Elrod’s apartment at 44 Cherry Street was below Ellie’s apartment, and normally he was undisturbed by any noise above him. Ellie seemed to walk around her apartment in slippers and he could occasionally hear the swish, swish, swish of her soft soles moving across the wood floor. Besides, Elrod drank at least a twelve pack of beer each afternoon and evening, so he generally fell into bed and didn’t wake up until the pounding of his headache told him it was time to get up. The previous night, though, he was awakened by crashing and pounding coming from the apartment above his. He found a broom and used it to hit the ceiling several times while yelling, “Shut up up there, will you? A man’s got to get some sleep. What the hell you doin’ up there anyways?”
He wondered for a passing moment whether Ellie was in trouble up there, but then he reflected on his own troubles and thought, “She can take care of her own damned self…” and went back to bed. He buried his head under some pillows and fell back asleep, snoring loudly.
Elrod’s girlfriend, his favorite of the five he currently kept dangling on a thread, was back in the hospital. He had had a scare when she told him that she thought she was pregnant with Elrod junior, but since October she had had any number of serious operations (he had no idea what they were for), and the pregnancy had been forgotten or terminated, he didn’t know for sure which. It was a relief regardless, as he was too young at fifty-five to be expected to provide for an infant.
Crystal had been extra demanding from her hospital bed, whining and complaining. She had kept Elrod busy getting her the medicine the hospital didn’t stock and cigarettes she would sneak into the bathroom. “What kind of medicine did the hospital not provide?”, Elrod had wondered.
“It starts with Jim and ends with Beam,” she had explained. “You figure it out.”
Elrod had scratched his head and gave it some thought. “Ah ha!” he said, and went to the ABC store, proud of his detective abilities. He brought her the fifths of medicine she required, wrapped as she instructed, in plain brown bags.
The doctors had let Crystal go home for Thanksgiving, but told her to report back on Black Friday. Elrod took Crystal to his sister’s home in Leicester for a late afternoon meal, and then the two of them got some folding chairs and camped out on the line that had already formed outside the Walmart on Bleachery Blvd. Elrod wanted to be among the first inside the door to scoop up bargains. He had his eye on a flat screen tv at rock bottom prices and wanted to snatch it up. Crystal was a bit weak from all the weeks in a hospital bed, but she could still act the linebacker to his quarterback moving through the crowds.
When he returned her to Mission Hospital that afternoon, she had some cuts and bruises that the nurses had to patch up. The doctor scolded Elrod for putting Crystal in harm’s way, but that prissy little bow-tie wearing sissy could kiss his ass.
The next morning after the racket in the apartment above his, Elrod didn’t give Ellie another thought. She could be dead up there for all he knew. Whatever. He swallowed an extra dose of Goodie’s headache powders and slammed some Folger’s to wake up. He planned to visit Crystal in the hospital that afternoon. The nurses had told him that she was not allowed visitors, but by God, they couldn’t stop him from visiting his woman if he was of a mind to do so. Now all he had to do was find his keys and try to remember where he had left his truck.