He woke to Lesli turning her key in the door. Loaded down with suitcases. He watched her struggle to get in the apartment, keep the door propped open, and put her bags down all at the same time. She kicked a suitcase out of the way, the door closed, and she leaned against it, catching her breath. And shot him a look. “Oh, no thank you, sweetie. I don’t need any help. I’m fine.”
“Well, I know you good-lookin’, girl. No need to brag.”
“Go to hell.” With which sat on one of the bags, raking her fingernails through her hair, scratching the back of her neck. Then, nodded at the felines.
The kittens were knocked out. Bruno lay staring into space. Keith could’ve sworn the poor guy was shell-shocked. “So, how are they getting along?” she asked.
“Oh, famously,” he lied with a smile. “They’re gonna be best buddies.”
“Good. I’ll unpack later. Meanwhile, come put these in the bedroom and fix me a drink.”
“You get one or the other. Either manual labor or bartender services.”
“Fine, smartass. Grab the bags.” Which he did, while she made a beeline for the liquor cabinet. He came back in from toting her suitcases to a scowling Lesli. “What’s this?” she demanded. “No rum? Just this poison of yours?”
He shrugged. “Call the store and have ’em send some over.”
“The hell with it.” She settled for an ice-cold can of beer, came back from the kitchen, rummaged in his DVD library and commandeered the remote, putting on 42. He and Lesli loved that flick about Jackie Robinson. Maybe for their honeymoon, he’d take her to the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame out in Kansas City. She’d always wanted to go, seeing as her granddad had played, in fact, for the Monarchs. Right around the time Jackie made it to the bigs. Her granddad was good enough to make it to the bigs, everyone said — including himself. But, he never did, since the bigs took their sweet time expanding the quota.
At some point, with her legs draped across his lap as she reclined on the arm of the sofa, Lesli imparted how she’d taken care of her condo not going to waste.
Gwen’s White husband, as Lesli laid out a sad story, had dumped her for someone with real blonde hair and naturally blue eyes. A White woman. She was devastated. Keith couldn’t possibly care less.
“She’s in a lot of pain,” Lesli said, getting up to pack another box. “And, if only out of respect for me, I’d like you to be nice to her.”
He replied, “Out of respect for you, I won’t laugh in her face. That’s the best you gon’ get.”
“You know, there are times you can really be impossible.”
“Part of my charm.” He watched Butch and Sundance rolling around in one of the boxes they’d emptied. Bruno watched them, too. Grateful that they’d found a source of entertainment other than driving him up a wall.
“Oh? Think so?”
“Whaddya want from my life, Les? She put herself in that position, brought it on her own self.”
She piped up, “How can you say that? Gwen didn’t tell him to go out and—”
“How I can say it is, the woman is ashamed of her skin. Ain’t no way she gon’ be happy. I’m not studyin’ that broad. Far as I’m concerned she got what her hand call for. Maybe it’ll wake her wanna-be behind up. Though, that’s doubtful.”
Lesli sighed, knowing he had a point. But, she had to have her friend’s back. As if hearing her thoughts, he added, “It’s wonderful you’re loyal. And I hope it never comes back to bite you. Best way I can be nice to her is you keep her away from me or muzzle her when she’s around.”
Next week: Lesli settles in.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.