“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. Hang on a second.” Who the hell could that be at… huh, wonder what time it is.
“Oh, Jimmy, hi, come on in. What time ya got? My clock’s dead and I don’t know where the fuck my watch is.”
“Yeah, hi yourownself, fucker. Why don’t you answer your damn phone?”
Jimmy was not always so mean spirited ‘specially at this hour, whatever hour it was. We’d been friends, sometimes out of touch for stretches but whenever we hit each other again, it was like no time had passed. We just went on from wherever we’d left off before. Seems like we’d been tipping a few last night and hmmm… well anyway.
“Hey, don’t get all huffy, man. I don’t know where the stupid thing is. If it’s around here some place, it sure hasn’t been ringing. What’s up?” I asked in my most composed (so I thought) manner.
“Well… it’s Saturday, I’m here. And your place, if I may use the term loosely, looks just like it did on the 1st when we dragged all your shit up here. What the hell have you been doing? Have you unpacked anything? Jeeze, Dan, it’s been two days already, three if you count Wednesday when ya got here.”
“Yeah, I dunno, time gets away sometimes,” I chuckled. “I started cleaning the kitchen. Seemed like a good place to begin, but you know me, I get sidetracked easily,” and I burst out with a snort.
“Isn’t the landlord s’posed to come check today and see how you’re making out?” Jimmy mumbled. “He let you move in with no security deposit if you’d be willing to get the place all cleaned up, right? Well, it doesn’t look like you’re making much progress.”
“I know, I know, but the place really should be hosed out with some hydrochloric or something. I’m telling you, the guy who was here before musta been some really weird dude. It’s a good thing the fridge was left plugged in or it would have smelled like a city dump in here. God! was it a mess, odd stuff in old jars and whipped topping containers. I don’t know when they started making Frigidaire, but this relic musta been one of the originals. The freezer compartment was practically solid ice. It took four hours and pots of boiling water to thaw it out. I thought all refrigerators were self-thawing. Not this one! Anyway, when I got all the frosty crap off, I found a key lying on the bottom under an ancient metal ice cube tray. Weird! Remember when you picked me up from the bus station that time last year and I’d stuffed my crap in a locker?”
“Oh yeah, I remember, all right. You were so far out of it, I don’t think you knew where you were. Said you didn’t have any luggage, it was coming later or some bullshit. Actually you’d put it in a locker so you could run next door and fill up your hollow leg. We had to go back the next day when you remembered what you’d done,” Jimmy recalled, shaking his head.
“Well, the key from the freezer looks pretty much like the bus station keys. It has a number stamped on it and I’m gonna go down later and see what treasure’s stored inside. Sound like a plan?” I asked, grinning.
“Doncha think that’d be a little like stealing, Dan? I mean the stuff, if there’s any there, belongs to the old guy, right?”
“Belonged to the old guy. Remember what Joanie, that older chick, lives in back, downstairs said about him? Not only was he strange, mumbling all the time, with some wispy beard hanging from his chin but he turned up dead in the park. That’s why I got the deal on this place anyway. The landlord threw out all the crap that was here but would give me the break if I cleaned the place.”
“Yeah, OK, there’s probably nothing there anyway. How ’bout we get going on what has to be done here. I said I’d help out today but Ginny and I are going out tonight so time’s a wasting. Where do we start?” Jimmy asked, doing his jittery, I-can’t-sit-still dance.
“OK, the kitchen is pretty much all shaped up. The oven does need a good scrubbing, but that can wait. Cabinets are all wiped out and what food I brought is put away. So… let’s move the rest of these boxes and stuff into the bedroom. I swept up there and went over the walls and floor with some Lysol. Then we can tackle the dirt, dust, dead bugs, and… I don’t know what these stains are, in here.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Time passes, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. After clearing out my boxes and the few meager pieces of furniture the apartment came with, Jimmy and I began the major cleaning, disinfecting (I hoped) and general ship-shaping of the living room. I pulled out an old bed sheet, clipped ends off the large hem edge and slipped it over the window rod. Ta-da! Instant drapes. Yup, the place was coming together. We talked along as we worked, like old friends do but I must admit I had a bit of trouble recalling the last day or so, when Jimmy wanted to know what I’d been doing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“So… after we got your stuff up here Wednesday night and finished off the last of the beer, and I left, you did what?” Jimmy began again.
“Well… I ran up to the corner place for a sub and I think I got a bottle…”
“Wait, wait,” Jim jumped in, “you think you got a bottle?’
“… yeah, guess I got some vodka. You know to go with the OJ, I needed the acid stuff in OJ to counteract the chemicals in the processed meats in the sub, right? Anyway, then I came back here, ate the sandwich, probably had a drink or two and crashed. I was pretty wiped from carrying all that junk up here.”
“OK, so you ate, had a drink or maybe two, slept and here ya are and it’s Thursday. Then what?”
“I got up… sometime… I think the cell said somewhere around 10. There was some bread chunks left from the sub, so I ate those and began to tackle the kitchen. Probably spent most of the day doing that, having a drink from time to time to help pass the time and keep from upchucking over the nasty crap I was finding.”
“So you spent all Thursday cleaning up the kitchen. That’s cool. Good start,” Jimmy smiled, seeming to understand.
“Yeah, you know, cleaning and sippin’,” I grinned. “Then sometime late in the day, maybe around 6, there was a tapping, on m’chamber door, as Edgar would say. It was Joanie from downstairs, ‘member her from when we were bringing stuff in? So here’s this older chick… what do you think she is? 35? 40?… anyway she has a can, unopened can, of soup in her hand and says: “heard you bumbling around up here and thought you might be hungry.””
