Spring 1986, Volume 3
Essay

Joseph M. Dixon
Sadie and the Weasel

Hunching against the door as if he were a part of the frame, Weasel leaned into it. Glancing furtively over his shoulder, and seeing no one in the hall, he pulled a small plastic card from a case he carried in the pocket of his greasy chino pants. He slipped it between the latch and the frame, and manipulating the card, in one quick movement opened the door, whirled around it into the room and pushed it closed.

It smelled old and musty. A quick glance in the dim half-light told him that there was nothing worth stealing. There was no stereo, no TV, no VCR, nothing that would bring him a few quick easy bucks. "Damn it all," he muttered. Looking more carefully, he saw that he was right. There was no crystal, no silver, nothing at all that he could easily fence. The furniture was old and run down, and there wasn't even very much of it. In a few steps he crossed the room to an open door and peering through it saw a small kitchen. It didn't look as if anyone ever used it, and there sure wasn't anything worth stealing there either. "What a bummer," he said to himself. "No wonder it was so easy to get in. Nothing in the whole goddam place worth taking."

There were two other doors at one end of the living room. One led to a small bath. In it he saw an old toilet sandwiched between a tub and a wash basin. A frazzled blue tooth brush hung in a holder along side a cheap pink plastic glass and a dirty, ragged towel had been poked over a rod hanging above the tub, a couple of dry wash cloths stuck stiffly from the pipes under the sink.

Weasel walked to the other door. It was a bedroom, as dimly lit as the rest, but it had a fetid medicinal smell. When his eyes had adjusted to the dim light, he saw that someone was lying in the bed. "Oh shit," he said to himself, "I've got to split fast." The figure in the bed stirred.

"Is that you, Charles? I must have fallen asleep. Is it time for dinner already?" It was the voice of a very weak, tired old woman.

Not knowing what to do, but realizing that she was probably too sick to get out of bed, Weasel continued looking into the room. Maybe there'd be something there worth taking.

"if you aren't Charles, then who are you?" the old woman asked as she tried to sit up in bed.

Trying to think of some excuse to explain his presence, Weasel noticed how really weak and frail she looked. Her small frame lay enveloped in the large white pillow and from where he stood he couldn't tell where the bedding stopped and the old lady started. After mumbling a bit, he said, "I'm lookin' for my friend, Felix. He told me he lived here."

"There's no one named Felix here, young man. Would you kindly turn on that light over there? I can't see you, and I like to see the person I am talking to."

Without quite understanding why he hadn't left and even more why he did what the old lady asked, Weasel moved into the room and flipped on the light. His eyes darted quickly around to room taking in whatever might have any value. Only then they settled on the old woman. She was much, much older than he thought.

He was surprised that she didn't scream, or seem afraid, but then she was probably too tired and weak. Her frazzled yellowy-white hair was scattered on her pillow like old excelsior stuffing. Her lips, like her eyes, were blue, a distant, watery blue. They were focused on him, but he wondered if she really saw him.

"What's your name, young man?" she asked startling him somewhat, "I like to know the names of people I talk to, particularly if they are in my bedroom."

"Weasel," he muttered.

"Weasel? That's a strange name. I don't think I've ever met anyone named Weasel before. Is it a nickname, or is that your real name?" Had she been able to see him better the old lady would have realized why he was called Weasel. His small rat-like eyes were barely separated by an aquiline nose which practically met his rounded chin. Weasel couldn't believe that he was standing here in the old broad's bedrooom answering questions. "Yeh. It's a nickname. My friends all call me Weasel."

"Well, it's a strange nickname. What's your real name?" she asked.

"It's Eugene," he said dropping his voice so that she had a difficult time hearing exactly what he said.

"Eugene." She mouthed the name as if she were sucking a lemon drop. "Eugene is a very nice name, much nicer than Weasel. I'll call you that. Eugene, will you please raise the blind on the window over there? The ceiling light isn't bright enough to let me see you clearly."

Once again, without understanding why he was doing so, Weasel did as he was asked. The moment the blind clattered to the top of the window the room was flooded with brilliant, almost blinding sunlight. Light spilled over into all of the corners and for the first time Weasel was able to see clearly what was in the room beside the bed.

"Eugene, my name is Sarah, Sarah Emmaline, but all of my friends call me Sadie. I'd like you to call me Sadie, too."

