I woke up the next morning on the couch with three 32 ounce empty bottles of Golden Champale lying next to me. I felt awful and hung over because quiet as it’s kept, it don’t take much for me to get drunk. All I kept hearing in my head was Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie and something about a black rag doll walking down the road, walking down the road. Why the road and not the street? (I thought to myself). That woman, Miss Love, from Akron had been talking about something I had never heard, never heard about, even the times I would eavesdrop on Bud or Emma talking on the phone to somebody, somebody from somewhere else, not Michigan – Akron, Akron, sometimes Bud would be talking to some old woman from Akron – I guess that old woman is Miss Love. If it is Ada, how do they know each other – she said she know my mamma too – are they related to each other – why didn’t I ask her last night how she knew them and, why are my eyes hazel like Miss Ada’s and her sister Lizzie. I need to talk to my parents, I’ve got to get some answers before I leave on this assignment down south next week, I need to call Vickie, I need to call Miss Ada, and, damn! I need to call Linda today about my itinerary.
Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
“Who is it, who is it?” (I yelled from the couch).
Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
“Who is it?” (I yelled again).
“It’s me Tommie, It’s Flora, open the door girl! Are you alright?”
I jumped up from the couch and stumbled to the door. “Hold on Flo, I’m coming, stop knocking.”
“Tommie, where was you at last night? Your car was outside and I was blowing my horn waiting for you to come to the window and see me in safe. I finally just got out the car and ran in as fast as I could – it was bout 3 in the morning and pitch black outside and on top of that, the stupid street light was out again. I knocked and knocked on your door but you didn’t answer – I heard the TV so I assumed you was woke. I finally gave up and went to my apartment and tried calling you on the phone.”
“Flo, I’m so sorry – I had a hard day yesterday and I started drinking and didn’t stop until all my champale was gone. I didn’t hear nothing, nothing. I was knocked out on the couch all night, come on in, I’m sorry.”
“It’s OK girl – I understand, I was just worried about you cause it’s not like you not to see me in at night. Is everything OK?”
“No, I don’t know, some family stuff. I’m working on it though, I’ll be alright.”
“Well, let me know if you need me to do anything Tommie.”
“As a matter of fact Flora, there is something you can do for me.”
“What you need girl?.
“I’m leaving next week for Alabama on a work assignment.”
“Yeah, you was telling me about that.”
“Well, I need you to look after my apartment while I’m gone – you know, make sure everything is in order like getting my mail and newspaper, watering the plants and just airing out the place at least once a week by opening up the windows and letting fresh air in. Maybe turn on the lights at night and off during the day so it looks like I’m here. If the phone rings while you’re here – take a message for me and call me once a week to give them to me. I will pay you two hundred dollars up front before I leave.”
“You don’t have to pay me Tommie.”
“Girl, I know where you work, you could use the extra change – your job description will be house sitter. I’ll tell Linda I’m paying you to house sit and she will reimburses me.”
“Do you want the job?
“Hell yeah girl. When do I start?”
“Next Monday. Thanks Flo. You’re a good neighbor and a better friend.”
“Hi Linda, It’s Tommie – I’m calling about the itinerary.”
“How you doing Tommie? “Are you ready for your adventure?
“As a matter of fact Linda, I am.”
“Good, good. I’m having it delivered this afternoon. Speedy has already picked it up so it won’t be long. Everything you need is in there. If you need anything else, let me know. Drive safe and have a good time Tommie.”
“Thanks Linda. See you when I get back.”
“Hi mom. Are you busy, can we talk?
“Hi Tommie. Your daddy told me what happened.”
“What did Bud tell you?
“That you going to Alabama.”
“Is that all he said.?
“He said Ada called and you took the message.”
“Do you know her?
“Yes Tommie, I know Ada.”
“How do you know her mom, is she related to you or Bud?
“No, she’s not a relative, she’s an old friend.”
“Whose friend, yours or Bud’s?
“Your daddy’s friend.”
“What kind of friend, is Ada Bud’s old girlfriend?
“No, Ada is your daddy’s old girlfriend.”