At six-thirty Monday morning, as I nursed a cup of joe and did a crossword puzzle on-line, there came a tapping, a gentle rapping at my door. My first thought on opening the door and seeing William was that he had intended to do his tapping on Richie's door. William gets the wrong door now and then when he is under the influence of Coor's Lite, which is most of the time.
"Did you hear him last night?" he asked while making a series of anything but discreet cranial twitches toward Richie's apartment.
"I could hear him upstairs in my room. You didn't hear him? He was pretty damn loud."
"I was awfully tired last night. I must have slept through it."
"Just wanted to check on you, make sure you're all right. And remember, I wasn't over there last night."
"I wasn't down here. You got that, right?" William said as he walked away.
I got that, but that was about all I got. Richie is my next-door neighbor; William's apartment is two floors above mine. My hearing is in the normal range; William's isn't - isn't even close. Yet, he heard the alleged ruckus, and I didn't. And William and Richie are supposed to be best friends? Very strange, indeed. I might be wrong, I have been once or twice before, but I'm betting William had a beer-induced vision.
Then again, maybe William was trying to pull a Richie and liar his way out of any trouble in the event I complained to the management. Several months ago, I was roused at four in the morning by the loud conversation the pair was having next door. Getting up wasn't the problem; I'm usually up by four-thirty, anyway. The hours before sunrise are so wonderfully peaceful: pleasant, unobtrusive music playing on the radio, which is set on low; the early birds chirping when they're not busy eating worms; a gentle breeze rustles the leaves; and some mornings there is the sound of gently falling rain.
I didn't hear those soothing sounds that morning. They were drowned out by the voices of the beer-guzzling duo. I have no idea what they were talking about - neither did they, I'm sure - but they talked about it until seven o'clock.
Around noon that day, I was in the lobby when William let out a "Hey, Tom," loud enough to be heard throughout Covenant Woods. It was a good time to let him know my feelings on his predawn tete-a-tete with Richie. And I did. William kept saying, "OK, OK; OK" and making keep-it-down gestures with his hands, but he never answered the charges.
He did, however, run and tell Richie. And when Richie saw me after dinner that night, he said, "I wasn't there. I didn't get home until noon. William must have been talking to someone on the phone. OK?"
"What's that mean."
"That means, I don't believe you, but I'm not going to argue with you. Have a good night."
I didn't believe him because there were two voices coming from his room that morning. One had the accent and tone of someone hurling imprecations at an umpire at Fenway Park. Richie's voice is the only one here that fits that description.
All of which leads me to think William stopped by Monday morning to deny being there before Richie had a chance to.
Al has been battling through some rough patches. The doctor recently gave him several new prescriptions. As he always does, Al read each list of possible side effects. Every one included the phrase "may cause dizziness." At first, I thought the power of suggestion was the cause. But, I don't know, he's been talking about giving up marijuana. "I've been using the shit for thirty years. No telling what it has done to my brain."
There are other possible culprits, too. "Look at all this," he said, waving his hand across the table where he keeps a variety of boxed and canned foods, some healthy, some not so healthy. "Read those packages. Everything on this table is loaded with vitamins and minerals. No one knows what all those vitamins and minerals are doing to our brains. I'm going to quit eating all this shit. The only things I'm going to eat are cake and ice cream, some candy and lots of chocolate."
He was feeling much better Thursday. Antoinette, who does all sorts of odd jobs for the residents, took him to the bank, "I had to move some money around." Then they went grocery shopping.
At one o'clock, my phone rang. "Tom, Al here. If you have a few minutes, come on up."
I have far too many minutes these days and was at Al's door in a trice.
"Tom, I did it again. I bought more shit than I need. I'm going to give some of it to you."
"But . . . "
"You've got to take some. If you don't, I'll end up throwing stuff away," he said as he handed me a package of salami, a package of pepperoni, a package of small sausages, a half pound of cheddar cheese, a pear, a large plum, a peach and some strawberries.
"Now, do you need anything else? How about some blueberry muffins? Look at all this shit. I've got some Nutty Buddies. Don't you want some? I've been eating them since I was a kid. How about some Doves? It's dark chocolate, the stuff that's good for you. Some York patties? Some these little Reese's Pieces? Goddam it, I can't even give this shit away.
"You know what the problem is, don't you? Antoinette, she's the problem. We're going through the store, and she starts putting things in the cart. 'Oh, you need this,' she says. I don't need all that shit."
I thanked Al for the bag of foodstuffs on my lap, and headed to my apartment. Antoinette was in the laundry room, laughed when she saw me go by with the bag on my lap.
"You're coming from Al's, aren't you?"
"Yeah. He said you're the reason he always buys too much when he goes to the store."
"Me? Al picks up everything he sees. I try to grab the stuff he doesn't need and put it back. But I have to be careful. If he catches me taking things out of the cart, he gets mad."
Last week, Beth posted a picture of Hayden on Facebook. My four-year-old grandson was standing precariously on top of some sort of plastic easel with his hand on a smoke detector above a doorway in their house. It got me wondering if the Geneva hospital had somehow switched Debbie and my daughter with the daughter of another couple.
It is said, we all grow up to be our parents. Well, I can't believe either Debbie or I, seeing Russ or Beth standing there as Hayden was, would have remained calm and snapped a picture before screaming, "Get down before you fall and break your neck!" I put the question to Russ, but he was no help. "I wouldn't have gotten up there in the first place," he said. Me either, if you want the truth.
One of the delights of talking to Beth is hearing how she and Ken are allowing Hayden and MaKenna to be curious and find their own interests. Hayden has a lively interest in bugs. He often goes outside to look for them. When he finds them, he puts them in his pocket and takes them inside. Beth doesn't welcome the bugs in the house. But, at least when Hayden brings some in while we're talking on the phone, she doesn't get worked up about it, tell Hayden he'll die if one of the bugs bites him, or that all the bugs are going to make the house unlivable.
Last week, Beth told me Hayden knows spiders aren't insects; they are arachnids. Someone, probably his parents, must be helping him turn his curiosity into knowledge. It makes me so very proud of Beth.
Proud grandpa that I am, it pains me to say, Hayden doesn't know every thing. Not yet, anyway. Beth tells me Hayden has developed quite an interest in the moon. With that in mind, Beth found some pictures of the moon taken by the Lunar Rover. Hayden looked at the rocky lunar landscape and said, "Mom, that isn't the moon. The moon is made of cheese."
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