Now that I am closer to the hospital I am taking more call. Typically, I will have one weekend off and then completely overload the following weekend with an excessive amount of call. I was coming home after one of these shifts. It was relatively early considering my call was from 7pm to 7am. I finished off a case and I was getting home at nearly 1 in the morning. It was my hope to lay down so that I could get a few hours of sleep to prepare myself for inevitably going back in at 5 am for a 6 am case.
As I pull in to a parking space, I see Tony upstairs at the door of his neighbors apartment. Standing with him is a guy wearing an overstuffed hiking backpack, a blue windbreaker, and a blue hat on. I cannot see his face except that he had a beard and was dark skinned. I am sitting in my car quickly unplugging my iPod from the axillary jack and switching off the ignition. I know what is going to happen before I even open my car door.
My apartment door is less than fifteen feet away. I can make it. I glance up as I step out of my car and see that the neighbor had opened his door and was inviting in the man with the hiking backpack. Tony said something which I presumed to be some sort of introduction and the man stepped into the apartment. I am stepping off the asphalt of the parking lot onto the grass when I can hear Tony call down to me.
"Hey Tom! Hold up! I gotta talk to you!"
Not even close. He knew when I was coming before I even finished the case at work. He was prepared for me. Ready to intercept me. He came down the stairs wearing an Eagles jacket instead of just a T-shirt like our last encounter. I don't think he is drunk this time. He probably was drunk earlier that night but sobered up to bring his strange sociopath hitchhiker throat slasher friend to his neighbors place to dodge the local authorities.
"Hey Tony, I can't talk long I have to get to sleep I have work in the morning." White lies are becoming fluid now, requiring no hesitation whatsoever. Part of me wants to see how difficult real lies will be to tell him.
"I know. I know. But I have to talk to you."
"Okay. But keep it down. I don't want to wake Sam up or my dog." I waited outside my door as I got my keys out.
"Yeah. That's what I have to talk to you about." He closed the distance from the stairs to my personal space and then some."There was an incident tonight."My mind started racing I instantly wanted to get inside and see if Sam was involved in this incident. I did not want to hear about an incident from Tony, I wanted to hear it from only people that mattered.
"An incident? What do you mean an incident? What happened?" I said unable to hide the bit of panic in my voice. I singled out the key I needed to get into my apartment.
"Oh don't worry, I am okay." He said as though me being worried about him was a possibility.
"What happened, Tony?" I asked trying not to sound too interested. Knowing if this man was capable of setting his socks on fire in his apartment something that he personally qualifies as an incident is probably going to be pretty interesting.
“There was an incident. I know you are not going to want to hear this but the apartment council and owners are going to come down hard on everyone who has a dog.”
“Why Tony? What happened?” And who the hell are the apartment council? What the hell did you do Tony?
“It’s okay. What you are going to have to do is train your dog to only go out at night or in the early morning. It’s gonna be okay.”
“I am not going to do that Tony. What happened?”
“Your neighbors. Well. I just came back from the emergency room.”
“Are you okay? What happened, Tony?” I asked wondering to myself if he was drunk and I could not tell. I was so confused. I felt like all the dialogue I was supposed to exchange with Tony was prognosticated ahead of time and then put in in a hat. I reached into the hat for the next piece of dialogue.
“Tom, it was nothing. I’m fine. But I had to go. Bonnie she wouldn’t fu- leave me alone.”
“What happened?” I repeated.
“Your neighbors, were outside with their dog. And it bit me.” He gestured to his leg but not enough to pull his jeans up. “I wasn’t going to go. I am old school. But Bonnie, that bitch, she would not leave me alone. She said I had to go. I am old school. I would have just kept it between us. But I don’t know what she is going to do. I am not going to tell the apartment owners but Bonnie. She worries a lot. She might. She might tell someone.”
“Did someone say we had to get rid of our dogs?”
“I don’t know if they got rid of the dog. The dog isn’t barking when I knock on the door so I think they took it somewhere. I can hear them in their apartment but they are not answering their door.”
“You listened to see if they were in their apartment?”
“I wanted to talk to them. You know? That’s how I grew up. You keep it in the family, you know?” He obviously did not see anything wrong with what he did. Which leads me to think that he could be upstairs with a stethoscope to the floor listening to my typing and extrapolating what I am saying about him online.
“Are you alright?”
