It was a desperate message, punctuated by a quick, two-toned whistle, finger to the head. I played back the recording:
"It's Cathy - my girl - she's..." and that whistling. His finger pointed to his head and then made a circular motion as he sat in front of my oak desk. "Christ, Paulo, it's barely 9 o'clock" too early for this. My eyes moved past Paulo's placebotic smile. Outside, a light drizzle against the window.
When I ran to Mr. Meary's market to find out what time the banks close. I was a tap, a trivet. And only twenty minutes, so I ran. The Arctic would be a place to visit and agitated that the Admiral had missed our rendezvous. I had run short. Tomorrow I will leave this dilapidated corner of nothing, this lopsided face.
"I tried to call her," he finally put his finger down. "That was a year ago yesterday. He told me to call her..." He was his brother, a palm reader by profession. "I hear she's changed her name."
I asked the teller for twenty dollars in pennies and pushed them into my purse. I refused to divulge my purpose. I left (via the parking attendant who either notices me).
"Ben," I said through the intercom to my secretary. "I want the parking lot attendant...ummm...20th and Frapp, afternoon shift, last Thursday." I opened the long drawer of my desk and searched for the letter opener."The Mssrs. D. Damond and V. Brenski request your presence at the annual foundation dinner. 8pm. RSVP. Matthews Court, East. Tuesday, March 17."
A note was scribbled at the bottom: "I'd love to see you. Clare." "Cathy..." I thought. "Ben, how's this Tuesday night?" I said.
"Sorry Mr. Whidbee, I've got a date with Cassie," Ben said.
"I don't know her last name..."
Oh God! "Am I free, not you!"
"She's the sister of Adrian Bond...ummm...Yes!..."
"Nevermind that!" I said, quickly sitting straight up. "Get in here! Who is Cassie Bond?!"
Back home the door was ajar, but nothing was disturbed except the utensil drawer, where I found an ecliptic note from the Admiral.
"'I will find her' I said to him - he. That was a year ago tomorrow. I called her. She - her - answered that I was Irish-Catholic and put me - I - on hold. 'Don't grow up,' I heard her say quickly, 'you'll be there and I don't know.' She - her = put me - I - on hold again."
I placed the 2,000 pennies on the table, a wood-grain laminee east at this moment in the mysterious lights of sunset and the orange glow of my electric heater. I read the note:a tongue of heretics and exiles a tattered dress a verdure chest with torn scraps of paper Mist. An hourglass. -A.
"She - her - said 'I'll be calm just for you - I.' She - her - was looking for one of her lovers, a man known only to me - I - as 'A.'..."
Sitting at the table, she could hear voices from the street. "he had a nervous breakdown;" "His wife died and he got into his car one morning and said I'm going home' driving at night on his own he missed a basket or something." "did they find hem?" "Lost sense of knowing whether she could get out or not." "Poor kid." "That's A.," she said "or the tea kettle whistle. God, someone will find me" "or" "A. will be gone for good." And someone watched over her shoulder. She shuddered. "To think that only two of us arrived and one left." It had begun to sour. Somewhere down the street, a car started. Then another. "I've got to get out of here..." She emptied the pennies onto the table.
To me it was just another broad - run off - but this guy was pathetic! Jumping around like he had been drinking coffee all day. Last week it was a downstairs neighbor - just did crack that one - and now Cathy Bond.
A small breeze set the pile of pennies (which I had constructed as I read the note and carefully examined the table and play of light on it) toppling to my carpeted floor. "Tomorrow, I will know what this means." "That" I added aloud "I will make this yesterday." The twelve-person carpet preservation team would be in the next day and I want to be at least ten miles away (the children outside started talking: "He was the only guy I ever lived with" - Daphne, age 10; "She's a mighty fine chick - I'll bet she's radical in bed" - George, age 12;).
"I think he said her name was Cassie or Cathy..." His mouth twitched slightly as I let go of his shirt.
"What did he say - exactly?" I asked, pulling out a cigarette. "'I saw this woman at the bust stop'..." he started, like a tape recorder. "'...she said 'sure' and stood in front of me...I said hello, she said hello and I asked her if she would like to talk...she was so beautiful...I was sitting on a bench...she looked straight into my eyes, her face was right in front of mine...she put her right hand on my right shoulder and then knelt on my legs, squatting...she had black eyes, I swear!'..."
"Not at the bus stop! The parking lot!!"
"What parking lot?"
