Alice and Bernie: By Death Bemused
A Brief Conversational Narrative
by David L. Haase
(Update: Full story in PDF format here.)
In which Alice detects a plot to kill.
“Something’s wrong here, Bernie. I just know it.”
Alice’s voice boomed through the dining room of the old Motel 6
It was as startling and as welcome as a gunshot at a funeral. Recognizing the source of the sound, diners involuntarily clenched gut muscles and focused on their plates, whether they had any in front of them or not.
Bernie – short for Bernice, an offense she never forgave her parents – turned her myopic eyes from the steam table and peered into the face of her companion.
“Alice, what’s not right?”
“Speak up, Bernie. I can see your lips flapping but I can’t hear a thing.”
“I said, what’s not right?”
“Not so loud, for gosh sakes. Someone will hear you.”
“Alice, if you don’t want someone to hear us, take me outside, and we’ll talk there.”
The two old ladies, 80 if they were a day old, shuffled out the door of the Motel 6 on the edge of Fairfield, California.
Alice steered Bernie around the corner toward the parking lot.
“Alice, stop. I can’t walk into town.”
“I wasn’t taking you into town, you blind old bat. I wanted us to be somewhere where I can see who might listening.”
“Can you see anyone listening now?”
“No, there’s no one out here.”
“Well then, what’s not right? You said something was wrong. Should we call the kids?”
“No, for gosh sakes, Bernie. I think they’re part of it.”
“Part of what?”
“Part of what’s wrong.”
“Well, what’s wrong, Alice? You’re not making sense again. Did you take your pills this morning?”
Alice gave the vacant parking lot a hostile glance.
“The conspiracy,” she said.
“What conspiracy, Alice? Are you sure about this? This isn’t one of your wild notions now, is it? Because I won’t have anything …”
“There’s nothing wild about this. You see all these old people?”
“Well, no, of course not. We’re in a parking lot.”
“I mean all the geezers inside.”
“Well, I suppose I heard them. You know I don’t see too well.”
“That was a rhetorical question, Bernie. And you’re as blind as a bat.”
“Alice, you needn’t be harsh. You don’t hear so well, you know. That’s why we make a good pair.”
“Bernie, I swear you could knock a conversation cock-eyed. I mean, did you notice all the geezers here at this gathering?”
“Well, of course I did. We all came on the same bus this afternoon from St. Gertrude’s. That’s the point of this weekend. It’s to bring older people like you and me together with Asian children. Asians teach their children to honor old people like us. What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong.”
“You don’t need to shout, Alice. I’m not the deaf one.”
“I’m not deaf. I just don’t hear as well as I used to.”
“I’m sure you would hear just fine if you wore those hearing aids that Bobby bought for you.”
“I’m not old enough to need hearing aids, Bernie, and neither are you.”
“Alice, I don’t need hearing aids. I hear just fine. I don’t see well. It’s the cataracts.”
“You could have surgery for those, you know.”
“No, I can’t. I don’t like anything touching my eyes. You know that.”
“That’s ridiculous, you old bat. They put you under when they fix the cataracts. You won’t feel a thing.”
“I know I won’t feel a thing, because I won’t do it. … Now tell me what’s wrong. I’m getting hungry and I want to eat supper.”
“It’s only 4:30.”
“See? I’m late already. You know I like my meals regular. I like the four o’clock seating.”
“You are such an old lady, Bernie.”
“Alice, you’re at least six months older than I am.”
“That’s right. Why can’t you learn from me? I never set foot inside the food hall before five o’clock.”
“Well, we’re just different, Alice. Now what’s wrong, or have you forgotten already? Sometimes I think your memory is going. It worries me. What if someday you take me out for a walk and you forget where we’re going or how to get back? What will happen to us?”
“You old bat. That’s not going to happen, because we’re not going to live through this weekend. They plan to kill all of us.”
Up Next: Episode 2 – In which Bernie learns the dangers of Camp Youth in Asia.