Some telephone numbers just have an aura. Seven numerals in unique sequence, they exude good (and sometimes bad) karma. Digits on my phone light up and instantly, before saying hello I feel better or worse.

Meteorologists had already promised “Heavy rain Wednesday” before the Tuesday evening call.

9 3 2 1 4 1 0 it read — a number that’s paralyzed Clevelanders for three quarters of a century.

“Hi Aunt Helen.”
“Would you like to take me shopping tomorrow?”
“It’s supposed to pour….can it wait”? (I asked).
“Would you prefer I go without food?”

I picked her up at 4 today, in the midst of a tsunami.
“You’re not wearing a coat,” she said (entering the passenger side). Circling the car, getting behind the wheel, I felt HER storm:
“Would you like to stop at the library?”
“Why?” I asked, “Look at it outside. What do you need?”
“I am sending Danny something and it would be nice if he received it sooner…and why are you ignoring me—I said you are not wearing a coat.”
“I’m not ignoring you—you didn’t ask a question.”
“Well I’m asking you now: why aren’t you wearing a coat?…and please, if I want to make one stop at the library, why is it so important to you that we not go?”
“Please, Aunt—“
“You never have time for me. Always in a hurry.”
“It’s a MONSOON outside—that’s all I’m saying.”
“Then why aren’t you wearing a jacket?”

Cease-fire in place, I walked her ‘cross the threshold of the library. Once on dry land she removed papers from the protective binder she’d made from a Cheerios box, tendered two dimes, and announced: “You know, I called earlier today to remind them they needed toner.” (Suddenly I pictured a myriad of my cousins fleeing west in the 60’s—all her cousins—they were smiling).

Splashing ahead, we drove to Marc’s where oranges, in see-through sacks, were $2.99 for the four pounds.
“Count them,” she urged. “Some have ten, some but nine….”
For six minutes I juggled bags of Valencias, palm to palm, counting and releasing, counting and releasing…until triumphantly I assured her that YES, we’d scored that precious tenth! (This, in case you’re wondering, reduced the unit cost from 3.3 cents per orange to 3).

We were indoors, of course, but her reign kept coming:

“Should I ask the manager why they’re out of broccoli florets?”… “Do you agree with me that the bananas are too yellow?”…”Why are the ‘aerated’ Hershey’s Kisses priced the same as solid ones?”

Next came the post office. (An easy gig, one would think).

Approaching the drive-by chute, I slowed to the box.

“Let’s wait for the rain to stop,” she suggested. “The letters will get wet.”
“In three seconds?” I asked.
“Why must you be so difficult?”

Soon my brilliance emerged. Brandishing a blank envelope from my visor, I used it as protective cover to escort her mail safely.

“Always in a hurry,” she moaned, “And did you see the letter to Friends of Akim?”
“No, Aunt Helen, I don’t look to see who you’re writing to.”
“It’s Michael Jacobson’s fund,” she continued. “Honestly, I don’t know how he does it! He works so hard; he does his charity; he’s always out-of-town. I don’t know where he finds the time!”
“He doesn’t have an Aunt Helen,” I thought.

Minutes later we were done. Heading back up Cedar, my phone was flashing. Evidently I’d forgotten to put the ring back on, (silence being mandated when on duty). A call was missed.

I was afraid to look! Was something forgotten? Would I have to go back?

Peeking, of course — I knew the number. And No, it wasn’t my Aunt Helen.  It was, however, my ex-wife.

            “Instant karma’s gonna get you…”

                                       John Lennon

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