It was warm, sunny and almost summer-like when I went for a jaunt through the Covenant Woods’ parking lots Friday afternoon. It was an interesting little sojourn. Down by the duplexes, I met James. He was in the maintenance department’s golf cart, on his way to install a ceiling fan, but in no hurry to get at it.
James and I frequently talk in the morning when I stop by while he’s at the dumpster taking care of the garbage. The topic of those trash talks is almost always sports, with James giving me the rundown of all he saw on SportsCenter. But now, after lunch, James talked about Randy, who has been pressed into service as a night security person. Randy is tart of tongue, loud of voice, quick of wit and bawdy.
“Me and Randy have a lot fun when we work together,” James said.
Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, doesn’t seem to be his happy self these days. Someone said his girlfriend broke up with him. But whatever the reason, he’s not the hale-fellow-well-met he was a month ago. Steve, the other member of the maintenance crew, never says much. In fact, until the day he came to unclog my bathtub drain, all he had ever said to me was, “Hello, sir.” That day he said, looking at the work order, “It’s your bathtub drain that’s backing up?” And when he was finished, he said, “That should do it. If it gives you any more problems, let us know.” Since then, all Steve has said to me is “Hello, sir.”
Not long after I resumed my “walk,” my path crossed Annie’s. She was a mixture of excitement and dread. She was giddy because the baby shower she had for her daughter Chelsea was a success. Things didn’t go exactly according to plan, but there were no disasters, and almost a week later, Annie was one relieved woman.
I don’t know all the details, but Chelsea isn’t married and will be going into the military soon. Annie will be more mother than grandmother for quite some time. Hence the dread.
Annie had to get back to work, and I went on my way. In the parking lot behind Building C, Anita, the woman who interviewed Al the week before for Tim Maggart’s Memorial Day show at the Springer, was putting her equipment into the trunk of her car. She said she had just finished interviewing Bobby, another Covenant Woods veteran, for the same project. She asked if Al had said anything about his interview. He wasn’t at all happy with his performance, I told her.
“Tell him I edited his interview yesterday, and it’s great stuff. He said a lot of good things.”
Then I headed for the great indoors, savoring one of the most pleasant hours I’ve had at Covenant Woods.
When I relayed Anita’s message to Al, he said, “When people see that they’re going to say, ‘That man is crazy as hell.’”
In the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, which it happened to be, Mae came into the dining room carrying a green beanie with a shamrock with the inscription “Kiss me. I’m Irish” dangling from it. She walked directly to our table, put the beanie on Al’s head and did as the shamrock instructed. The lipstick on his forehead told a tale on Al. Numerous folks pointed that out to him, but it didn’t register. Tuesday evening, when the conversation turned to Mae’s kiss, Al said, “I got up this morning, looked in the mirror and there were Mae’s lips. Why didn’t someone tell me?”
Richie is acting strangely; strange even by his already strange standards. One afternoon three weeks ago, he walked into my apartment without so much as a knock. I was lying down at the time and told him to leave. He said “they” asked him to check on me. When I asked who “they” were, he said the front office, but offered no names. Around that time he also walked into Al’s apartment, Coach’s apartment and one or two others without bothering to knock.
Then he went somewhere for a week. When he got back, he stayed drunker than usual. He came through the dining room one night and thanked me for not getting him in trouble. Whether or not that had anything to do with him sashaying into my room, I don’t know. A day or two later, when we passed in the hall, he gushed about how good I looked.
At one-fifteen Tuesday morning I was awakened by the sound of William and Richie yelling at each other. At eleven Tuesday night, there was more of the same. Besides being loud, their tete-ta-tetes are remarkable for their length. They go on and on and on, and yet it seems that between them they have a vocabulary of three words: one is a synonym for feces, one is a synonym for anus, and, of course, there is the ever-popular synonym for intercourse – three words to build a discussion on. And it got worse. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I was awakened by Johnny Mathis singing “Chances Are.” I was poised to call the desk with a complaint for the third time in twenty-four hours, but the volume went way down as soon as Johnny was through. Chances are “Chances Are” has some of Richie’s memories attached to it.
I saw Randy this morning; he was on his way home after keeping the place secure through the night. He was full of complaints about having to work midnights.
“I thought I was through with this shit two weeks ago,” he said. “They hired a new guy – a CALL-ledge GRAJ-you-ate, no less. He had two nights of orientation with Warren. Then he worked one night by himself and quit.
“By the way, how’s your neighbor doing? The night you called I went down there to talk to him. I could hear his TV all the way down the hall. He was so drunk he spit every time he said a word. I told him I didn’t need a shower.”
“He’s been pretty quiet,” I said. “I was worried last night. I heard him tell somebody he was looking forward to the UConn-Villanova game, and it didn’t start until nine-thirty. Either he watched it somewhere else, or he passed out and slept through it.”
“He probably passed out.”