“I’m half in the bag by now and couldn’t quite put together the idea of her holding a can and me maybe being hungry, Come on in,” I said. “And she did, sorta gazing around at all the crap still in the living room.”
“Would you like some help straightening things out,” she said. “I know what a hassle it is moving in and getting things in order. Or maybe I could heat up this soup for you?”
Coming back slowly to my senses, I began to get things into perspective. “Oh yeah, sure, the kitchen’s in a lot better shape than this mess,” I stammered. “We can go in there, there’s even a couple of fairly clean chairs to sit on. Hey, I was just having a drink, would you like one… before our delicious soup dinner?”
“Uh, yeah, OK, I guess. It has been one of those days. Maybe one, got any beer?”
“Sorry, all out of beer. But m’bar is presently stocked with vodka and OJ. Will a little screwdriver suit you? Gotta get your vitamin C ya know.”
I don’t know why I said screwdriver. Holdover from days gone by? To me it’s always just vodka and OJ now. Maybe I just wanted to work the word screw into the conversation. She is kinda hot… for an older woman, ya know.
“Haven’t found any bowls yet, Joanie, but there’s a couple of mugs there on the drainboard by the sink and a pot underneath. If you warm the soup, I’ll stir up the drinks,” I said. It was about then I realized there was just barely enough vodka left for two drinks. Where the hell had all the booze gone?
What a gourmet delight… Pepper Pot soup, the kind with bits of cow stomach lining chopped up in it. Tripe? Whatever. And, of course, the vodka which helped it slide down. Following the light repast Joan asked if she “might have another drink.” Girl after my own heart. But no! We were out of vodka. Had I really gone through that whole quart?
“Sorry, Sweets, we got a dead soldier here. We can run up to the corner store and get another if you like,” I suggested. Remember, I’d been sipping all day and the thought of running out of booze now had not been a happy one.
We did. And in the interest of conservation of energy, got two or maybe it was three? quarts, and some beer. Remember, she had asked for beer. She suggested also getting some whiskey, ’cause vodka and beer just didn’t do it for her. My wallet was looking a little empty at this point but, bless her heart, Joanie sprang for the case of beer. Good thing it’s only a short walk to the corner, what with all the new provisions we were laying in. We made it back, laughing and being a bit goofy along the way.
After getting the “supplies” put away in my kitchen, that is, plopping it all on the counter, except for the beer which went in the freshly cleaned fridge, minus one can for Joan, I mixed up another V and OJ for me and poured her a couple fingers of whiskey to go along with the beer.
We decided that the hard kitchen chairs were not all that comfortable, even though I had cushions on both of them, so we moved to the cleaned bedroom. Funny, I didn’t remember cleaning and wiping it down but someone sure had. Booze, ha, when you’re sippin’ and having fun you can often get a lot done… and sometimes, apparently, not even remember. Anyway, the only thing in there was the mattress I was sleeping on. No foundation, who really needs a foundation? After tossing a few pillows against the wall where I’d scooted the mattress, we had a fairly comfortable nest for sipping our new drinks. Time went on. Nothing really sexy about it. We just talked, getting to know about each other… and had a few more drinks. I think we went down to her place for a while so she could show me what she’d done with it. But… I’m not too sure after that. When I woke up, it was the next day, sun streaming in around the shade on my bedroom window and I can’t remember anything after walking down to Joan’s apartment the night before. Strange. It’s all just a blank. Guess I drank a little too much.
“So it’s Friday, probably after noon, you had a fun night getting to know Joan, you think. Then what,” Jimmy inquired.
“That’s the thing, Jim, I’m not quite sure. I checked the cell, so it was Friday and you’re right it was around 1 PM. I did go to the kitchen but wasn’t really very much in the mood for food though did make some coffee. I’m pretty sure I had some OJ (flavored) while the coffee pot did it’s thing. Maybe I went to the grocery store after coffee? I can’t recall. Musta gone some time ’cause there’s new food in the cabinet and fridge. I just don’t remember. I do remember finding the CD player and listening to some tunes while I studied the mess in the living room. Guess that was Friday afternoon or evening or both. The oddest thing is: I DON’T know what happened to Friday. Have absolutely no recollection of the day at all. Woke up this morning, which according to you is Saturday, had a cuppa jo with the dregs from the whiskey bottle dumped in and then you were at the door.
“Christ on a cracker, Dan. You lost a whole fucking day?” Jimmy exclaimed. “Doesn’t that get you a leetle bit worried?”
“Yeah, sorta, I guess. I mean, I’ve had some short periods when I lost track of time or maybe couldn’t remember exactly what I’d been doing, but nothing like a whole day plus just vanishing like that. What do you s’pose I was doing? Maybe I just drank and slept it away? But no, the groceries. I definitely must have gone out to the store. How could I do that and not have any memory?”
“You don’t remember going anywhere besides the store?” Jim asked. “Like maybe you went and killed time in the library? It’s only a few blocks from here, right? Or maybe you went to the paint store? Didn’t you say you really wanted to repaint this living room area?”
“I just don’t know. Don’t think I went to the paint store. At least I didn’t buy any paint. And the library… I just don’t know. Wow, a whole day disappearing. It’s like something from the X-Files, ya know.”
“Call it X-Files if ya want, Dan. What you experienced was a major blackout. You don’t have any idea what you did, or said, or where you went for over 24 hours. Doesn’t that get you a slight bit worried?”
“I s’pose. Yes, it is a concern but if I cut back on the drink, I doubt it’ll happen again. I just have to watch myself. Being alone in this new place and trying to get things in order just got to me, I guess. Hey, you want a beer?”