I woke this morning at 4:14 to the ringing of my land-line. That can mean only one of two things: something's wrong with either Aunt Sylvie or Uncle Slappy, or, more likely, Uncle Slappy feels like talking.
I've often remarked to the old man that his life is positively Circadian. That he's up with the sun and down with it. I can't complain, actually. I grew up virtually without a father and Uncle Slappy stepped in to fill the void. He's been there for me always, providing equal doses of laughter, camaraderie and wisdom.
"You're keeping fisherman's hours again, Uncle Slappy," I said, hustling into the kitchen so as not to keep my wife away.
"The early bird," he said, "catches no moss."
I laughed at his near Spoonerism, and waited for him to go on. There was a hotchpotch of things he wanted to talk about. First was a taxi-driver he had had that took he and Aunt Sylvie back to the airport when they visited in January.
"He told me that for really good Peruvian chicken, I should go to Yackson Heights. I told him I know Jackson Heights, Dr. Richard P. Cohen, the internist had a practice there before he relocated into the city. That's Dr. Richard P. Cohen, the internist, not Dr. Richard T. Cohen, the pediatric allergist."
He continued as I poured my first cup of coffee and began on a small cup of excruciating raspberry yogurt that I'm forced to eat to curb my bagel-related carbohydrates.
"Last night, Sylvie and I went to a small get-together at the cemetery."
"They were having people meet their 'eternal partners.' Sylvie, depending on which of us plotzes first, will be on either my right side or my left, for all eternity. Or until globular warming puts us all in the sea.
"This was our chance to see who we'd be laying next to--on the other side, after we go. For me it's Morty Gershman, an endodontist from Mineola."
"And how did that go?" I asked with an immediate regret.
"A nice enough guy he seems like," said Uncle Slappy. "Quiet and a little reserved. What you'd want, frankly, from a next-crypt neighbor. There's just one thing..."
I knew he was setting me up, but I took the bait anyway.
"In my whole life, I've never had to see an endodontist. Knock wood. Now for all eternity, I'll be cheek and jowl next to one."
I let that sit there.
"I only hope he never asks me to 'open wide.'"
And with that, the old man hung up the blower.