nodded.
“Oh, this is Ralph,” Tony said, “He’s a dental assistant and helped me with your birthday gift in return for a little, er, personal attention. Look,” and he smiled widely, showing off his mouthful of newly whitened teeth.
The insufferable…it was too much! Philip gave in to his base instincts. “And where is my gift?” he asked.
Quick-thinking Tony went for a save. He leaned close and whispered, “ I figured I’d grant your greatest wish, later, after we ditch Ralph.”
“What is that, sloppy seconds?” Not whispered, causing Ralph to look up from his nails.
“Not sloppy at all, my dear, and I’ll be beaming down at you with my new pearly whites.” Tony grinned broadly.
“You have no clue what I’ve always wanted.”
“Don’t be like that. That’s not very friendly. Have you heard from your parents? Are you in a bad mood?”
Suddenly, synapses sparked, and like a rose coming into bloom out of season, a measure of understanding that had never visited him before, passed through Philip’s mind. He would never be able to deal with those teeth. And he hated karaoke, and leisure suits.
“I was,” he said, “But not anymore. Ray is not my father. I have only one parent I take after, and no friends that I can see.”
With that, he waddled away feeling for all the world like a gentleman, tall, dignified, and righteous.
She had sat in the tub writing in a journal alternating with visits to the basin to cough up no more than a phlegmy sputum. She wondered how he could converse with a neighbor while she showed evidence of deteriorating health. Did she not rate as an entity? Was her till empty? Those rare times when he would shave lately, she would find hairs in the sink, and it was frustrating to think he had lost all interest in trying to work things out between them.
* * *
Their network was shattered and it was a shame. Though if you asked either to explain what shamed them the most they would be hard pressed to come up with an answer.They met for coffee and discussed how best to confine the bleeding. At that point it was still low, but it could not be stemmed. They had a draft ready to be executed. He might enjoy the promised calm quietude, and she would prefer to continue listening to the bird song mimicking contentment, but a correction was in order and they would have to agree on some points.
* * *
The length of his resistance would further enable his impatience. Like a disembodied claw or shed snakeskin his loyalty returned to the wild. There was one hour when they seemed copacetic, but as the music and mayhem of the rioting outside increased in volume, he knew he was a descendent of cavemen, and she? Was she any more civilized, with her talk of torts and measures and sixty-forty splits?
* * *
He felt her hesitation when they closed the cottage for the winter. He had always known her type, even in their dating days, all proper and accustomed to nesting behavior. Whence came this false energy, this need to be in motion? She had been no lover of controversy, and now she was ready to screw him into the ground. He could only imagine it came from the others, her so-called friends, those unhappy souls so willing to share their misery.
* * *
Andrea sat to one side, listening, like an iPod person self-possessed. Perhaps it was her pride, but she would attempt to carry the burden of their relationship while Ben tried to enforce his rights with Marian. She could only guess at how he might astonish both with the force in which he drove the spade into the ground of what had been lost. If he wanted to express his conviction, he could do no better than act as a one man burial squad, but as the minutes dragged on, and her third coffee grew cold, she wondered if he had asked her to accompany him to this, whatever this meeting was. For moral support or to hint to her that he would not be placed in this position again at some future time when they themselves might grow weary of each other? Whichever his purpose, she was impressed for the nonce, but maintained a non-interested expression, turned up her player drowning the noise outside and in.
* * *
Marian asked herself how Ben had had the temerity to bring this chicken along to their ostensibly private session, and had in the back of her mind that she must do some housecleaning when they had finished with the business at hand, for she would keep the house. That much she knew. The bimbo would have to work out a fresh agenda. She wondered why she couldn’t just let it go. All that hair in the sink, the stark reminder of his recently imperceptible presence. Every transgression and oversight noted in her journal should keep her from becoming trapped another time, but there again, she doubted she would foster a resolve. Everything that went into the beginning parts came back to bite one’s ass at the finale, but weren’t the bite marks an indication of strength earned? She noted the weakening of his stance as he blotted yet another minor point. No need for lawyers yet. Entropy was at work.
I went to the market to buy me a pig. Jiggety-jig. Jiggety-jig.
But when I got there, the cupboard was bare. Diggedy-dare. Diggedy-dare.
The man at the counter said, “Boy, what’s your pleasure?”
“An oinker,” I said, with a smile for good measure.
“Ain’t no porkers in sight,” he replied with a cough,
“How ’bout an armadillo? The price is half off.
It’s truly a bargain. You’ll be doin’ just fine.”
I couldn’t resist–bad habit of mine.
Tell me I’m saving, I’ll buy things I don’t need.
You know where the sales are? I’ll follow; you lead,
But give me a moment before we go shopping,
I have to feed and walk Army. He sure keeps me hopping.
I’m not sleeping well lately–he’s cranky and creaks,
And I ain’t had no bacon in five or six weeks.
This afternoon, I was reading a biography of Gertrude Stein, and when I came to a section that told about her brother Leo, the critic and art collector, my mind started to wander and I recalled my odd relationship with Sally Leonard.
Five years ago I was intimidated by Sally. Well, I respected her superior intellect. She was almost ready to retire then. I think she told me she was fifty-eight, a psychiatrist, and a member of the American Philatelic Society and at that time I think her stamp collection numbered in the 60,000s.
The way I met her was by talking to the doorman and mentioning having just renewed my interest in stamp collecting, something I had done as a kid. He told me someone in the building was also a collector and he would give her my apartment number if I wanted. I told him go ahead, why not, I wanted to meet other people who were into it. That evening, she rang my bell. I invited her in and we talked for an hour or so.
