“Doris!” Duke said.
It took a while before she said, “Again?”
Doris wore her blue terry robe and fuzzy pink slippers.
“You could put down the bat,” I said.
She gave me a look.
“Why don’t we go sit down?”
Doris is a deep sleeper. She doesn’t wake easily or happily. It takes a while to get through to her. Her hair was a mess. Her eyes were puffed up, half open.
She turned without saying another word. We followed her to the kitchen.
We’ve got a marble island there that’s the size of an Eastern seaboard state. Delaware. Rhode Island. Spot lights shine down on it. Dramatic. Especially in contrast to the cherry cabinets. There’s a wine refrigerator below, a trash masher, other appliances with inscrutable functions.
I settled on a stool beside Doris. Duke sat across from us.
The light wasn’t doing him any favors. Duke looked like he had been rolling in volcanic dust. Part of his ear appeared to be falling off.
“Last time,” said Doris. “I thought you were dead. Dead dead. Down by the river.” He had slumped into the sand, wordless for once in his life, then those kids in their hoodies had carried him off.
We figured that judgment was at hand.
“Isn’t anything ever over?” Doris asked.
“Who knows?” said Duke. “Be here now is what I say. I’m making the best of it.”
“You always did,” Doris replied.
“No point in dwelling on the — what’s the word here? — unfortunate? The unfortunate aspects of the past. We had some good times. Look around. Things worked out.”
“You woke me up so I could say thank you?”
“I didn’t plan on waking you up. I was on my way back to the portal.”
“I told you about this,” I said. “Summit Avenue, it’s like Swiss cheese. We got one, the neighbors got one.”
“It’s a solid steel door,” Duke added. “Locked, chained, barred. It’s not like you got the welcome mat out.”
The silence went on several beats too long.
“It bothers me, baby. That suspicious look,” I said.
Doris set the baseball bat on the counter.
“I gave you my opinion. He knock-knocks, you say, Nobody home. Why won’t you listen to me, Charles?”
Tomorrow: Your business in my business