With the arrival of Elrod, life at 44 Cherry Street became a circus. Lorraine could hear his phone ringing at all hours with the loud ringtone: “Dixie.” Way down south in the land of cotton… Elrod was a smoker, too, and the smell of stale tobacco smoke started to permeate the building. Lorraine wondered if there were some way to stop him from smoking in his apartment. It was a fire hazard, after all. She decided to speak with him about it.
After she had had her morning coffee with Frederick, she dressed in her customary Eileen Fisher expensive/casual uniform: black slacks, white shirt, lots of attitude. She left Suki in the apartment with Frederick and went downstairs. Through the closed door she could hear the throb of country music. A male voice was crooning, “I got friends in low places….”
“I certainly do,” Lorraine muttered to herself. She knocked several times before Elrod could hear her over the loud music. He pulled the door open and greeted her enthusiastically, “How-dee-do, Little Lady!”
He had obviously just come from the shower, as his red hair was damp and combed back, but still was bordering on out of control. Even though he was ostensibly not angry at anyone, his long face was bright red. His grin revealed about three teeth, brown, scattered around his mouth. “Come right on in!” he crowed.
Lorraine stepped into his small apartment hesitantly. Where the previous resident, Salty, had warehoused large pieces of wood-working machinery,, which he never used, Elrod had piles of cardboard boxes and a large Lazy Boy recliner, a rickety metal table and a couple of wooden chairs in the living room. “I’d ask you to have a seat, but I ain’t got but one, and it’s covered with my stuff just yet.”
Just then Elrod’s phone sounded with a loud jangle.”’Scuse me!” he told Lorraine. “This here’s Elrod Redd,” he spoke into the cell phone. “Well, hello there, Sweet thang! How ya doin this fine mornin?”
He paused, listening, and Lorraine could hear the loud voice of a female all the way across the room. “I know, Sweet Cheeks. I know you need beer and cigarettes, but I’m fixin’ to head out to the job. I can’t be running out to Leicester to bring you some things you need right now no matter how much you need them.”
Lorraine heard angry protestations on the part of the caller. “I know, I know,” crooned Elrod. “How’s about I come by tonight after work. I need to tune up my ridin’ mower this evenin’ regardless, the one I left with you for safe-keeping.Then we can do some sweet lovin’”
Loud angry response. “Now don’t you be getting all upset. I’ll try to run out there at lunch, okay? How’s some afternoon delight sound to you? uh-huh? Bah-bah.”
He clicked off the phone and as soon as he did, another call came through. “Yeah?” he spoke, rolling his eyes at Lorraine, shrugging and mouthing, “Sorry!” “Well hello there, Baby! How you been? Hey, can I call you back? I got a good-looking female here and I gotta go.”
Once again Lorraine heard angry screeching coming from the phone. “No, no, Baby! You got nothin’ to worry about. She’s old. She’s no where near as pretty as you!” He hung up, and turned to Lorraine, who had crossed her arms in front of her and was glaring at Elrod.
“Sorry about that ma’am, but these women won’t leave me alone.” Elrod chuckled to himself.
“How many women are you involved with, if I may ask?” asked Lorraine with astonishment. She was so offended that he called her old, so she couldn’t keep the snappishness from her voice.
Elrod didn’t seem to notice her tone. “Right now there’s three. I got the one in Leicester, one in Marshall, and one who works at the convenience store on Broadway Street here in Black Mountain. I got to be careful, because if they ever find out about the others, they’ll be a fight such as you never seen. They’ll be scratchin’ and yowlin’! It’s hard on a man to spread hisself this thin. I swannie it’s exhaustin’”
Lorraine thought for a minute about the long years she had spent single. She remembered the few awful men who had responded to her Match profile and the miserable dates she had had with them. And here was this horrific man with women swarming around him. Was it that there were more women than men in the world? It just wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all.