Gonna Have A Good Time (R)

He took the stairs one at a time. Stepping up and bringing both feet together, he paused to catch his breath. It was slow going as he made the fourth-floor landing and he noted with grim familiarity and not a little trepidation the drum solo his heart was performing in his chest. With the swish of his well-acquainted thighs shoving past each other and the wheezing pant of his breathing providing fanfare, he started up the last flight.

Albert dreaded every day the elevator was out of order.

Philly’s summer of 1981 had been mercilessly hot and the hall­ways of his apartment building were close, the air a stew of cooking smells, baby smells, and the trapped phantoms of tar and car exhaust from the streets outside. Albert didn’t mind this, it was just life in the big city, the only life he had known. Though he now lived across town from the borderline tenement in which he’d spent his childhood days, these could be the very same chipped and peeling walls. Far from depressing him, this just made him feel safe. Protected.

Without much of a to-do, Albert had wished the ladies of his office a good afternoon and left the center a little early for his doctor’s appoint­ment. Of course this meant another uncomfortable jaunt in his rundown Lincoln Continental. Even with his seat pushed back to its last stop, the base of the steering wheel still dug into the flesh of his mountainous gut. This was one of the innumerable small, shame­ful details that made up his days – the details he hardly noticed anymore. At best, Albert tried to work in a check-up every other year, though these were never pleasant experiences for him. The same concerns, the same warnings and admonishments. But this particular visit had come earlier than he would have planned or wished. The pains had come on with alarming frequency and, more frighten­ingly, during moments of relative inactivity. Never one given to irrational fears, there was still something about this spate of chest seizures that left him, in his own quiet way, absolutely terrified.

As the words tumbled from Dr. Garry’s mouth, it seemed incon­ceivable. How can a man have suffered two heart attacks and never known it? And it got worse from there. Albert merely listened, nodding gravely and unconsciously rubbing at his chest. But even the worst of news can contain an element of humor. As Dr. Garry had been gently pronouncing a grim and likely future, Albert couldn’t help but notice that the uncapped fountain pen his physician had absent-mindedly put back in the breast pocket of his white coat had begun to bleed into an expanding black patch roughly the shape of the Liberty Bell.

Resting on the fifth-floor landing, propping himself up with one huge brown hand as he sagged against the wall, Albert gauged the thrumming in his chest. After a lifetime of obesity, he had memorized and catalogued all the various twinges and palpitations his valiant little cardiac muscle produced – they were as familiar as these hallways – but after today, he would paying them much more attention. From here on out, the first thought would always be: Is this the one? He pushed all that aside as he caught his breath and fit his key into the deadbolt. Three locks later he swung the door open. He stepped inside not thinking about test results or exploratory surgery or genetic predisposition. Albert was just glad to be home.

When he felt the gun barrel at the back of his head he didn’t even jump. Another sad fact of life – Albert’s anyway – this wasn’t the first time he had received the personal touch from a robber’s pistol. He sighed.

The intruder stayed behind him but was indicating by the pressure of the gun where he wanted Albert to go. Without saying a word the gunman made his desires perfectly clear; Albert settled four hundred and eighty-two pounds into the sturdy wooden chair at the head of his kitchen table.

Watching the reflection of the thief cast onto his window by the dull orange light of his sole living room lamp, Albert addressed the man in the ski mask nervously pacing behind him. “Hey, man, it’s okay. Take whatever you want, whatever you need.”

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