Chi-Town Blues

by D. J. Herda

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A cockroach poked its head anxiously out from beneath a bureau across the room.  Several times it peeked out, paused, sniffed the air like a golden retriever getting a fix, then scurried back to safety.

"Yes, Mrs. Martinowicz," I said.  "I mean, no."  The insect was proving to be welcomed diversion to the endless harangue falling from the woman's ancient lips.  For hours, she droned on, pausing only long enough to ask a brief question, never long enough to hear an answer.  She'd enjoyed a happy childhood in Poland, selling flowers to the peasantry in her grandmother's shop.  She moved to America, met and married her husband, lost him only a year ago.  A yellow tear formed in the corner of one eye, beading up to enormous proportions, then scaling its way slowly down a complexion so parched and crinkled, you could have read the Preamble in it.

"You know, excuse me, Mr. Joseph, sir, such a beautiful, such an elegant name as that ... excuse me for saying the trouble with this America people is all this, this ... fooling around that so many people ... and the women ... do. 


It's a sin, excuse me, how these old hags who could scare the Frankenstein how they smear all this makeup stuff all over their faces and they put on these short dresses, these skirts, and it's a sin how they chase after some men, now, isn't it?  But, you know, Mr. Joseph, sir, I feel sorry for them, because they're all empty people inside ... with this sexy business and all.  And I can't stand empty people.  I can't stand people who don't use the brains the good God gave them.  Excuse me for saying it, Mr. Joseph, sir, darling, but I just can't stand no empty people.


"Mrs. Martinowicz ..."  I pulled my legs under me and boosted myself from the chair.  "I'll take it."


Mrs. Martinowicz patted the ball of yellow hair tacked to the back of her head.  "Then you don't want it, no?"


"No.  I mean, yes, I want it.  I'll take the apartment."


"Oh, my God, can you believe it?  Such an elegant young gentleman like yourself, to want such an old apartment like this.  That is a gift from the God.  Believe me, sir, a gift from the God."


"I have to go now, Mrs. Martinowicz.  I'm on my lunch hour from the bank.  I don't have many things to move in here in the way of furniture and all.  Mostly clothes.  A few boxes.  I could do it in a day, easy.  Maybe this Saturday, if that works out with you."


I watched very carefully the way Mrs. Martinowicz signed her name, "Mrs. Josephine Martinowicz," on the receipt, which she folded twice and handed to me.  I'd had some training in handwriting analysis and found it fascinating, analyzing people's natures and then comparing that to what their handwriting revealed.  It was more than a pastime with me.  It was a vice.

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