38 A Little Chat

On Monday morning, Bert and Gertie were up earlier than usual but the extra time collapsed in the bustle of preparation. No lingering over coffee, no extra reassuring pats on the head for Pocano. Instead, Bert leashed him up while Gertie hastily stuffed her daybag. At the lobby, Bert took him outside; not a trip back to Asphodel then, surmised the dog.Chapter 38 Chat

Gertie sat down to wait, sighed, then got up and went into the Ladies room. Inside she paused, hearing the TV still chattering on the other side of the door leading from the Ladies into the pool. Gertie couldn’t help herself. She put her head around the door to look. Expecting to see what was there, she was still horrified to see the man in the pool, along with other things she didn’t expect to see; a pole, a rope, cans, and coins, all at various depths in the water. The babble from the TV was awful, as two shrill women hawked gold ankle bracelets. Foolishly, she rushed inside and over to the cart, jabbing at the channel up arrow for something else, anything else, desperate to transform the scene before her. Reality came flying back at her and she fled, strains of hymns of praise pitching her back into the safety of the Ladies room.

Pocano and Bert started out on the same route they had taken late last night but stopped and returned to the driveway after only one tree. Tail wagging, Pocano greeted Gervase as he walked up the drive towards them. Bert handed over leash and scooper.

“Good morning, Gervase. Thanks for coming early to help us out. Gertie’s just inside waiting and we’ll be on our way. A stretch now and Pocano should be good for awhile. Please get him out again this afternoon. That should be it. He’s already had breakfast and we’ll feed him tonight.” Lifting up Pocano’s muzzle to look him directly in the eye, Bert reminded him to be a good dog and headed back into the lobby. Gertie was just emerging from the Ladies room.

“All set, then?” he asked her. She nodded. They took the elevator down to the garage and were soon on the road to Chicago. Once alone in the car, Bert turned to Gertie and said, “Please tell me that you didn’t go to the pool, just now.”

“Okay, I won’t.” she snapped. Changing her tone, she sheepishly replied,”Oh, okay, so I looked. I know, I know but it was like I just had to see for myself.”

“Gertie…dear…it was taking an awful risk. Please try not to give in to these whims and you’ll live a lot longer. I assume it was the same as I described it.”

“Well, I was only there for a few seconds, and yes, if you mean was he still in the pool – yes, he was – along with a lot of other stuff. And I changed the channel on the TV. It was awful.”

“What, the travel channel didn’t suit you?”

“Travel? No, it was on one of those shopping networks, selling ankle bracelets. Why? Was it on a travel channel when you left?”

“Yes, it was. I changed it myself. That means somebody else was there after me and also switched channels. And that someone didn’t call the police, either. Curious.”

“Curious-er and curious-er, if you ask me. At least he was alive, when I saw him. Well, maybe that’s not so good for me, is it? I was awake most of the night thinking about this. I mean, no matter what he was doing there…”

“Trespassing, presumably.”

Road to Chicago over the 6th Street Viaduct

Road to Chicago over the 6th Street Viaduct

“Or possibly he was a guest, but he was definitely alone when I went in. If his host came in later and found him drowned, he or she also didn’t call the cops. So wouldn’t you have to think that this was an unwanted guest, or at least an unloved one? He was certainly a bad guest. Anyway, I was trying to say before that whatever he was, now he isn’t even that anymore. He’s just dead. It sounds silly, I know, but it made me think that I want to be alive – stay alive – and it made me want to do something to make my life – well, have some meaning. I don’t know how to say it, to use my life better, maybe.”

“The first faint murmurings of the family trade, perhaps?”

“I guess. Don’t know where to start.”

“Well, I started under slightly different circumstances than you but when your mother died – another death – it seemed to be the right direction to go. It’s not as if you want to honor the memory of this guy.” Gertie rolled her eyes. “Agreed. You don’t have the same motivation as I did but you do have interests of your own. Start with those. It doesn’t have to be huge to be a start.”

“So what would you suggest?”

“What do you think of this idea? It’s only a rough idea. How about Mrs. James and her POPS cookbook? You know she’s been pestering residents to submit recipes for a collection? What if you were to ask her if you could co-operate on her project and turn it into a fundraiser for one of your interests. Something in the animal line, perhaps?”

“Hmm, not bad Dad. Mrs. James is really nice, so that part would be easy. What would I do?”

“You could offer to contribute the publishing, for example. We have contacts in those businesses. And you could handle the marketing, outside the association I mean. We have outlets for just that sort of thing, too. This could be a good first project for you to learn the ropes. I’d help you however I could, of course, maybe even contribute a treasured family recipe. Lord knows we have enough animals to showcase.”

“So a kind of save the pets crusade? All proceeds to the Humane Society?”

“That’s the kind of thing, yes. You’ll come up with something. And after today, I’m guessing that we are all going to need something very positive to spin about our building. A little community outreach might be just the ticket. In the meantime, what are you up to today?”

“You’re dropping me at Jody’s and going on to your board meeting. We’re doing lunch and shopping, maybe a gallery. It’s kind of open ended. Supper back at the hers then you’re picking me up, around seven-ish?”

“That’s fine.Ā  I’ll likely eat with one of the directors, after the meeting. I told Gervase we’d be back tonight. Who knows what we’ll be walking into by then. And Gertie, I know that Jody is your best friend and confidante but not a word to her about last night, understood?”