There now, not so bad, not so crazy after all, this getting up and standing by the phone naked in the dark in the cold in the living room with a nutbag above me in the upstairs apartment, going off up there with her moaning. We might as well have been the only two people on earth, me and the nutbag. That’s the dizzy way reality changes sometimes in the middle of the night.
The phone rang again. If it can be said that you can answer a phone with a slam, that’s what I did. I slam-answered it, because it had to be her up there in her apartment, calling in between her moans.
“What’s the matter?” I said low into the phone.
“Please. Please help me,” said the voice calling from upstairs. It seemed as though her voice was disconnected from real life, as though it wasn’t coming from anyone’s flesh and vocal chords. “I’m afraid, and I don’t know . . . ”
I sucked a disapproving breath, sucked it through my teeth and wished she could feel it, feel it through the phone tugging at her eardrum, a whisper of haven't you better things to do? Because I had better things to do, not-talking-to-her things. "This is the third time tonight, darlin'," I told her. "I'm naked and cold and I have not-talking-to-you things to do. What do you want?"
"He never came home," she said, her voice a newspaper rustle of old news. "He went to get cigarettes and it's been hours and he didn't come home. I'm scared, alone. I need to hear him tell me, say it's going to be all right."
"Dammit," I said, "I can't believe you got me out of bed for this." I tore open the pack of Pall Malls on the table and lit up. "Harry! Get your naked butt in here! Sheila wants a word."
Opening: Robin.....Continuation: Anonymous