An Abundance of Katherines

Page 34

And then they took to discussing Hollis. It took fifteen minutes before Colin could even get his tape recorder started to ask the four questions they’d come there to ask, but he didn’t mind, first because Jolene thought he was “nice-looking,” and second because they were such a relaxed bunch of old people. For example, Mona, a woman with liver spots and a gauze patch over her left eye, answered the question, “What’s special about Gutshot?” by saying, “Well for starters that mill has got a right-good pension plan. I been retired for thirty years and Hollis Wells still buys my diapers. That’s right, I use ’em! I pee myself when I laugh,” she said gleefully, and then laughed disturbingly hard.
And Lindsey, it seemed to Colin, was some kind of rock star among the oldsters. As word filtered through the building that she’d arrived, more and more of them made their way to the picnic tables outside and hovered around Lindsey. Colin went from person to person, recording their answers to the questions. Eventually, he just sat down and let Lindsey throw people his way.
His favorite interview was with a man named Roy Walker. “Well I can’t imagine,” Roy said, “why on earth anyone would want to hear from me. But I’m happy to chat. ” Roy was starting to tell Colin about his former job as night-shift plant manager of Gutshot Textiles, but then he stopped suddenly and said, “Look how they’re all loving on little Lindsey. We all raised that girl up. I used to see her once a week or more—we knew her when she was a baby and we knew her when you couldn’t tell her from a boy and we knew her when she had blue hair. She used to sneak me in one Budweiser beer every Saturday, bless her heart. Son, if there’s one thing I know,” and Colin thought about how old people always like to tell you the one thing they know, “it’s that there’s some people in this world who you can just love and love and love no matter what. ”
Colin followed Roy over to Lindsey then. Lindsey was twisting a lock of her hair casually, but staring intently at Jolene.
“Jolene, what’d you just say?”
“I was telling Helen that your mama is selling two hundred acres of land up Bishops Hill to my boy Marcus. ”
“Hollis is selling land on Bishops Hill?”
“That’s right. To Marcus. I think Marcus wants to build himself some houses up there, build a little—I don’t remember what he calls it. ”
Lindsey half-closed her eyes and sighed. “A subdivision?” she asked.
“That’s right. Subdivision. Up there on the hill, I guess. Nice views, anyway. ”
Lindsey became quiet after that, her big eyes staring off into the distance at the fields behind the nursing home. Colin sat there and listened to the old folks talking, and then finally Lindsey grabbed his arm just above the elbow and said, “We should get going. ”
As soon as the Hearse’s doors were shut, Lindsey mumbled as if to herself, “Mom would never sell land. Never. Why is she doing that?” It occurred to Colin that he’d never before heard Lindsey refer to Hollis as Mom. “Why would she sell land to that guy?”
“Maybe she needs money,” Colin offered.
“She needs money like I need a goddamned hole in my head. My great-grandfather built that factory. Dr. Fred N. Dinzanfar. We aren’t hurting for money, I promise you. ”
“Was he Arab?”
“Dinzanfar. ”
“No, he wasn’t Arab. He was from Germany or something. Anyway, he spoke German—so does Hollis, that’s how I know it. Why do you always ask such ridiculous questions?”
“Jeez. Sorry. ”
“Oh, whatever, I’m just confused. Who cares. On to other things. It’s fun hanging out with the oldsters, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think it, but they’re cool as hell. I used to visit those people at their houses—most of them weren’t in the Home then—almost every day. I’d just go from house to house, getting fed and getting hugged on. Those were the pre-friend days. ”
“They certainly seemed to adore you,” Colin said.
“Me? The ladies couldn’t talk about anything but how hot you were. You’re missing a whole demographic of Katherines by not chasing the over-eighty market. ”
“It’s funny how they thought we were dating,” Colin said, glancing over at her.
“How’s that funny?” she asked, holding his gaze.
“Um,” he said. Distracted from the road, Colin watched as she gave him the slightest version of her inimitable smile.
That Sunday, Hassan went “cruising” with Lindsey and Katrina and TOC and JATT and SOCT. The next night, he went cruising again, and came home after midnight to find Colin working on his Theorem, which now worked seventeen of nineteen times. He still couldn’t get it to work for either Katherine III or, more importantly, Katherine XIX.
“’Sup?” asked Hassan.
“Sup is not a word,” answered Colin without looking up.
“You’re like sunshine on a cloudy day, Singleton. When it’s cold outside, you’re the month of May. ”