She sat on my dining room floor explaining things to me like how I could always tell stamps that belonged to republics of the Soviet Union because they had letters on them in the Cyrillic alphabet that looked like CCCP and NOYTA and how stamps from Taiwan differed from those from mainland China because those from the Peoples Republic had an ideogram resembling a wishbone, the symbol for man, pronounced ren, but I only had to concern myself with that on the earlier issues because the later stamps now said China in the English alphabet and the sets were numbered. She was a free spirit and her hair was unkempt and she reminded of nothing so much as a wilted flower child, but she sounded very intelligent.
She told me I should join the APS and I would get circuits on approval. It was a good way to fill up my collection cheaply and it was a very secure procedure.
The difference in our ages precluded us becoming very friendly but every once in a while I would see her in the lobby on my way out to work or coming home, and I remember when she told me she had officially retired. She was looking forward to more time at home and not having to see patients. They all had so many problems. She said at times she felt like she might bug out.
About a year ago I had a problem with the APS. Someone from the Society called me and told me the next person on the Peoples’ Republic of China circuit did not receive the booklets I had looked at and sent on. He was a Chinese with a post office box for an address and I had my suspicions. The stamps were valuable. I called Sally and asked her advice, because whenever I received a circuit from PRC she was always the prior recipient and this particular time I had foolishly forgotten to save the priority mail insurance receipt.
She told me in her soft-spoken solicitous way, “It’s a test. To teach you to follow the instructions. Why don’t you call the APS and tell them the number and maybe they can track it down without the actual receipt?”
“And if they can’t?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, “It couldn’t cost you more than a hundred dollars. That’s all it was insured for.”
I felt like one of her patients. It was not what I wanted to hear.
I was able to clear my responsibility with the APS with a phone call, but after that I asked them not to send me anymore stamps from China. My collection was pretty full and I didn’t want to be responsible for something that expensive again.
As I say, that was a year ago.
I closed the Stein book and went downstairs to buy some lunch in the new Garden of Eden gourmet food shop that recently opened in our building’s ground floor. It is filled with the delicious aromas of all kinds of exotic foods, fruits and baked items, meats and poultry, cooked and ready to go. I bought some three potato salad and some roast beef and when I entered the lobby I ran into Sally Leonard. I was a little taken back by how she looked. Her teeth were all discolored and her hair was still unkempt but now it was completely gray. It looked dirty and she had put on quite a bit of weight. She was wearing an ill-fitting down jacket with food stains on it.
“You cost me five dollars,” she said, and it sounded like an accusation.
“How’s that?” I asked. I really didn’t want to stand there and talk. I wanted to come upstairs and have my roast beef.
She went on to explain since I wasn’t on the Chinese circuit anymore, she had to walk all the way over to Fourth Avenue to the Post Office to insure her package and send it on to the next person on the list instead of leaving it with the doorman for me.
I asked her how many stamps she had now and she told me she had stopped counting when she went over 100,000.
“How do you catalog them all?” I asked.
“Well, I haven’t gotten around to doing that,” she said. “They’re all in shoeboxes. Some of my friends who are dealers tell me I should, especially if I want to sell them, and I may have to soon. I’m running out of money. I guess I was just bored and looking for something to do when I started collecting them, but it’s like an addiction, you know?”
All I came up with was, “Oh?”
“Yes,” she said, “I just paid October’s rent.”
That really surprised me. It was not the kind of thing I expected from her.
A secret is a funny thing. Uncle Jack and Marti and I arrived with the children at the Bensons’ apartment at about three. It was going to be a surprise party for my little brother Raymond.
Uncle Jack always remembered birthdays just like Mom and Dad used to. On the way up the stairs, I remarked, “I wish someone would do this for me.”
Uncle Jack said, “You’re almost a man, Philip.” I was fourteen. “This one’s only four,” he added, trying, I guess, not to spoil the surprise for Raymond, who on hearing the word four seemed to know he was being talked about.
Nobody answered the door.
We walked in and the place seemed deserted. It was so quiet.
We soon found everyone sitting around the dining room table or lying on the floor. At first I thought they were all sleeping, which seemed a strange thing to do at a party. The children with colorful hats on sat slumped forward onto the table. I checked their pulses as I had been trained to do in my Phys. Ed. class. They were all right, just unconscious. The two women, Mrs. Benson and her grown daughter Marion also seemed to be comatose. Then I saw a pair of legs. Ernest Benson had no pulse. He lay in the corner against a smaller table, halfway behind the chair in which he usually sat. His eyes were wide open, but he wasn’t breathing.
Alison had tears welling, and Marti, with her hand over her mouth, backed out of the room; then ushered Raymond and Alison toward one of the back bedrooms, as there came a knock on the door. Uncle Jack went to see who was knocking and I picked up the telephone to call the police.
Uncle Jack opened the door, but there did not appear to be anyone on the other side. Suddenly, he clutched at his chest and fell to the floor. As the door slammed shut, I could see no one in the hall.
I didn’t know where Marti had gone with the children and I could not move. I tried to call out Uncle Jack’s name, but my throat was dry and produced no sound.
I stood rooted to the spot with the telephone receiver in my hand. Not sure what to do next, I stood there a long time.
Somewhere very far away I heard a voice saying, “There appears to be a receiver off the hook. Please hang up the telephone, then lift the receiver and dial your number…There appears to be a receiver off the hook…