“Tom. I’m fine. Tom. Look.” He reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. I was not sure if he heard me sigh and roll my eyes. It was unchanged since the last time he showed me his wallet-penis. Swollen, worn, turgid. He had it in one hand as he held it between us. I wasn’t sure what to do. What did he want me to look at? I get it. You have a lot of cash. I don’t fucking care. What does your wallet have to do with this conversation at all anyway? He pushed the wallet toward my chest as though I was supposed to take it from him.
“Get my insurance card out of there.”
“No, dude. I am not going to go through your wallet to get your insurance card.” He flicked his wrist which I assumed was supposed to open his wallet like it was some sort of detectives badge on TV. It flipped open for a moment, ejaculated a Shop Rite frequent shopper card a few injured business cards and receipts onto my front stoop then the wallet closed back.
“It’s right on top. I just took it out at uh...uh...Monmouth Medical. You know? In Long Branch.” He sighed, reopened it, and thumbed through the plastic inside. He pulled out a blue cross blue shield card and handed it to me before he knelt down to clean up his mess. What was I supposed to do with this? Call the hospital?
When he came back up he asked me, “Well? Did you see?”
“The deductible. That is the best kind you can get with Blue Cross.”
“Oh yeah?” So what.
“Tom, let me tell you this. I can get bit by a hundred pitbulls, five hundred pitbulls even. Go to the hospital and I would not pay a fucking cent. Not a one.”
“Great.” Suddenly I can picture myself on call the night Tony comes to the operating room. His preoperative diagnosis: “Bitten by five hundred pit-bulls”. I entertained the thought of the long line of general, vascular, and plastic surgeons waiting to enter the OR so they can have the chance to bill his Best Kind of Blue Cross Blue Shield card. He is on the OR table, talking. Unfazed that he had been used as a chew toy, he is saying inappropriate things while anesthesia struggles to put him to sleep. Years of alcohol drinking has enabled him the metabolism of a hundred men. Five hundred men even. No matter what drugs the anesthesiologist gives him he simply won’t fall asleep. He simply won’t shut up.
I gave him back the card. He put it back in his wallet.
“Did you see the name on it?”
“Yeah, it was yours.” I said. I think he thought I was trying to be funny. I wasn't.
“I know that. It says Anthony Shaunassy.”
“You are from Belford, right?” He sounded incredulous for a moment. He seemed a little upset that his celebrity status did not precede him or make me in awe of him.
“Middletown. But yeah it's near Belford.”
“Shaunassy. My last name is Shaunassy.”
“Is it?” I never heard of him or the last name. Once again, Tony found another topic I did I really did not care about.
“Well. O’Shaunassy is my family name. I had to drop the O because of -something. But if I ever took my old name back. I would, it would, lets just say a lot of doors would open up for me. You know? But I would have to go back to Belford and just I can't do that right now. I like what I am doing now and going back to Belford might be more trouble than it is worth. You know?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t know what he was talking about and if it wasn’t after one in the morning I might have actually pursued his deranged stories.
“I am not going to tell anyone about the incident. But you know Bonnie she might tell everyone. She is like that. And then they are going to tell everyone that they can’t have any dogs. So what you are going to have to do is keep your dog in secret. You know like the Jews in World War Two. You know? Like in that diary? You can only go out at night and you got to train your dog not to bark.”
“I am not going to do that. I am going to live the way I am living right now. If they want to talk to me about getting rid of my dog that is not a pit-bull, I will cross that bridge when I get to it. My dog doesn’t bother anyone.” I repressed the thought of "Dante Frank" hiding in our apartment as the Apartment SS knocked forcefully at our door demanding to search our home again for illegal canines.
“Oh Tom. I know! I know! Your dog is a sweetheart. I know. I know. But...well...I’ll talk to Bonnie I’ll make sure she doesn’t say anything.”
“Yeah. I am just going to wait to see what happens. I am going to go to sleep. I have work in the morning Tony. Sorry about this.” I was done. He could not tease me with the thought of asking how all of sudden Bonnie was not going to say anything. I unlocked my door. Dante started barking from deep inside the apartment.
“Oh yeah Tom. Sure. Sure. I am sure all this will just blow over. It will be fine.”
"Goodnight Tony." I entered my apartment and locked Tony and the incident outside.
"Goodnight Tony." I entered my apartment and locked Tony and the incident outside.