My old Ford coupe got me back one more time to 1200 Church Street, the Mallory Court Apartments, parking in the reserved spot at Big Al's Deli. I had talked the Department into leasing that sweet parking place from Big Al himself... well actually, Big Al Jr., Big Al Sr. having keeled over with heart attack three years ago, chasing after some punk who tried to rob him. I was sad to lose Big Al, but his son was almost a carbon copy of the old man, except two inches taller and thirty pounds heavier. Better looking, though, and had some education, at least six grades worth.
The Mallory Arms was one of those classic brick buildings, six stories of well-past- its-prime real estate in the older part of town. Brown stone steps with black painted handrails served as the entrance to this place where single men and jilted women took up residence. Oh, now and then there might be a crying baby heard in its dim and dingy interior halls, but not often. Folks in the Mallory Arms tended to either move out within the first month or move in until they grew old and died. Why, the old matron of the place, Mrs. Templeton, had lived in room 105 for over thirty-five years. No one remembered Mr. Templeton, if there ever was one. Folks had noticed that she never did talk about him.
They used to serve meals in the big downstairs dining room, but nowadays, it was just a room for spending time when you had a lot of spending time to spend. The gents would sometimes gather round the radio to listen to the ball game; the ladies would often listen to Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller and remember days when young men would take them dancing. As for myself, I went there to sleep and sometimes to get drunk on my occasional day off. I had entertained a lady or two, probably more, in my second floor room that overlooked Church Street, but those days were becoming the stuff of days gone by.
I always took the stairs. When I set foot on the speckled linoleum hallway floor, Miss Sarah's poodle would always start to yipping. I could always picture that stupid dog bouncing up and down behind that door. Third room on the left, the third key on my rabbit's foot key chain. Room 205. You had to jiggle the key a little to get it to open, but for the last seven years he had done so, over and over again. The light switch was just inside the door for the ceiling light. And every time I turned it on, Boo would meow from his throne, the green and white paisley chair that set beside my Niagara Falls souvenir lamp with its dark red fringe.
"Hey, Boo. Bet your hungry."