Shake, Rattle, and Soul
John Lawrence traveled often. Nan wasn't quite sure for business or for pleasure, but had advertised for someone to "house sit". It was an easy way for a college student to make some cash. She was to take in his mail, and water his ficus. "I've had it since college, you know," he told her, "half a dozen moves and I've never let anything happen to it." The tree was huge for an indoor plant; the pot it sat in was at least two feet in diameter. Nan suspected he got this apartment, with its high ceilings and bay windows just to house it. It seemed tremendous for just one man. One bedroom sat vacant except for a coat rack and a box containing LP record albums. The other three rooms were tastefully, though minimally decorated—in fact the tree and the sixty-inch television, along with a six by nine foot Oriental rug and some pillows, were pretty much the only furniture in the living area.
"So, explain to me again exactly why you were enjoying this fine meal in my living room this afternoon?" he asked her.
He wasn't exactly angry. If anything Nan got the sense Mr. Lawrence was amused by the situation, especially by making her repeat the whole story, which on the surface essentially made her look like a fanatical bubblehead.
"It's actually all the Knicks fault," she said.
"The Knicks," he repeated.
"The basketball team."
"I've heard of them yes."
He was enjoying this, compounding Nan's embarrassment.
"They lost last night, and my roommate's boyfriend had money on the game. He kicked the television and broke it."
"Broke it? Good God," he commented as he made his way into the kitchen area.
"Yes, see that's why I was here."
"Whose was it?" He asked.
"Whose television set was it?"
What on Earth did that have to do with anything, she thought. He grabbed a kettle off the stove and began adding water from the faucet.
"It was mine actually."
"Well how rude. I don't suppose he's going to pay for a new television, seeing as he lost his money gambling," he said. Nan couldn't help but smile at the ludicrous tone the conversation was taking.
"No. No, I doubt it. Anyway, that's why I needed to watch your TV." She smiled, as to punctuate why it all made perfect sense.
"Yes, to watch a soap opera, you mentioned that."
"I know it sounds silly but," Nan hesitated, feeling sheepish. "They were going to reveal Marley's killer. This has been dragging on for months; there was no way I could miss that."
"Marley's killer?" He asked, concerned.
"Would you like some tea?" He asked her. "I'm sorry I don't have any shake fixings."
Nan tried to discern whether or not he was making fun of her or trying to make her more at ease. He seemed comfortable enough— pleasant and polite, the whole "making-herself-at-home-in-his-apartment-while-he-was-gone" incident forgotten.
"Tea is fine, thank you."
Twenty minutes later they sat, on the Oriental rug, listening to Miles Davis, while her clothes tumbled dry.
"How could you never have heard of Miles Davis? Jesus Christ what do they teach kids nowadays?"
He sat Indian style, still in his dress slacks and shirt. Nan sat opposite, sipping Earl Grey with milk and four sugars, gearing up to defend her generation.
"That's not fair! My parents were more of the Rat Pack crowd."
"Name one Frank Sinatra song besides 'New York, New York'," he said.
"'The Summer Wind'," she replied, setting down her mug, satisfied.
His eyes offered up what was his smile swallowed up in a sip of tea. He then set his mug down as well.
"Ok, I'll let it slide this time. But next time, I want you well versed in Miles, Chick Corea, and Coltrane.
"Next time?" She asked.
"It's ok to watch my TV Nan."
He got up and left to fetch her clothes from the dryer.
Nan sipped at what was left of her tea, but it was cool, and no longer held the same flavor as it did when hot. The notes from the saxophone drifted by lazily, not caring what the temperature of the room or her tea was. They just settled in her ears and puddled in mouth like caramel over ice cream. She closed her eyes and tried to float with them.
She opened her eyes to see John offering her clothes.
"You can dress in there," he said, gesturing to the almost empty guest room.
Nan got up and took the clothes, almost feeling like the party was over, and she'd been dismissed.
She stopped and turned.
"Who killed Marley?"