Fred crawled under the sink to get a better look at the leak in Mrs. Gibbons apartment, 225, when she entered and said, “Hey Fred when you’re done, I want you to look at the toilet in the main bathroom. It’s not flushing properly again.”
“Have you been dumping food down there again?” Fred asked
Mrs. Gibbons lowered her head like a child being scolded and knew what was coming.
“How many times have I told you not to do that? Are you deaf or just stupid?” Fred said
Mrs. Gibbons eyes swelled up as a few tears rolled down her face.
“There’s no need to cry about it. I just need you to l listen to me when I tell you things like this.” Fred said as he turned the pipe wrench to get a closer look at the clog.
He looked inside the pipe in his hand and noticed backed up cooking oil was the issue. He slammed his fist on the floorboard of the sink. He muttered, “She’ll never learn no matter how many times I tell her.”
Fred unclogged the pipe and slowly rose to his feet while he clutched his lower back.
“Are you ok Fred?” Mrs. Gibbons asked
“Yes, why what do you care?” Fred said
Mrs. Gibbons didn’t say a word as Fred made his way to the bathroom to unclog the toilet.
As he finished up with Mrs. Gibbons sink his phone rang and it was his boss telling him of an urgent A/C request at the Clancy apartment. He told his boss he would be there in about a half an hour or so.
Fred was able to snake out the food that was backing up the toilet. Mrs. Gibbons walked in as he packed up his equipment.
“All done Fred?” she asked as he flashed her a look of death.
“Yes, all done. Next time don’t flush food down the toilet,” Fred snapped
His next appointment should be a quick in and out he thought. It was just old man Jenkins who called him to come over and investigate the strange noises thew oven makes. Fred is annoyed because the noises Jenkins hears are all in his head.
Fred told his boss multiple times there is nothing wrong with the old man’s oven. But he goes along and pretends to turn and twist something and the noise goes away. It’s feels like a game of cat and mouse.
As he headed upstairs to the 4th floor to the Clancys he ran into the young couple who moved in a month and a half ago.
“Hey Fred, how’s it going? Could you look at the washing machine downstairs? It’s not spinning when the water fills up.”
“That’s because too many damn people put too many items in the machine. Of course, it’s not going to spin,” Fred barked
“Whoa Fred it’s not our fault that people do this. Are you ok? You look a little yellow,” the young man said
“Why what do you care?” Fred said
The couple didn’t say a word as they walked back to their apartment. They could hear Fred grumble to himself, “Why do people always ask how I’m doing? Mother always told me that nobody cares how you’re doing. Even if you’ve known them a while folks still don’t give a damn.”
Fred arrived at the Clancys front door not wanting anyone else to ask him about his well-being. Mr. Clancy opened the door as Fred could see his expression. “Before you ask, I’m fine. Just tell me what is happening with the A/C.”
Mr. Clancy tells him what is wrong with the A/C and when it started acting abnormally. Fred listens but his eyes are fixated on a little Irish figurine on the Clancy end table.
Fred has a flashback to the day after his father left him and his mother. Fred and a couple of his friends were in the living room horsing around as they bumped into a table and the same Irish figurine fell to the tile floor and broke into pieces.
His mother went berserk and screamed at Fred and his friends. One of his friends apologized as his mother yelled at him, “I don’t wanna hear your apology. Don’t you get it that nobody cares? My husband didn’t care about me when he left in the middle of the night, and nobody cares about you either.”
This sentiment was echoed through the years living with his mother until she passed away. Fred looked up to his mother and believed everything she told him.
Fred heard Mr. Clancy ask him if he was ok and snapped back to present day. “Yes, I am fine. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”
Mr. Clancy looked over Fred’s shoulder as he examined the A/C unit. As Fred turned to say something his cell phone rang, and he looked down to see who was calling. He gave Mr. Clancy a back away glare.
Fred walked out into the hallway and left the door open a crack.
“Hello Dr. Matthewson, yes uh huh I understand. How much is the surgery with insurance? Wow ten thousand, really that much? Well, I won’t be able to come up with that amount of money right now. Are there any other cheaper alternatives? Oh, ok good idea. Can we schedule some time to talk about my options? Sure, I can hold while you transfer me to Doris who can schedule my visit.”
He hung up his phone a few minutes later and walked back into the Clancys apartment. They greeted him at the door. “Why didn’t you tell us you were sick? We had no idea,” Mr. Clancy said
“Why did you listen to my conversation? It’s none of your business. I can handle it and I will,” Fred said
Mrs. Clancy stepped toward Fred and placed her hand on his shoulder, “Is there anything we can do for you?”
“You can leave me alone and let me handle my own problems. I’ll figure out a way to deal with this. Don’t worry about it.”
Fred’s scheduled appointment to see his doctor a couple of weeks later. He walked into his doctor’s office and sat on the exam table and waited for Dr. Stone. He replayed the scenario in his head over and over again.
He planned to ask him if there were any cheaper alternatives to treatments for his cancer. He wasn’t expecting an answer other than one or two experimental alternatives which have a low success rate.
He fully expected to go home after the visit and live out the short, remaining time in earth in peace by himself. He would die alone with no loved ones around and accepted this fate when he was first diagnosed.
Dr. Stone came in the room holding a manila folder and greeted Fred with his usual cheeriness. Fred stared at him with blank eyes and a scowl.
“Well Fred I have some good news for you.”
“What? That I am gonna die sooner than expected. That would be great news.”
Dr. Stone opened the folder and handed Fred a piece of paper.
Fred was confused and asked, “What’s this?”
“Look at it and see,” Dr. Stone
Fred looked at the paper as it read, ‘Payable to Fred Dunning in the amount of $10,000.’
“I don’t understand,” Fred said
“This is a gift from all the residents of the apartment building where you work. They wanted to do something nice for you because you always help them,” Dr. Stone said
Fred burst into tears and hugged the doctor as he wept for the first time in decades. He couldn’t believe the generous gift from folks he was sometimes nasty toward. He looked upwards and said, “You were wrong Mom. People do care.”