All Guests Must Be Announced – Ch. 13

The phone rang in the lobby as it often did. The traffic lulled, now that most of the tenants were home from work. The medical examiner had come and gone with what was left of Mr. Kranepool’s physical form. As they wheeled Kranepool out on the squeaky stretcher, the body zipped tightly in plastic with the sheet Murphy donated draped over the top, Dr. Duane returned from somewhere unpleasant I hoped. His face was twisted in confusion, to which I mistakenly assumed the deceased was in question but I was wrong. “You’re not going to take him out through the service entrance?” 

Dr. Duane preferred that the dead body of his neighbor be escorted down to the basement via the back elevator, walked through said basement, out the fire exit and carried up the steep staircase like we did with the garbage and then vacated out the side door rather than wheel him 20 feet through the front door. I thought to myself, get the fuck out of here, but Gerry actually said it. 

If I didn’t love Gerry like a brother before I most certainly did then. Kranepool didn’t deserve to be wrapped in plastic, I could sound off a hundred candidates to swap places with Kranepool, and Dr. Duane was one. 

“Are you going to answer that?” Gerry said, letting Ichabod lap Budweiser from his cup. 

“I got it,” I said, putting the receiver to my ear. “Hello, 534.”

“Hi, it’s Iona. Who’s this?” Iona was Mrs. Lawrence’s daughter. Mrs. Lawrence was widowed and lived in apartment 7C. 

Kevin Mitchell wore the number 7. In ‘86 Mitchell had 91 hits, 12 home runs, 43 runs batted in with 3 stolen bases. Mitchell and myself had a commonality, we had both been accused of being a bad influence. 

Iona was one of the best people to frequent the building. She’d visit often to check up on her mom who seemed to be at the start of her decline in life. Iona would bring us pizza and beer and hang out in the lobby with us. She was going through a divorce, her husband whom I had never met was apparently not a good man, prone to infidelity. And although her heart was broken she never showed any hint of sadness, not one iota of weakness. I always wondered about her and Gerry, they got on so well, but if she had any interest it was moot, Gerry would not oblige whether he liked her romantically or not. In my observation it appeared that her soon to be ex-husband fucked up a good thing. Humans fuck everything up.

“Hey, It’s Rainer. How are you?”

“Oh, great. I’m glad it’s you. Can you do me a giant favor?”

“Yeah, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve been trying to reach my mother all day and I keep getting the busy signal. At first I thought maybe she was on a conference call or something, or knocked it over but now I’m starting to get worried.”

“I haven’t seen her today but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s been a busy day and I haven’t always been in the lobby. I can go check in on her. For sure.”

“Thank you so much. I owe you one.” 

“You’re welcome. Are you going to call back or do you want me to call you?”

“No. Take my number. You got a pen?”

I wrote her number down on a pad from the doctor’s office next door promoting better mental stability. If only I knew how. I told her to give me a few minutes and I’d get back to her. This was not my first time entering an apartment to check and verify if a person was still breathing or not. 

“Everything cool?” asked Gerry. 

“Iona wants me to check in on her mother. Whenever I get these phone calls I always feel like when I enter the apartment there’s going to be a dead body. Every single time.” I’ve yet to find one. 

“I usually have that same feeling when I leave a place,” Gerry winked. 

“I like Mrs. Lawrence,” I said. 

“I like her, too. Great lady.”

I took a deep breath. I felt an increase of anxiety. I thought about doing push ups. Why did everything make me feel like this? On the surface I was calm while alarms were sounding inside me, a recurring state of panic.

“You know what she said to me one day that blew my mind?”

“No, what?”

“If she could have had another career it would have been an exotic dancer.”

I laughed, “What? I can’t and don’t want to picture that.” I couldn’t see her as anything other than what she was, as if her youth and beauty never existed at all which wasn’t fair of me. I’m sure she was once a beautiful young woman but sometimes we can’t see outside our perceptions. Now she was just the wrinkled intellectual racing around the city as simultaneous thoughts raced around her brain. That was all I ever knew of Mrs. Lawrence. 

“Yeah, I know. I couldn’t believe it. She’s pushing 90 years old and still running around practicing law but she aspired to be a stripper. Incredible.”

“I don’t know about that one, my man.”

“On my dead mother’s grave.”

“For real, she said that?”

“On my mother’s fucking grave,” said Gerry, raising his beer to his mother somewhere in the ether. “I would have loved to have fucking seen that.”

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