“I can’t believe Charlie’s dead,” she wailed.
Joe put the phone down next to the refrigerator. The sobs continued over the speaker as he rummaged for a beer. If he’d known what to say, she wouldn’t have heard over all that snuffling anyway. There was an especially loud slurp of mucous and Ann started talking again.
“I mean, I yelled at him and slammed the door on my way out. I went to work and bitched to Susan about always having to clean up after him…”
As she dissolved into another burst of waterworks, Joe pulled his last Fatty Ale from behind the milk, where he’d hidden it from his roommate. Shoot. She wasn’t making any noise. He had to say something, but what? He’d never lost anyone close to him.
“Yeah,” he grunted.
It was enough.
“Then I came home and there he was, stiff and cold.”
If Ann went after a ball the way she did conversation, she’d be unbeatable. She kept on talking, not crying anymore, but still making those liquid noises between sentences.
“He was always there for me, you know?”
He nodded as he waited for his email to load, then realized audio was required.
“He was awesome,” Joe managed to say.
It was the kind of comment he figured people would make at a funeral, even if they hadn’t liked the deceased. He certainly hadn’t liked Charlie. Joe had been taking it slow, starting by establishing a solid friendship with Ann. Then, the day he was finally ready to ask her out on a real date, he dropped by her apartment and there was Charlie.
“You know, I fell in love with him at first sight,” Ann was saying.
No kidding. Charlie moved in and became the center of her life. He went everywhere with her, except work. Sometimes Joe could get her to have lunch with him if she didn’t have enough time to go home, but all she talked about was Charlie. Most of it had been negative.
“You could get rid of him,” Joe had suggested. “It’s not like you’re married.”
She’d chewed him out for that comment. She insisted she loved Charlie and lectured Joe, saying he had no understanding of commitment.
“It was awful,” she was saying now, sad but no longer soggy. “Coming home and finding him with that cord wrapped around his neck like that… and the last thing I did was yell at him.”
“You think he committed suicide because you yelled at him?” Joe choked out.
“Quit!” she snapped. “Don’t be mean.”
He took the phone off speaker, then took a deep breath and held it to stifle the laughter threatening to explode. He put the phone up by his ear, but away from his mouth.
“They said he probably died right after I left the apartment this morning,” she was saying.
“Who said?” he managed to ask by releasing a tiny bit of the air that threatened to pop his chest like an over-full balloon.
“The EMTs,” she replied defensively. “They were very understanding and kind.”
Hysterical laughter burst forth, shaking his entire body as his diaphragm contracted uncontrollably. She started crying again, but he couldn’t stop laughing. Tears poured down his face.
When he finally caught his breath, he asked in disbelief, “You called 911?”
For once she was silent.
“You did! You really did!”
He didn’t even try to stop the laughter anymore.
“And were they cool with being called for a doggie suicide?”
The call ended.
She might never speak to him again.
Oh well, imagine what she’d be like with kids.
Impressions is a series of character studies – short sketches to wet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about Joe, Ann, or Charlie, leave a comment.