And me? Looky this handkerchief, all wet from my eyes, balled in my fist. I don’t feel so good.”

“Nobody’s feeling very good, right now.”

“Now.” Henry put his hand out, unerringly toward my voice and took hold of my shoulder gently.

“Go on up, and be cheerful. With Fannie.”

I tapped on Fannie’s door. “Thank God,” I heard her cry.

A steamboat came upriver, flung wide the door, and churned back downstream over the linoleum.

When Fannie had crashed into her chair she looked into my face and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Wrong? Oh.” I turned to blink at the doorknob in my hand. “Do you leave your door unlocked all the time?”

“Why not? Who would want to come in and storm the Bastille?” But she did not laugh. She was watchful. Like Henry, she had a powerful nose. And I was perspiring.

I shut the door and sank into a chair.

“Who died?” said Fannie.

“What do you mean, who died?” I stammered.

“You look like you just came back from a Chinese funeral and were hungry all over again.” She tried to smile and blinky-blink her eyes.

“Oh.” I thought quickly. “Henry just scared me in the hall, is all. You know Henry. You come along a hall and can’t see him for the night.”

“You’re a terrible liar,” said Fannie. “Where have you been? I am exhausted, waiting for you to come visit. Are you ever tired, just worn out, with waiting? I’ve waited, dear young man, fearful for you. Have you been sad?”

“Very sad, Fannie.”

“There. I knew it. It was that dreadful old man in the lion cage, wasn’t it? How dare he make you sad?”

“He couldn’t help it, Fannie.” I sighed. “I imagine he would much rather have been down at the Pacific Electric ticket office counting the punch-confetti on his vest.”

“Well, Fannie will cheer you up. Would you put the needle on the record there, my dear? Yes, that’s it. Mozart to dance and sing to. We must invite Pietro Massinello up, mustn’t we, some day soon. The Magic Flute is just his cup of tea, and let him bring his pets.”

“Yes, Fannie,” I said.

I put the needle on a record which hissed with promise.

“Poor boy,” said Fannie. “You do look sad.”

There was a faint scratching on the door.

“That’s Henry,” said Fannie. “He never knocks.”

I went to the door but before I could open it, Henry’s voice behind it said, “Only me.”

I opened the door and Henry sniffed. “Spearmint gum. That’s how I know you. You ever chew anything else?”

“Not even tobacco.”

“Your cab’s here,” said Henry.

“My what?”

“Since when can you afford a taxi?” asked Fannie, her cheeks pink, her eyes bright. We had had a glorious two hours with Mozart and the very air was luminous around the big lady. “So?”

“Yeah, since when can I afford…” I said, but stopped, for Henry, outside the door, was shaking his head once: no. His finger went to his lips with caution.

“It’s your friend,” he said. “Taxi driver knows you, from Venice. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said, frowning. “If you say so.”

“Oh, and here. This is for Fannie. Pietro said give it over. He’s so crammed full downstairs, no room for this.”

He handed over a plump purring calico cat.

I took and carried the sweet burden back to Fannie, who began to purr herself when she held the beast.

“Oh, my dear!” she cried, happy with Mozart and calico. “What a dream cat, what a dream!”

Henry nodded to her, nodded to me, and went away down the hall.

I went to give Fannie a big hug.

“Listen, oh listen to his motor,” she cried, holding the pillow cat up for a kiss.

“Lock your door, Fannie,” I said.

“What?” she said. “What?”

Coming back downstairs, I found Henry still waiting in the dark, half-hidden against the wall.

“Henry, for God’s sake, what’re you doing?”

“Listening,” he said.

“For what?”

“This house, this place. Shh. Careful. Now.”

His cane came up and pointed like an antenna along the hall.

“There. You hear?”

Far away a wind stirred. Far away a breeze wandered the dark. The beams settled. Someone breathed. A door creaked.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray