[ revisit Part 1 and Part 2 ]

Something had sent Jim home early, and for once it wasn't the uppity new bartender at Andy's. There was some reason he needed to be home, he remembered that much. The rest he remembered when someone knocked at his door. Must be that lady again. Yup. “Hello, ma'am,” he mustered, standing in the doorframe.

Fortified from her Dan Rather viewing session that morning, Mrs. Dombrowski stood as straight as her spine would let her, giving her best approximation of what she understood to be elegance. She had encountered Jim for the first time the night before, finally spurred to action, stealthily armed with her teakettle in case she needed to defend herself (the precise self-defense function of the teakettle was, however, unclear). Jim had been drunk, said it wasn't a good time, closed the door.

”I hope this time is good,” Mrs. Dombrowski said with little concern, and went on. “I live next door. Please can you explain me what is the noise.”

”I'm sorry, ma'am. It was an accident. Won't happen again,” said Jim, vaguely.

She glanced at her feet, as though considering that her accusation might have been not only false but even uncouth. “Yes but also I have heard it before.” Her glance shifted upward; he was listening now. “Many times. I have fear. Please.”

Jim sighed. What does she want, I already apologized. So what if it wasn't a one-time thing, not like I'm gonna stop doing what I do… Hey, no teakettle this time. What that was about, anyway?

Mrs. Dombrowski waited.

”Uh, do you want to come in?” Jim asked. Nothing better had come to mind. Judging by the angle of her eyebrows, should have kept thinking. “No, no, I guess you wouldn't. Listen…” He trailed off. Shit, man, it's not just about you. When you're trashed, other people have to deal with it.

Mrs. Dombrowski surprised them both by replying, “Come with me.” Jim went. She pulled out a chair for him at her dining room table and reheated the warm kettle. It was rare enough making tea for Mr. Allen or her son; strange feeling, having someone else over. “I am Ludwika,” she said.

”Jim,” said Jim, rising and extending his hand.

”Very nice. How long we live here and not know each other? My husband died a few years ago. I do not work. And you?”

”I'm sorry about your husband.” She shook it off. “I'm a teacher. High school.”

”Oh? You are young. My husband also was a teacher.”

”Ah.” Chatting up old ladies with dead husbands was not a specialty of Jim's. “Did he like it?”

”Yes, very much. But what he taught to the children he could not explain me. I never understood this baseball.”

”He was a baseball coach, huh?”

”Yes, at Ignatius.”

Jim rose. “What was his name?”

”Paul Dombrowski.”

”He was my coach.”

They slowly sat down.

”I played baseball at Ignatius. He was our pitching coach. He was great. Oh my God, you're Coach D's wife.”

She was right, her husband would have known how to handle him. Had handled him.

”I'm sorry I didn't make it to the funeral. I know a lot of guys did and I really wanted to, but I was at Stanford, in California. Because of baseball. Because of Coach D.”

She motioned him to stop. She breathed. The kettle whistled. She looked at it and at him. He stood up and turned off the heat. “Well, this is something,” she exhaled. “This is really something.”

Jim nodded and waited, hoping to follow her lead.

”Give truth, tell to me what is the noise.”

Bullshitting Coach D had never worked. He realized he'd tried to bullshit Mrs. D and suddenly felt ashamed in a way he hadn't felt for a long time. “I don't know, I just… it's not very smart, I know.”

”Yes. Well.”

He was looking at his feet as though they contained all the answers. She knew that there was nothing more to be gained by pressing the issue, that this was as much as he was able to say.

”Yesterday I went to the store for bananas. When I was at the store I could not remember bananas. Why did I come to the store? I could not remember about this. I bought grapes and came home. Today I remember bananas.”

Jim was at even more of a loss. He tried not to smirk.

”I mean that we cannot always be smart. Sometimes yes. Always no.”

”I understand, Mrs. D,” said Jim, not entirely rhetorically, and remembered the kettle. “May I pour you some tea?”

She laughed. “Here is smart.” She held out her cup. “Listen,” she said, “you want to go home now. Okay. Next week you come back please. You can just knock when you are there. Please.”

”I'd like that, Mrs. D,” said Jim, mostly out of politeness — but as he said it, the sentiment became true, and he knew that he would come.