I pulled out my note pad and found the address. "20th and Frapp. You're the parking lot attendant...ummm...Adrian "Ace" Bond." I looked up from my notes.
"I'm Ace Bond, but I don't work as a parking lot attendant. I thought you were after my sister's ex-boyfriend who's trying to kill her."
"Didn't I just find her?" I asked, flipping back through my notes.
"Yes. It was last week. She was living in a room below your office."
"Goddman Ben! He forgot to put my notes in the inactive file."
"She's not there anymore," Ace blurted.
"Who?" I asked.
"No. Cathy, my sister. She's gone again."
"She bought 1,112 orange jellybeans, 16 black, 14 red, 87 white, 649 green and 123 yellow - no, she only bought 1,111 orange" - Aglaya, age 33.
"Something about them started to crumble" - Benny, age 36; "You're free on Tuesday."
She was ten feet away from the window, facing him. She was so close to the glass that from ten feet awayhe was afraid to walk to the window he was afraid to touch the glass
He placed her on the stage, the curtain gaping about her still body. She was so close her breath left a silent white mist on his nose and mouth. They spoke.
"She - her - held the phone receiver away from her body. I was sitting next to her and I could hear me - I - talking on the other end but could not make out what I was saying..."
My curtains remain still. I had turned on the teapot a few minutes before certain words evaporated.
"Benjamin! Will you answer the goddamn door!"
Ben appeared from behind his office door. "It's the tv, Mr. Whidbee."
"Well, turn it down!...Oh, get me that note from the files."She wants to know how and what you are doing. I see the choice is clear the oblige in me. -C.
"Come in, Mr. Bond..." Ben turned down the volume knob on the television and looked through the A-D file drawer. "...Neither of us are as young as we would like, are we Katrina?...you're a pig...ha, ha, my dear, very clever...very clever...I wish you were going to be alive to use such cleverness...What are you?...yes, you'd be a natural on "The Hollywood Squares," ha, ha...here, hold the phone like this...what is that needle for?...Oh, come now my Katrina, surely you've guessed...the books, the missing money...surely you were going to the authorities or that two-bit private investigator, that boyfriend of yours..."
Ben turned the television off and hurried into Whidbee's office.
"Pardon me" I to the grocer, "but my mind is never on sex and this worries me" two hours earlier.
"About every thirty seconds she - her - would bring the phone to her mouth and mumble 'mmmhmmm' after which she - her - would hold the phone out."
A slaughter house is two blocks down the street. From her window she could occasionally hear the pigs squeal and the man said "nice weather, eh?" even when it rained. She thought it was a joke, but thought that perhaps the man who prodded the pigs from the back of the truck with the iron pipe might like to get to know here better. She walked by him every day and did not know his name.
"I can't get it up," he tried to console me. "I have to rearrange, but maybe tomorrow (he)" (two days ago, I to myself).
"Good points" the grocer to I "Though doesn't this beg the whole question of Hegel's dialectic? I wonder..." She bagged my jellybeans and then paused, thinking. I put my hand on the bag. "Thanks," I.
She stood at the curtain. The voices from the street once again floated in like tiny icebergs. They tinkled against the glass. They tinkled past her face. "Let me help" he said, he said, he said.
"Oh," she, releasing the bag. She looked at me and then at the line of five or six people. "I'd better get to the end of the line," she.
"Thank you," I.
"It is now now," she laughed "and you are teasing me again!" She must speak to him about that. "Clare...What's this all about?"
"Uncle Joey called me and told me that Daddy was in Mexico getting married to Cathy." It took three hours to track down the Admiral's daughter - PS 94 K4. She was in the middle of a sandbox full of kids and reluctant to talk. The punk from the bus stop couldn't have given me a harder time.
"Cathy who?" I prodded.
"I don't know," she said.
I picked up a plastic shovel and moved some sand with it. "You don't know her name?"
"Cathy," she said picking up sand in a cellophane cup and pouring it over a pile of sand she was building. "This is my house."
"Oh," I said. "Can I help?"
She looked at me for the first time. "You can put sand on it."
I started pouring sand on the growing pile.
"Annie, do you know where your father is?"
"My house is going to be in Alaska and I'm gonna have three dogs and a baby seal..."
I started molding the pile.
"...and a tv - hey! don't touch my sand!"
One day I will buy the chest for many pennies. I too will fill it full of keys and - stamps. And never mind the casual gestures for it's all today, I.