It is not only great literature that lines my shelves and helps usher me into fitful sleep.
I also read some crime fiction.
My light reading tends towards my day job in the world of murder and mayhem.
In Lawrence Block’s A Drop of the Hard Stuff, the formerly hard-drinking ex-cop protagonist dials a telephone number and hears a murder victim’s recording: “I listened to a dead man’s voice. I hung up, wondering how long it would be before someone unplugged the machine, how long before the telephone company cut off the phone service.”
He muses: “You don’t die all at once. Not anymore. These days you die a little at a time.”
Earlier in the day I read this passage, I had received yet another one of Those Letters.
I was informed that my request for an address change for my own rapidly dwindling bank account could not be honored because the institution required the signatures of “all account holders.”
Emphatically, I am the lone account holder.
Alas, this is neither a novel status nor bureaucratic request, nor even close to a fresh encounter with the same financial institution.
So I called the “customer service” (irony intended) number, endured the extended musical intervals (note to institutional consultants: peppy hold music for your estate departments is not likely to disembeast your callers), and eventually used my cross-examination skills to secure an affirmative answer to the question, “So what you’re demanding once again is that I produce my dead husband’s signature on this form you just sent?”
It’s difficult how to describe how many ways the institutional representatives tried to evade acknowledging that’s exactly what they had demanded.
Computer networks ask me if I want to click on a link and re-establish contact with Jim.
Oh, how I wish it were that easy.
I could not erase his voice from the home answering machine; I did, however, have to disconnect the telephone line. And I kept the old machinery, from which to extract his voice.
Jim’s voice remains on at least one child’s cell phone–characteristically, with a pun. Sometimes I call it just to hear him.
Although I placed all the children’s telephone lines in my name many months ago, the corporate overlords evidently do not change the caller ID when the account holder changes. I am stricken every time the eerie electronic voice announces a call from my husband.
Another network sends him emails urging him to resume issuing 140-character updates, as they have not heard from him in awhile.
That is not the way he keeps in touch.
Amazingly, I found that he somehow has been registered to vote at our brand new address, which he has never occupied in corporeal form.
“Say hi to Jim,” says someone I encounter on the street, who has not seen us for some years.
It’s enough to drive one to sample a drop of the hard stuff.
7 thoughts on ““A Drop of the Hard Stuff””
‘Tis true but how about soup with me instead. It’s the time of year the establishment which cannot be named has your favorite soup in stock…
Perhaps they will adapt their recipe and include a drop of the hard cider? 🙂
This is a classless covert crime where Big Bureaucracy is the guilty party. The defendant has power behind him which comes with the best corporate lawyers our money can buy. Question: certainly someone has brought this issue before a judge in some courtroom somewhere? Sounds like a class action suit to me!
My mother kept her husband’s loving voice message on her phone until she finally had to move out of their home a couple of years before she at last joined him. I have kept my mother’s Mother’s Day message on my home phone and her last message – Happy Thanksgiving, Darling, on my cell.
Her voice comforts me even with the evidence of the Alzheimer’s that glued her brain cells together with some plasmic spasmic stuff that scares the crap out of me.
Oh, how I wish I had kept Gene McDaniels’ voice. I find it odd that in 30 years and at least 2 messages (conservatively) left daily for me, I do not have one message saved. His wife, Karen, has kept his phone message and number so that we can all call and hear his glorious silky tones greeting us as if he is still among us (207 498 9966 I think :). I believe he has come back for a bit in the form of a Great Blue Heron, but that would be for another comment.
A drop of the hard stuff is not an option for me, for like that cop, I am a formerly hard drinker – bar room chanteuse for 35 years. I know that if I were in your situation there would be nights I would need to bury myself in a project or a great book or an old black and white movie or one of those Great British Classic with 46 episodes on Netflix.
If it is any consolation to you, 2 things I believe with all my heart and soul and spirit to be true are:
1. Jim exists in the/our conscious mind in anoher form, the purest form of love, and you have felt him brush quickly by you and heard him whisper in the soft winds and in the rising tones of a symphony and in the full moon light when you can see everything around you as if it were early twilight and in your children’s laughter and their tears and in the quiet part of your mind when all is still except for one continuing wordless lullaby that runs like a current through the millions of thoughts that you have day to day and in the voice messages he has saved for you.
2. I am here for you any time day or night when you need a hand to hold, or a moment just to sit in the quiet darkness with no conversation, or a walk on the beach at sunset or sunrise or both, a coffee chat on the phone, or anything you like. I promise to wear my divinely deep pink beaded coat and you can don your favorite garment for the occasion. Note: socks are not required to match and shoes are optional.
I love you,
I can’t say that I understand what you’re feeling. I can only acknowledge it and pray for you…
Where were you visiting in Boston to get that picture? — grrrreat pic of the “hard stuff.” Susan, Carri, and Victor are three of many of your wonderful supportive friends! Bless all of them. Love A&P