My phone doesn’t ring very often, and usually when I answer — if I feel like extracting my buttocks from the couch — it’s the school leaving an automated message about some upcoming event.
I do have enough courtesy not to hang up immediately, just in case they throw a punchline in at the end about The Kid failing sixth grade or something.
So about three weeks ago, I’m rolling on the floor laughing at yet another of Judge Judy’s great one-liners when the phone rings.
I hit the mute button and drag my heffalump self upright to go into the kitchen.
“Hello?” I say, half anticipating the tinny sound of automated message I’m sure to hear.
There is a brief pause and I hear an exhale of breath on the other end.
“Hey ... whassup...?” the other end asks of me.
Oh. My. Lord.
It’s the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Lazarus awakens from the dead. Again.
Drunk Unk ... rising like a phoenix from the ashes.
I had to take a moment for my brain to catch up.
“Well! Where have you been?” I ask, reaching behind me for the computer chair, before I fall down from shock.
“Awwww ... ah bin livin’ outchere in Loodawissi. Livin’ wid sum freeens...”
“Really? Who do you know that’s willing to put up with you?”
He sorta chortled, taking another long pull off his cig.
That’s the first indication that he has a bit of change in his pocket, ’cause he’s smokin’.
He coughed into the phone as he explained who this lovely couple is who have taken him in and are giving him shelter.
The wife is using him as a buffer so she doesn’t have to listen to her husband complain about life all the time.
The husband is using him as a sounding board and an extra pair of hands when work comes up.
Not much work going on of late, apparently.
I didn’t ask how he got my number, I figured it was my aunt. She probably thought, “Maybe if I give him Ellie’s numbah, he won’t call me again.”
He’ll call anytime. Day or night. Doesn’t matter to him because he usually has no conception of time.
Anyway, he hadn’t been drinking, which is unusual because that’s how he normally bolsters himself before picking up the phone.
However, when work is scarce, you have to choose your vices carefully.
His vice of choice, obviously — smokes.
And the couple doesn’t drink. Much.
“They might have a beer or two on a Sunday...” he mused.
I’m sure that’s all that’s left after he’s had his take.
I asked him if they had a computer.
“Yeah, they got one, but ah ain’t about t’use it. That thang is the devil!”
“Is that because you think the only thing you can do with a computer is look up porn?”
“Naw, girl ... there’s a lotta stuff on the Internet ... it ain’t right...”.
The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken.
“Do you realize how much fun you can have if you learn how to use it properly? You can visit with your son on Facebook, you can get an e-mail address ... you can do all the medical research you want online. You can do a lot of smart things if you want to. Or you can do stupid things like a lot of people do.”
“Facebook. Don’t ah gotta have an account er sumpin’?”
Yes, but it’s free. For now. You can make up all kinds of stuff to sign up. But if you want people to find you, use your given name: Glamour Boy or Magnum.”
I asked if he was giving any money to the couple for rent.
“Yeah, when ah git ma check from social services. They even gimme a phone. Don’t wirk none but ah gots ma own ones too.”
The man on a bicycle has two cell phones.
He said he even knows how to text.
Lord help us.
Can’t you see him riding down the rode on his beat up Schwinn, texting on one phone and talking to his stockbroker on the other?
I knew what the reason was behind his call without him even going there.
His birthday. Just around the corner.
I asked what the address was to his half-way house.
I got that and several phone numbers.
Just in case Ed McMahon came a-lookin’ fer’im.
I hung up the phone and realized one important fact.
I need caller ID.