By Michael G. Glab
— Forty-two —
The phone rings. It’s 6:30 in the morning. No call at this time of day can ever bring good news. Anna picks it up. The voice on the other end asks for Anthony.
“Alright,” she says. “I’ll get him.” Barefoot, she shuffles along the deep pile upstairs carpeting to the edge of the staircase. She half whispers-half hollers down, “Anthony! Anthony! Phone!”
Nothing. She mutters, “If this wakes the baby, I’m gonna brain him.” She goes down three steps, again whisper-hollering, “Anthony, phone!”
She must repeat this process three times, making it all the way down to the first floor front entrance where she can actually see Anthony, sprawled on the sofa that for so long had been her sole perch. His mouth is wide open. His eyes — as they always are when he’s asleep — are eerily half open. “Anthony!” she says, this time aloud.
“Phone! And don’t wake Chet!”
“Who is it?”
“I have no idea.”
“Just take a message.”
“I most certainly will not. I am not your secretary.”
“Alright, alright. Just tell’im to call back later. You can do that, can’t you.”
“Jesus Christ,” she says and tiptoes up the stairs. But the guy on the other end won’t go away. “It’s urgent,” he says. So Anna trudges back downstairs and proceeds to logroll Anthony off the sofa. He hits the floor with a muffled thud.
“What the hell?” he says.
“C’mon, get up. It’s important.”
Anthony scales the stairs to the second floor as if he’s walking up to the top of the John Hancock Center. He makes sure his voice sounds as groggy as possible so as to impress upon the idiot caller his utter exhaustion. But the caller is no idiot. It’s one of Anthony’s contacts from the People’s Law Office, Barry Paulsen. Anthony snaps alert hearing the tone of Barry’s voice.
He speaks clearly into the receiver. “Barry, man. What’s wrong?”
Barry says: “The Chairman is dead.”
Now Anna leans against the bathroom door and watches Anthony brush his teeth. “Where you going?” she asks.
Anthony continues brushing, then takes a huge gulp of water to gargle with. Anna grimaces as she sees gargle mist flick over the medicine chest mirror. “I said, ‘Where are you going?’”
Anthony wipes his face with the hand towel and finally responds. “They’re picking me up in twenty five minutes.”
“Who’s picking you up? Why? Where are you going? Anthony, you promised to stay home today. Damn it, we have things to talk about.”
“Anna look, this is important.”
“Hey, I’m important too. We have to talk. This involves you.”
“I haven’t got time!” Anthony says pushing past her.
Anna follows him as he grabs a clean shirt and buttons it up. “Make time,” she says.
Anthony wheels around to face her. “Anna!” he says. “Stop being a child!”
The word child cuts like a knife in the belly. Anna is about to unleash a torrent of verbal abuse upon her nominal husband when he cuts her off.
“Anna, listen to me,” he says, calmly and slowly, as if he’s addressing a brat. “The Pigs just murdered Chairman Fred.”
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah. So whatever you have to say can wait.”
Anna remains silent for a moment. Anthony descends the stairs, takes his Army surplus parka off the hook near the front door, slips into it and zips it up. Anna leans over the railing and again speaks in that half whisper-half holler. “Actually,” she says, “it can’t wait.”
“Anna!” Anthony hollers. “Stop being such an infant!” The word infant is a punch to her gut. Anthony slams the door behind him.
The tips of Anna’s ears become scarlet. She hears a car door slam. The car drives off. She is — as usual — alone. She screams, “You arrogant son of a bitch!”
And now — now! — baby Chet wakes up. Anna mutters, “I’ll brain ‘im. Swear to God in heaven. I’ll brain him.”
To be continued
All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.