The best thing about being dead

June 27, 1996|By Rick Horowitz

"THE BEST THING about being dead,'' Gandhi was saying to the new guys, ''is you get free Caller ID.'' It wasn't like that in the old days. In the old days, he was saying, everyone wanted a piece of you, and there was no way to protect yourself.

''You'd pick up the phone and it's insurance agents, marketing types, swampland salesmen, religious fanatics -- ''

''Hey, Mahatma,'' said Mrs. Roosevelt, ''shut up and deal.''

Nothing like a game of pinochle to get the juices flowing. At The Villas Off Mortal Coil (''Condos for Eternity''), the tables were filled every afternoon, and Gandhi was always at Table 1. He'd even skip lunch, just come right over after morning aerobics to make sure he got his favorite spot. Mrs. Roosevelt was less particular about where she sat, but when she was winning, she couldn't get to the next hand soon enough.

''What's the rush, Bucky?'' (Nobody but Gandhi could get away with calling her that.) ''We're not going anywhere.''

That calmed her down some. Mrs. Roosevelt hated to admit it -- she'd always thought of card games as, well, frivolous -- but she found herself looking forward to these little get-togethers. Franklin was off somewhere, as usual, doing whatever; she wasn't sure she wanted to know. But the pinochle crowd, she could let her hair down with the pinochle crowd.

''So anyway'' -- this was Gandhi again, picking up where he'd left off -- ''with Caller ID, you only take the calls you want to take. Of course, if they can't get you on the phone, they just make up the conversations.''

''They what?!'' Mrs. Roosevelt almost came out of her chair. Gandhi smiled that little smile of his, and said it again.

That Clinton gal

''They make up the conversations. They just pretend they're talking to you. They ask you questions, then they supply your answers. That Clinton gal, for instance, she's been doing it to both of us. Here.''

And he slid the newspaper across the table. They had cable in the clubhouse, of course, but Gandhi still liked to get his news from the papers. Mrs. Roosevelt looked over the story, looked it over again, then slid it back where it came from.

''Jesus!''

''Yes?'' (Mrs. R. hadn't even noticed the kibitzers.)

''Sorry, Lord'' -- Gandhi was always quick on his feet. ''Just talking figuratively here.'' And to Mrs. Roosevelt: ''Is this the craziest thing you've ever heard?''

Mrs. Roosevelt hadn't accepted calls from the White House for years. The last thing she'd expected was to be quoted anyway -- how hard things were for her when she was First Lady, all the attacks and criticism she'd had to endure. It wasn't like her to spill her guts in public like that.

''Hey, Joanie, come here a minute! You see this?'' Gandhi waved the paper at the tiny lady heading over to shuffleboard. ''You're in here, too.'' She'd already seen it, and same as always, Joan of Arc was hot under the collar.

''Name droppers! Social climbers! She and that 'adviser' of hers -- every no-account dame gets into a little trouble nowadays, somebody's telling her she's Joan of Arc! You want to talk persecution? I'll -- ''

''Blood pressure, Joanie.'' Mrs. Roosevelt put a comforting hand on Joanie's shoulder. It didn't help.

''I'm calling my lawyer first thing!'' Joanie said. ''Isn't this under the licensing agreement? 'Misuse of reputation' or something?''

Gandhi raised a finger, and waited for everyone to quiet down. They should all check with their lawyers, he advised, though he wasn't sure they'd like what they hear. It wasn't easy filing lawsuits from The Villas Off Mortal Coil. Something about jurisdiction, he said.

''What I don't understand,'' said Gandhi to Mrs. Roosevelt, ''is why, out of all the millions and millions of people in this place, she'd think we're the ones she should be talking to -- even 'pretend' talking.''

''She probably wants people she can relate to,'' Mrs. Roosevelt suggested.

''That's exactly what I mean,'' said Gandhi. ''I'd have figured her for Bonnie and Clyde.''

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail address is horowitmnifest.uwm.edu

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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