For the First time Weasel looked closely at Sadie. She was a tiny thing propped up on her pillow. He thought that she was probably the oldest person he had ever seen. He had noticed the wrinkles and the white hair before he had opened the blind, but now in all of that light her whiteness fairly glowed. A thin gold wedding band on her bony finger was about the only contrast to all of the white. "What's wrong with you? How come you are in bed at this time of day?" he asked more from wanting to have something to say than from any real interest on his part.

" I've been sick for a while, and I just don't feel strong enough to spend much time out of bed," she replied.

"You mean you stay there all the time?" he asked increduously.

"Well, not all of the time, but most of it. When Charles comes, he is the man from 'meals on wheels,' he helps me get up for a few minutes. And Sister Winifred from St. Xavier's usually drops in at night to help me out a bit, but other than that I spend most of my time in bed."

"Man, don't you go nuts just stayin' there in bed?" Weasel asked her.

"Oh, not at all. I get pretty tired, and so I sleep a lot. I watch my TV set sometimes," she said nodding to the cheap Japanese set on a table not far from her bed. "Then I read or listen to music. Sometimes I just lie and think, or just lie here and don't think. But I never get bored. Being in bed most of the time isn't nearly as bad as you might think it is, Eugene. Particularly when you are as tired as I am."

Weasel wasn't listening to her. He picked up the part about no one visiting her except the meals-on-wheels man and the nun. It'd be easy to rip off her radio and TV set, but they probably wouldn't bring him enough money to make it worth stealing them. Other than those two items there wasn't anything at all worth taking. Weasel was bemoaning the fact when he realized that Sadie was talking to him.

"Eugene, why don't you pull that chair closer to my bed. Then you can sit in it, and I won't have to talk so loud. Sometimes talking makes me a bit tired."

Weasel did as she instructed. After he had pulled the chair up to her bed he sat down on it and leaned toward her. Sadie talked a little, not really saying very much, but Weasel's mind wasn't with her at all. He watched her closely. At times her voice would trail off a bit and twice she started to nod off to sleep. Just being there made Weasel tired. He was about ready to leave when Sadie looked directly at him. He could feel her stare, and that brought him back to reality.

"Eugene," she said, "I am very tired now. I think that I am going to drop off to sleep. Why don't you leave now? But do come back tomorrow if you have the time. You can find your way out, can't you?" Without waiting for him to answer, she said, "if you come back tomorrow I am sure that you won't have any trouble getting in, will you?" Sadie said it more as a statement than as a question. Weasel wondered what she meant by that.

"Yeh, I gotta split anyway. I don't know about tomorrow. Maybe I'll be busy and won't be able to get here. I got things to do." He got up from his chair, strode through her living room and out into the main hall, carefully closing the door behind him. There was no way that he was going to come back here the next day, or ever. It was only when he was out in the street that Weasel realized he hadn't taken the TV set nor anything else. "Damn," he muttered, "I've gotta get some bucks together."

That night Weasel didn't do anything much different from what he usually did. He met his buddies for some pizza and beer, spent a few hours talking with them about their scores, but for some reason, he didn't mention Sadie although he couldn't quite put her out of his mind. Sitting around all day in bed didn't seem like too great a life to him. He found himself returning to thoughts of no one going to see her except for the nun and the meals man. As soon as he'd close that thought out of his mind and try to turn to something else, it would come creeping back. Even though he swore he'd be damned if he went back to Sadle's, the next day he returned.

 

He let himself in with his plastic card, and when she saw him Sadie didn't seem particularly surprised, as if she had expected him to return. She seemed to be feeling even worse than she had the day before. He could tell because she was more wispy, but she didn't complain. She also dropped off to sleep more times than she had yesterday. While Sadie slept Weasel watched her. He had been around old people before, but had never spent much time with them. Matter of fact, they sort of gave him the creeps. Since he didn't have anything in particular to do, and since Sadie's apartment was warm, he decided to stay there.

As long as he never told his buddies where he was and turned whatever loot he got over to them he could do what he wanted. If he ever mentioned Sadie to them they'd want to come with him and rip off everything she had. It was better that he kept his mouth shut.

