60 Going Downstairs Empty-Handed

That afternoon, Gervase carried up a flower delivery to Kitty Doyle’s unit, tapped gently on the door and quietly announced, “Miss Doyle? It’s Gervase. Delivery for you. Fresh flowers.”Chapter 60 Going Downstairs

The door cracked opened. Two bare arms, but no face, appeared. Gervase placed the box in her outstretched hands and retreated with not a word of thanks from the recipient. He wasn’t surprised. Echoing from his childhood home, his mother’s voice admonished,  ‘Never go downstairs empty-handed’ – and although for her it had always meant an object moved in the interests of tidiness, so that the same held true for going upstairs – in this case, he felt it was he who was somehow not doing his part. This was absurd. How did the Doyle woman manage to instill in him these recurring feelings of inadequacy?

Setting the box on her kitchen counter, Kitty lifted the lid and pulled out a card from the tiny envelope. ‘For Kitty, from Greg. No hard feelings.’ She extracted a pair of scissors from a utensil drawer, and carried the open box and its twelve assorted pink, blue, and nearly black, long-stem roses to the bathroom vanity where, one by one, she dissected each stem and bud into stubby bits. This mass of pieces she then dumped into the toilet, and flushed, repeating her mantra.

“You shit, you shit, you shit.” The toilet backed up and overflowed onto the floor. She did a little paroxysm of a dance with Rumpelstiltskin effect, damning the puddle growing at her feet, flushing again and again, even as the water sucked and gushed. Slamming the bathroom door closed behind her, she dialed Gervase, screaming into the phone that she wanted a plumber – she specified one skilled in the art of copulation – and now. When the emergency rate plumber arrived at her door later with Gervase, Kitty stormed out, snarling.

“Just fix it, pronto. Crap I put up with in this dump.” She flung at Gervase, “Your precious association’s going to hear about this.”

Gervase held the unenviable position of workmen supervisor. He was handy, had needed some basic knowledge in order to get his job and picked up some additional know-how while working there. He’d just never been especially intrigued by mastering those skills and made a point of not participating in work in progress. By now, he knew many of the people whom he called in for repair or maintenance work. He enjoyed some of them more than others. The plumber, Tank Peters, he admired. The guy was perennially calm, no matter how disgusting the work might be. Gervase figured it must be because he earned so much from doing it. Tank joked that he always charged more the customer ‘helped’. The men entered Kitty’s bathroom.

“Starting a garden center in here, by the looks of it. That, or a candle shop.” reckoned Tank. “Didn’t know you could start roses by cuttings. I’ll have to ask the wife about that. Any hows, glad she’s never been this mad at me.” Tank indicated the annihilation before them. Gervase nearly gaped at the scene, then recovered his wits. Better be ignored by this creature than be chopped to bits by her; rather endure his own thankless state than know the doom of the flowers.

Gervase changed the subject, interested what this couple’s pair of names might be. No harm in being curious about a workman. He allowed himself to ask, “What’s your wife’s name?”

“Tink.” Tank grinned. “It’s really Arabella, so Tink seemed about right. She’s the plant person in our family. By us, I just do the watering and mowing.” Gervase was still struggling with the name connection, why Tink and Arabella went together. He repeated to himself, Tink Arabella. This reminded him of something. The plumber was still talking, “Say, what’s downstairs from this, any hows?”

Some management companies hire outside contractors for maintenance or emergency work.

Management companies hire outside contractors for maintenance or emergency work.

*   *   *   *   *

The turnout of association members was better than average as Earnest Arbuthnot called the special meeting to order later that evening, although Kitty Doyle was not in that number. Gervase had set up extra chairs in expectation of a good turnout. Nothing like a mystery, in his experience, to generate interest.

“Thank you all for coming down. We’ve invited the two police detectives along this evening to clarify the investigation for us. I expect they’ll be here shortly. In the meantime, we can cover other business. The pool will remain closed until further notice, in conjunction with police inquiries and because the board will be very soon consulting with our association attorney, Mr. Seth Hough…”

“Who?”A voice interrupted. “Is he from that ad on the radio?”

“Seth Hough, of Horton, Hearst, and Hough,” resumed Earnest, “on any questions raised by the recent events or any ramifications for the association. We’ll see what Seth has to say and be reporting back those findings.” Many residents now had the ear worm of that jingle singing in their minds, hoping that they wouldn’t be soon paying for a lawsuit instead.

“We’re Horton, Hearst and Hough
All here to see you through
Your big lawsuit.
We’re smart guys in sharp suits
Ready to win you loot.
We’re Horton, Hearst and Hough
Horton, Hearst and Hough.”

Earnest located Greg Mendel in the crowded meeting room. “Greg Mendel has approached us with a proposal. Perhaps you’d would explain it, Greg.”

“Sure, thanks.” Greg stood up; he knew he communicated better on his feet. “Since the pool is closed, and for those of us looking for an alternative for that missing activity, I thought this might be a good time to suggest a ping-pong table for us all to use.” He looked around the room, including everyone in his view. “You’d be surprised at what a work-out you can get, though it’s fun for casual play, too. I’d be pleased to give this to the association.”

“Where would it go?” asked a resident.

“Not in here, I hope!” another quipped back, to general guffaws. Earnest took over, a little startled at the jovial tone that the meeting was taking.

“Thank you for this generous offer!” Greg smiled and sat down. “Naturally, this would never be placed so as to interfere with the use of any common area space, such as this room or the lobby, or to crowd our existing exercise facilities. So, might there be room on the solarium floor?” Earnest put this to the members. “Other than the sitting area, guest suite, community kitchenette, and restrooms, there is the rest of that floor available. Could we section off a space there, perhaps to the west, away from the preferred lake views? We would have to contain it. Can’t have the balls bouncing all over.”

“It would be a better workout, though, with all that chasing.” joked Greg. “Sure, I can throw in the cost of partitions. Let me do a little more research. But I take it there’s a general agreement that it’s a welcome idea?” Apparently there was hidden pool of players, ready and eager, living in the building.

“There’s a group of us back here already passing around a sign-up sheet.” called out a voice from the back of the room.