The melodious strains of Street of Dreams by the Stan Kenton Orchestra wafted out into the hallway. I walked into Uncle Billy's apartment and turned down the volume of iPod docking station.
Billy, sitting at the kitchen table, looked up from his smart phone. "Hey, why'd you do that?"
"All of your neighbors may not be Stan Kenton fans, Uncle."
"A classic like that? With Art Pepper?"
"It's good ... but too loud for you to be playing with your door open."
"I'm just trying to educate the stiffs around here," he said.
"They might appreciate it more if it's not in their face," I said.
Billy leaned back and looked at the clock on the wall over the sink. "Well, it's about time you got here."
"Gee, thanks ... I'm feeling much better," I said.
Billy reddened slightly. "Oh, yeah ... I forgot you were sick last week ... what was it?"
"An inner-ear infection ... at least that's what the doc said it was."
"Bummer ... but at least you're better now, right?"
"Yeah ... more or less ... I'm not at one-hundred percent ... but getting there."
"Well, that's good ... I wasn't sure I could depend on Clara to take me to Manny's this week."
"Is she out of town again?"
"No ... but you never know with her ... she's always peddling books somewhere."
I nodded. "My hat is off to her ... I wish I had her drive."
"Well, at least you can drive me to Manny's."
I shrugged. "Yeah ... I can do that ..."
Billy stood and walked over the docking station. "I wanna hear some decent music on the way."
He disconnected the iPod and grabbed a set of ear buds from the counter.
"Uncle, I can play whatever you want on the car radio."
He disconnected the iPod and grabbed a set of ear buds from the counter. "Maybe ... but I'm not taking chances."
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The quarter ended with the Lions down by eleven. The bar buzzed in nervous anticipation.
"That didn't go so well," said Mary.
Hank shook his head. "That's an understatement ... we looked terrible out there."
Dottie changed the subject. "So, have you heard anything from the newlyweds, Mary?"
"Just a couple of text messages ... they were having a terrific time in Brimley."
"I hope they don't blow all their wedding money at the casino," I said.
Mary laughed. "Well, if Eb was there alone, I'd be worried ... but Becky is pretty level headed ... she'll keep a lid on it."
"Hey," said Hank, "look who finally showed up."
We all turned at looked in the direction he was staring to see Uncle Billy making his way toward the table.
"You missed the whole first quarter, Bill," said Hank.
Billy pulled out a chair and sat down. "I saw it."
"On the shuttle?" I said.
"Yeah ... the guy sitting next to me had it on his iPad. He insisted on sharing the bloody mess with me ... along with a running commentary that was almost as bad the as the Lions defense." He looked around for a glass. "Can a guy get a beer around here?"
Hank flagged the waitress as she walked by. "Nancy, can you bring a glass for Bill?"
She nodded. "Sure thing, Hon."
"So, Clara couldn't come, Uncle?" said Cheryl.
Billy shrugged. "Book business, I guess."
"On a Sunday?" asked Dottie.
"Yeah ... she's doing another one of those signing things in Saginaw this afternoon."
"At Alex Heath's book store?" I asked.
Billy nodded, "Yeah ... she said it'd been scheduled for several weeks."
"Oh, well I'm sure it's just business," said Cheryl.
Nancy walked up an
d placed a glass in front of Billy. "Here ya go, Sweetie."
d placed a glass in front of Billy. "Here ya go, Sweetie."
"Thanks," said Billy. "Now, will someone send that pitcher over here?"
"Ya'll need anything else?" asked Nancy.
"Maybe another pitcher?" said Hank.
"Right away, Hon."
I watched Billy poor beer into his glass. "Your not worried about Clara and Alex, are you Uncle?"
Billy set the pitcher down, picked up his glass and took a long swallow. "Ahhh ... I've been waiting for that all morning." Then he set the glass down. "Why should I be worried?"
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The dance mercifully ended and several small children were rolling on the floor, laughing at the extravaganza of spazmatic movement they had just witnessed.
"Did you know that's called the Chicken Dance?" Cheryl asked Uncle Billy.
Billy nodded. "Of course I did ... I see them do that at the ballpark all the time."
"Yeah, it's a riot," I added.
"But they usually do it better then the folks here did it," said Billy.
