69 And the Dawn Comes Up like Thunder

“Any responses yet, from that flyer you printed yesterday?” Bert’s office was still a mess.

“A few. I gave my contact info for replies.”

“Well you have your foot – or your flyer – in the door.”

“Speaking of getting in the door, Dad, there’s an idea floating around that I need to run by you.”

“Go for it.”Chapter 69 And the Dawn

“When I was down delivering the flyers to Mrs. James, she mentioned an idea she’s had for a re-launch of the project. Actually, she said it was the girls who asked for it first – for a different reason – anyway, long story short – sorry, it’s not that complicated, really…”

“Gertie, stop!”

“Right.” She began again. “Mrs. James is suggesting a tea party.”

“Better, thanks.”

“For everyone in the association.”

“Ah, not just committee people. Sounds like her.”

“It’s to try and recruit people to be on the committee as well as collecting recipes and pet stuff. She thinks it would be nicer if it were held in her place and not down in the meeting room. More personal like.”

“And?”

“That’s a lot of people for her place. Think we could host it up here?”

“Why?” Bert disliked parties at the best of times. Too many hours propped up in a stiff suit, bearing in a rented flute an even more disliked, quantity discount grade champagne.

“I know you hate it, Dad, but this was all your idea, remember. More people will come if it’s up here. They’ll be curious. She didn’t ask or anything. I didn’t offer. She thought an open house might thin out any crushes.”

“This is why buildings have meeting rooms, Gertie!” Bert explained, although he realized he had already lost.

“But Dad, it’s where everyone was interviewed by cops. Nobody will come to have tea and make nice in there. We’re trying to get people past all that, aren’t we?”

“Of course. If that’s what it takes, we’ll do it here. Good practice for you, my dear.”

“Thanks, Dad. We’ll close off some of the rooms.”

“Including my office?”

“Okay Dad, I get the hint. But they’ll all be looking out the windows.” They both glanced outside, to ominous skies.

“I’m taking Pocano down before it storms.” With a wary ear and eye out for the advancing weather, Bert did a kind of up and then back down route along both sides of Prospect, thinking he could seek the shelter of the overhangs of various building entryways should he get caught in a downpour. As he returned, still dry, flickers of lightning danced just to the west.

“Oh look,” he overheard as he hurried up the circular drive, “it’s Pocano!” He saw the little twin girls standing with Mrs. James under the canopy, the clutter of bags at their feet blocking the doorway. Palms up, hands outstretched, they eagerly moved toward him. Pocano’s wagging tail conducted their approach. Behind them, a car swung slowly up to the entrance, stopped, and a woman sprang out from the driver’s seat.

Some highrise downtown condos have a circular drive at the front entrance.

Some highrise downtown condos have a circular drive at the front entrance.

“Poppy, Pansy, I’m here!” She called out urgently, before she saw Mrs. James there, too, and relaxed. “Ah. Afternoon, Mrs. James!” The girls were determined not to miss their chance to pet the dog but good manners prevailed. Far easier to get their way around adults if they were models of excellent behavior.

“Oh hi, Aunt Gina.” Poppy greeted her. “We’re just hoping we can pet Gertie’s dog.” She turned to ask Bert. “Is it okay, Gertie’s Dad?” Mrs. James stepped forward to make what she now saw would be required introductions.

“Hello, Gina. Girls, wait a moment, please. Gina, this is Bert Steinhardt, and his dog, Pocano. The girls have made Pocano’s acquaintance before but not Mr. Steinhardt’s. Bert, this is Gina Hayes, and her nieces, Poppy and Pansy Mendel.” Gina and Bert shook hands while Poppy and Pansy shook paws. “Bert’s daughter, Gertie, is the mover and shaker behind our revived, association cookbook efforts. I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots about recipes and dogs this week, Gina.”

“As long as it’s not recipes for pets, eh, Pocano.” Bert remarked to his dog. Pocano ignored him, enjoying the more lavish attention of the girls.

“It’s recipes for people, with stories about their pets. Although,” Mrs. James attempted to clarify, then paused, “perhaps we could include some for dog biscuits.”

“As long as it’s not dogs in recipes, I’m good…” Gina laughed, as the rest of her remark was lost in the shake of overhead thunder and the din of rain on the canopy roof.

“What did you say about hot dogs, Aunt Gina?” Pansy shouted to be heard above the rain. “Are we having those on the grill, for supper?”

“Party’s moving indoors, kids, on account of the storms. Let’s get underway.  Bags in the car.” Bert directed Pocano out of the way of the loading up, and over to the the driver’s side of the car.

“Nice to meet you, Bert. Maybe we can continue this conversation about pet food another time.” Gina smiled – a bolt from blue eyes – smiting Bert. Radiance, careless of substance, outshone the lightning.

“Bye, Pocano. Bye, Mr. Steinhardt, nice to meet you. Bye, Mrs. James,” came the back seat chorus, accompanied by so many waves that for a moment it appeared that the car might fly, not drive, away.

“Thanks, Mrs. James.” Electrified, Bert hummed, “for introducing us.”

“That might’ve taken a bit of working out, on your part.” A rainy gust drove them into the calm of the lobby. “Gina lives with the girls and their mother, Georgia, who’s Greg Mendel’s ex. Gina is Georgia’s sister and is their chauffeur, at least to our building, every week.”

“How do you enjoy taking care of them? Aren’t they quite a handful?”

“Funny how quickly one gets into the routine, how it gets to be old hat.” Mrs. James pushed the elevator button. Used to a wait, they were both surprised when the door opened immediately. Together, they eased into the space.

“So, how soon until they’re back? Do you have time to catch your breath between stints?”

“They’ll be back Friday, after school. It’s fairly regular, though they’re usually here on Sunday night, too. That’s why I was down in the lobby with them so early last Monday, before all the ‘excitement’ took place and I got to spend more time with Pocano than I expected. Gina was coming to pick them up. She always jokes that she comes in as the garbage goes out. Well, here’s my floor. Please tell Gertie I’ll be in touch with her tomorrow, after I’m back from our meeting with the association attorney.”

*   *   *   *   *

“Hans? It’s Ivy James.” She’d recollected that Hans didn’t have a car.

“Evening, Mrs. James. All set for tomorrow?”

“Earnest called to say that he’s going to our meeting straight from his office. Would you like to ride along with me?”

“That’d be great.” Of all people there, he trusted her. But he preferred she not mull, as her eponymously named cat might, over his empty parking space, his unit’s proximity to the garage, and how easily a person could be swept up the stairs from one level to the next. Owners and pets resemble one another, he’d read. “I’ll meet you in the drive. What time?”