The days and weeks passed. Weasel didn't go to see Sadie every day, but he didn't miss too many. Sometimes some of the guys asked where he was cutting out to, but he was always able to put them off by telling them he was scouting out shops and apartments they could rip off. Since he turned in a steady supply of stuff to them, they never really bothered him.

A couple of times he went past a flower shop and grabbed some flowers out of a bucket. He had never taken flowers to anyone, but he thought that Sadie might like them. He was right. She was awake the day he took them to her. Her eyes were always watery, but he thought that he saw some tears in them that day.

"Oh, Eugene, how nice of you to bring me flowers. I've always loved them, and these are so beautiful. There's a bottle in the kitchen. I don't think I have a vase anymore. Will you please put them in some water for me?"

Sadie kept the flowers at her bedside until they had all withered and the water turned green and started to stink. The meals man or the nun must have finally tossed them out, because one day they were no longer there. He was able to grab her some others from time to time. When he couldn't rip off flowers, he often brought her an orange or a Snickers bar, which she especially liked, or some other little thing. She was always grateful, but often didn't eat what he brought. Sometimes he'd peel the orange for her and she'd eat one section or he'd break off a part of the Snickers bar for her, but usually Weasel ended up eating most of the stuff himself.

I He was convinced that Sadie knew he was a thief, but she never said anything to him. If he had a new shirt on, or had had a haircut she always noticed, but she never asked where he got the things he had. Once she surprised him a bit. He was sitting in his chair in its usual place next to her bed. Sadie glanced up at him and asked, "Is that an earring you're wearing, Eugene?"

"Yeh," he answered, fingering the small gold stud in his ear lobe.

Sadie looked at it again and said quietly, "Does that mean you are homosexual, Eugene?"

"Hell no," he replied. "It means I'm tough. I ain't no faggot."

Other than that one time Sadie never asked him anything about his personal life. If he felt like talking about himself, which he did once in a while, she would listen. If she felt like talking, he in turn would listen. Sometimes he told her things he had never told anyone before. Sadie never scolded him, nor did she preach to him. Nobody had ever listened to him like she did. He could say whatever he wanted when he felt like talking. Often she would fall asleep while he was talking, or he would think that she was asleep because her breathing was even and her eyes were closed, but then she would say something, or open her eyes and just look at him. Sometimes she would tell him little things about herself when she was young. Once she told about how she had a thing for a married man - seemed it was her sister's husband, and they got it on. That day Sadie seemed more alive than she ever had. She even cried a little and said it was bad because it was "stolen happiness." Hell, Weasel thought, where'd you ever get any happiness if you didn't steal it?

Weasel could tell that Sadie was getting weaker and weaker. Some days she didn't say anything, she just looked at him, but he knew that she knew he was there. In fact, ever since the first time he went into Sadie's apartment he had a feeling that she knew an awful lot more about him than he realized. Toward the end Weasel knew Sadie was going to die. She slept a lot more and she didn't talk as much. She quit eating whatever he brought her, even the Snickers bars. He kept talking to her, but she replied less and less. Still, he felt that she was glad he came to see her; he felt comfortable with her.

The last time Weasel visited her he let himself into her apartment with his plastic card as usual. "Funny," he thought, "she has never asked me how I get in. She's a pretty cool lady though. She probably knows." As he looked through the door into Sadie's bedroom and saw her lying there, he knew immediately that she was dead. He walked into the room and standing at the end of her bed he spent a -few minutes just looking at her. Sadie didn't look much different to him from how she had looked the day he first went into her apartment. Her eyes were closed. He was glad for that. Weasel thought of all of the time he had spent with Sadie and wondered why he had. He had enjoyed that time and knew now that she was dead he would miss her. His eyes misted over just a bit, and he wasn't at all ashamed when a few tears brimmed over his lower eyelids and rolled down his cheeks.

Weasel reached up with his hand and wiped away the tears. He reached over to Sadie's bed and lifted her arm which was hanging awkwardly at her side. Carefully he folded it over her chest and then pulled the blanket up under her chin. Slowly he turned away. As he did he noticed the TV sitting on the table by her bed. He hesitated a moment, and then pulling its plug from the wall, tucked it and the clock radio next to it under his arm. Turning to Sadie, he said, "What the hell, you aren't going to need them anymore." He then walked quickly through the living room and let himself out into the hall.