Inches Nitely and the Lizard’s Id by Tim Rocks
The place was quiet except for old-timey crooners piped in over the speakers. They used a discrete side entrance that led down a long empty hallway. Walking rapidly past intersecting hallways that were just as long, a cleaning cart, an oldster maneuvering his walker at a glacial pace out of his numbered apartment.
Midway along its length, it opened into a large sitting room filled with more oldsters. They were scattered about on couches, recliners, at tables playing checkers. TV channel on Wheel of Fortune. Pastel paintings of lilies on the walls. Inches hoped like hell he would not end up in some purgatory-like this — a villa on the coast of Italy was the dream, to the extent he thought that far in advance–
“Why hello, gentlemen,” said a dazed old lady standing nearby. She began inching towards them, closer and closer, right up into their personal space.
“We are just delighted to have you as our visitors,” she said, a huge smile frozen on her face that looked as if it had been plastered there since the 1950s. Her eyes not really looking at them, sort of glazed and zoned out.
“Who ya got there, Gladys?” said another grinning old-timer, this one a tiny man in a fedora and suspenders. “Thatcher boyfriends?”
Gladys swatting at him as he laughed, saying to ignore him, Fred was such a cut-up. Bobby looking grim, a long-ashed cigarette jutting from beneath his ’stache, like he had just given up, surrendered to the madness. Inches started to banter back at the two oldsters but then saw a newspaper, or sections of it, on a coffee table across the room. He nudged Bobby, who was scratching himself. Bobby nodded and set off for the goods.
He smiled around politely at the little clumps of geezers here and there. A big phony smile. They looked at him blankly. He picked up one large section while sucking in a big inhalation of breath, just a man looking to relax, but a ripple of disapproval ran through the seniors nearby. It alerted others in the room, who looked over with what seemed to be growing shock and alarm. Inches did not like the direction this was taking.
Bobby noticed it too. He paused from rifling through the paper and grinned
sheepishly, his eyes twinkling above the page-edge.
“Just looking for the Funnies!” he said. The seniors stared at him, a slight murmur running through the room. Now they were beginning to rise, walkers were being requisitioned. It was like the cocking of pistols.
Bobby yawned, covering his mouth with one hand and extending the paper with the other, letting it drop with a thud on the glass-inlaid coffee table. He chuckled. “Say…” looking at one in an armchair. “Can’t help but notice ya got the ‘Life/Style’ section there, Ma’am… You mind if I get the Funnies from ya?” He began walking towards the old bag.
Now the seniors were really on the move. Zombie-like, they were coming toward him, surrounding him. One geezer started to raise the metal stand that held his saline-drip bag, like a makeshift whacking stick. Bobby made for Armchair, tried to yank the damn paper from her hands, but she clutched it fiercely with her bony claws.
“Give.. it… !” Bobby was saying through clenched teeth, beads of perspiration visible in the pleasantly diffuse light from the frosted glass atrium above. A cane came down on his back with a light whack. “Let it go, Sonny!” said the decrepit, but passionate, old-timer standing behind him. “Thief! Scofflaw!” said some of the women gathered round.
Gladys, standing next to Inches, looked at him disapprovingly. “We thought you came to visit!” Her smile closed up for the first time in fifty years. “We thought you liked old people!”
Now the room was awash in screams and pandemonium. Inches looked up from Gladys to see Bobby waving his gun around. “Alright everyone settle down!” Bobby said, a harried desperate look in his eyes. He fired once into the ceiling, then twice more in rapid succession. One-shot took out the crooner music, another the TV gameshow. He yoinked the paper away from a momentarily stunned Armchair and bounded away through the crowd, knocking over walkers and little old ladies.
“Come on, let’s get outta here,” he said to Inches. “I’m not sure how long that’ll keep em at bay.”
As they jogged down the hall, Fred’s walker could be heard clattering along behind them. “Come on back here, you cowards! I ain’t afeerd to die! I stormed the beaches of Normandy… ”