Yeah. only the blue parts are true. The rest is a work of friction. You know, like ‘Moby’s Dick’. Remember? You read the cliff notes on the bus at the last minute, looking for the good parts. “Call yer Momma Ishmael!” you finally decided, and threw it out the window.
But speaking of Mel-ville
, Hey, that’s where I work these days. It’s been a month now, some kind of a record. I’d looked up my old friend Valerie Dixon
, she’d been the lead singer in “Sister Val & the Consonants”
We did clubs, private parties, stuff like that, mostly near Philly. I was “P”, for pianist, I guess, depending how you pronounce it. Ha, I even have a shirt with a ‘P’ on it, up in the attic. Once was enough. Some club-owner’s idea of ‘spicing up the show’. Gag me with a dipthong…
Anyway, I asked her what she’s doing lately, she goes, “Old folks home, whadaya think of that?”“Valerina, I’s ‘too old for da orphanage, too young for da old folks home..‘”
I sang my answer.“No, really, I’m running one. You need a job?”
She answered back, her voice just like I remembered.“Sure, when do I start?”
I said. All I could think of was sitting in the Lounge at an old donated piano, hearing again her husky voice singing Big Mama Thornton, Little Walter… Caught myself wondering why there’s never been a guy like, fer example ‘Middle-sized Jimmy’
Witherspoon’? Hmm.. and did he ever get another spoon?
Val was happy to hear my answer.“See ya tomorrow at 7:00. It’s over in Melville, you cain’t miss it. ‘”Val-view Retirement Village‘”
“Cool, we’ll talk about the name tomorrow.”
I hinted, and we hung up.
‘ always makes me think of buying four new Goodyear™
radials, so when I got there I told her about that. So just laughed and said “Go with the flow, what can I do?”“Hmm, mebbe ‘Vowel-view?”
I offered, weakly.“Here, I’ll show you your office.
” Val got down to business.
An office? I’ll have an office? In my usual gigs, my ‘office has been a corner of the dressing room where I stash my… well.. my stash, or in construction, a tree near the job site where I can hang my pitiful lunch and piss discretely behind it.
The pleasant office overlooked a garish sign for the “Melville Mega-Mart, or it would’ve, had all the letters been lit up. I only discoved that at about 7 in the afternoon, after I had already settled in and ‘made some changes around here’, so to speak.“You mean, I can like,do whatever I wanna?
” I’d asked her that morning.“Yeah, I trust you, you know that. Jus don’t you be startin’ ‘Summertime’ in freaking ‘G’, like you did that time at..
“Valerie, I was just goofing with you.”
Ok, I changed the days of the week
first. “This is God speaking!”
I heard myself announcing pompously over the PA system, as I made out the list:Sunday?
Hell, it’s sunny here all year round, We’ll call that one “Leaderday”,
cuz it like, ‘lead’s off’ the week.Monday?
the old fogeys can sit and read letters from their grandchildren. Why not share the pleasure…Tuesday? “Litter-day”
, We’ll have somebody come in and clean up the mess. He can do the sidewalks and the parking lot while he’s at it.Wednesday?
I guess I’ll go with ‘Loiterday’.
Never knew why nobody was allowed to just ‘loiter’
anyway. So guys, here, yer allowed. On Day four at least.Thursday?
What’s left? “Lighter day?”
Yeah, do-able, we’ll open all the blinds, an’ the windows too. They can sit around and smoke, whatever.Friday?
Oh boy. This one better be good. I thought a few minutes, then hit bingo: “Ladderday”!
I thought vaguely,”we’ll have guys come in with ladders, change light bulbs, clean the gutters…um..”
Somehow it wasn’t quite as bingo as when I first thought of it, but, you know, I was running out of options. Speaking of which.Saturday? “Later-day,”
the clear winner. Grandma’s little grand-party-girl who just never like, stops in to visit, always saying on the phone ‘See ya later’
, well, this one’s for you, kid. Plus ‘Looter-day’
would upset everyone. There’s a limit to the changes you can wreak, especially with fossils.( I gotta stop calling them that. I mean, any one of ’em could be my mom.)
So listen, to get to the punch-line,‘ Ladder-day’
turned out to be the biggest hit. I guess it started when old Hiram Gingrich just had
to show Flaco with the hard-hat that he could still climb a ladder at 87.. Before anyone could stop him, Hiram was dancing on the edge of the flat roof above the Meditation Room. Wilmer Gochenhauer raced up next, to ‘save’ him
, but kinda disappeared for long enough to worry the now-assembled crowd.
“Oy, geh ma veck!” was all Vera Copenhaver said as she laid down her purse on the grass and raced with suprising agility up the ladder. In short, not ten minutes later all our mis-named ‘fossils’ were cavorting up there, in the quickly deepening twilight. All except for Luther. Luther, although a ‘Bachman’ wasn’t yet ‘one of them’. Newly arrived, he kept to himself. He and I walked back to the edge of the fence-row to better see the action. The roof-toppers were quietly sitting in kind of a circle. A prayer circle? “God, if it be Thy will, get us the hell off this roof, it’s dark already”?
But no, they were just sitting there, enjoying the elevation, taking turns saying stuff we couldn’t hear that well. A few flashes of light; cell-phones, elevated into flashlights. These geezers were good at reverse-engineering technology, I thought. I turned to Luther, who had lit a cigarette meanwhile.
“Whadya think, buddy?” I asked him. He looked up at the roof,shook his head and finally laughed..
“Jesus Christ, it’s a Ladder-Day Seance.”