Bad Counsel: part three (short story)
“Is that man dead?” Karen asks.
And that’s the thing. Andrée couldn’t even relate this story to Buel.
So your mother asked, “Is that man dead?”
But…because I was laughing. Because she comes in and talks about the things I’m doing as if I was part of some alien culture. She doesn’t understand. She’s interested, but baffled.
“I just turned on the TV,” Andrée says.
They are both distracted by voices outside the picture window.
“Get out of here.” This is Melody. What’s she talking about? The expression is Leo’s.
“What?” he says. “You can walk faster than two miles an hour.”
Andrée thinks maybe it is Leo. This is Leo’s argument…that you don’t need a car to live out here, that you’ve got the bus coming to the supermarket, over at the shopping center. And the shopping center’s only another mile from the foot of the road, where the highway crosses. If Andrée had a real job, she’d take that walk twice a day.
By Leo’s calculation, it would cost her thirty minutes at the most.
Leo was her Grandpa. Only because he was an old man to Andrée, and because she had no other grandpa. And because, sometimes, he’d bought her ice cream. But as far as that went, it could have been Sam. Andrée and her mother have moved three times, from one manager’s unit to the next, in different buildings Leo owned. He likes her mother doing that job.
Karen understands Leo’s philosophy.
One day, when he’d caught Andrée home from school, Leo had taught her this, too…maybe by accident. The Palisades had a bike rack near the dumpsters. She was trying to walk it like a balance beam.
“You! Get down from there!”
She jumped. He came round the side of his black car and opened the passenger door. A woman’s feet wearing sneakers swung to the asphalt; Leo left her to fend for herself.
“Kids cracking open their skulls this time of day…is that Karen’s kid?”
“In the office.”
“Go see your mother. No…wait. Come on with us.”
He was selling the property. He rattled each unit’s knob, with the woman (her tennis skirt and visor, Andrée thought, were like from one of those catalogs with the electric scooters and inflatable pillows, that the old lady tenants got), following him along the hallway from one concrete stairwell to the next.
“Every one of these is rented,” Leo told her. He commented, peering at Andrée: “They gotta sweep the rug. What’s that doing?” He pointed to a ceiling panel, askew in its slot over the exit sign. Leo kicked away the door stop—a smashed pop can—put a hand on Andrée’s shoulder, guided her onto the landing…then shut the door in her face.
“Kid!” she heard him yell. “Is that locked?”
“Yeah,” she called out. Had he heard?
She twisted the knob back and forth. They’d gone. Andrée shrugged, jogged down the stairs, and came round the opposite way, to the parking lot. Leo was at that moment stepping the woman off the curb, with his two hands touching her elbows.
“Karen has some kind of software she uses. I don’t know anything about it. You can get your numbers from her. Over that way. See the sign.”
The office was a garage-sized building on an island in the middle of the lot. The woman scooted ahead. She looked over her shoulder. She stepped up to the door and looked over her shoulder again. Leo, hand resting at hip level, flapped just the fingers curled over his palm, saying without saying, “Get on.” The office door opened and closed.
Leo never was really polite to his prospects, and it never made much of a difference. That was part of his philosophy.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)