"Oh, I don't know," said Clara, "I thought they did a splendid performance."
Billy made a face and was about to say something, but stopped when he heard Spike Jones's version of Cocktails for Two boom from the hall's sound system. He smiled and started tapping his hand on the table. "Now, that's music," he said.
Becky approached the table. Her bare shoulders were glistening with perspiration from participation in the fowl dance. "Okay, Mr. Tysinger ... it's your turn to cut a rug."
Billy recoiled from her slightly. "Oh no ... "
Becky grabbed his hand. "Come on ... Eb said this was your song."
Billy glanced at the wedding party table and saw Eb laughing heartily. "You ... " Billy sputtered.
Becky pulled harder. "Come on ... it'll be fun."
Billy kept resisting. "I can't ... it's ... it's this old war wound."
Becky let go of his hand. "Oh, I'm sorry, Billy, I didn't know you were a wounded veteran."
"You never mentioned that, William," said Clara.
"I never knew you were a purple heart recipient," said Cheryl.
"That's because he's not," I said.
"What do you know?" said Billy. He bent down to pull up his pant leg. "See that?"
Everyone at the table leaned to get a look at a barely visible three inch scar on his calf.
"Uncle, you're not trying to claim that was a combat inflicted wound," I said.
"Of course not," said Billy. "But it did happen in the service ... and during the Korean War."
"Really?" said Clara.
"Yes ... but it happened in Hawaii when you tripped over a barbed wire fence trying to steal pineapples," I said.
"Benny and I were waiting for deployment to Korea and we got bored ... anyway, I spent a week in the hospital."
"In Queens ... in Honolulu, because the base hospital was full of wounded combat vets."
Clara pushed Billy's shoulder. "You get out there and dance with Becky."
Billy slowly stood up and looked around the table. "Okay ... okay ... but if I have a relapse, it'll be all your fault."
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Strains of Pachelbel's Canon were echoing throughout the church when Uncle Billy and Clara appeared in the isle.
I grabbed Cheryl's arm. "Well, look who just arrived."
Cheryl turned to see them. "I thought you said he wasn't coming?"
"I didn't say that ... I said I didn't know if he was coming ... he didn't want me to pick him up, so I just assumed he wasn't coming ... it never dawned on me that Clara could drive them."
Cheryl waved so they could see us. "Doesn't she look beautiful?"
I nodded. "She does ... and Uncle looks pretty regal in that double-breasted suit."
Clara waved back and they started moving toward us.
"When did he get that?" asked Cheryl.
"I have no idea ... he didn't ask me to take him shopping."
They approached the pew and Cheryl stood to hug Clara. "Clara, you look absolutely stunning."
Clara blushed. "Thank you dear ... so sorry we're late."
Cheryl gave Billy a hug and a peck on the cheek. "You look handsome, Uncle."
I couldn't tell, but I swear Billy blushed too. He looked at his shoes and said, "Thanks."
I stood so they could slip by to the seats next to us. As Clara passed I gave her a hug. "Cheryl's right ... you'll steal the thunder from the bride."
Clara blushed some more. "I hardly think that."
As Billy passed I grabbed his hand. "You sly old dog ... you brought the belle to the ball."
Billy shook my hand. "She didn't have anything else to do today."
"If that's your story ..."
"It is." He continued on past Clara and sat next her.
Cheryl squeezed past me so she could sit next to Clara.
I sat down and leaned toward them so I could hear their conversation.
"I'm so happy you came," said Cheryl.
"Me too," said Clara. "I always enjoy being around William's friends and family."
"When did he ask you to come?"
Clara shot a glance at Billy, who was staring at his smart phone. She looked back at Cheryl. "It was several weeks ago ... I told him I'd be happy to come."
A woman sitting behind Billy cleared her throat and said loudly to the man sitting next to her. "Don't you think it's rude when people use their electronic devices at social functions?"
Cheryl leaned over Clara. "I think she's talking about you, Uncle."
Billy looked at Cheryl and then turned to the woman behind him. "Madam, I'm a heart surgeon, and I just got word that replacement donor for one of my patients has died ... I was making arrangements for operation."
The woman gasped briefly. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Doctor ... I wasn't talking about you."
Clara put her hand on Billy's arm and whispered. "Maybe you should turn that off, William."