Calling people is weird. So glad we text stuff now. Talking in real time gives me the willies. I feel like I should have flash cards or a TiVo remote in case I don’t know what to do. But some people are pros at it.
In 2007 I was living in Newport with Watson, Chef, and Sunshine. Our water heater and electrical system had busted and it was one of those beach town winters where you realize no one insulates anything because “it’s California!” but they forget a 50 degree night + wind has the potential to kill everyone.
Sunshine tried to burn plants in order to keep everyone warm. I lit candles for Catholic saints. Watson cuddled with the television. Chef paced back and forth to keep his body temp up. The effects of all were middling.
Chef snapped first. He started screaming about inequities, American rights, and common decency. He was so worked up he picked up a phone at 11pm and called our landlord.
Now that actually might sound like the rational thing to do, but it’s absolutely not.
As four 21 year old males, it was our goal to keep as far away from the landlord as possible, telephone or otherwise. In fact, we’d only seen and talked to him once — briefly — when we viewed the apartment, and he’d done nothing but use a lot of swear words while talking about prevoius tenants and their wanton use of “wires”.
Landlord Jack, to us, was the scary man at the end of the bar.
Don’t look him in the eyes.
The phone rang twice before Chef remembered this and hung up.
But we wouldn’t let him off that easy. All of us wanted to see Chef do what none of us could. And all of us wanted the heat/electricity turned on. So we goaded Chef to call backâ€¦ on speakerphone.
It rang, rang, rangâ€¦ and thank God it went to voicemail.
Now the outgoing message on the landlord’s machine was where things got strange. It was longwinded, stilted in punctuation, and my transcript of it is somewhat shoddy due to the fact that I wrote it on paper with only the light of Catholic saints. Butâ€¦ God’s honest truthâ€¦ Landlord Jack’s answering machine went like this:
“We’re unable to pick up the phone right now,
But if you’re calling for Lloyd,
It is our deepest regret to inform you
that he passed away
This last Thursday
After his long battle with leukemia.
He will be buried
At Eternal Meadows
On Sepulveda and Beach
At 1pm Sunday.
You may leave a message here
with your fondest memories
Thank you so much for your concern
He was the best cat
We’ve ever known.”
Now, you’ve got to imagine that the entire time the phone was ringing, and even while the answering machine clicked on, Chef was rehearsing what sort of message he could leave.
So at what point do you think his plan faded away / shattered into a million pieces? Lloyd? Passed away? Luekemia? Fondest memories? Cat?
And the implicationsâ€¦
- Who else had called, specifically or incidentally, for Lloyd?
- What type of phone calls did Lloyd field when he was still alive?
- Where did he find the time? (especially towards the end, in between treatments)
- Can anyone ever truly “know” a cat?
Time’s up. What’s your message?
I don’t know either.
Chef held his hand over the phone and stared at us with bulged out eyes. It was either terror or insanity. Our laughter died down.
Channeled by some unseen force, Chef began to leave his message:
YOU DIRTY SON OF A BITCH
I KNOW YOU’RE NOT DEAD
I KNOW OK?
GIVE ME MY $50
THIS IS EDWARD
FROM THE [spearmint] RHINO
And that was it. Next day, swear to candles, our water heater and electricity were fixed.