He hit the ground and thought he was going to die. The handcuffs tightened around his wrists and the next thing he knew he was being pulled to his feet.
Two officers placed him in the squad car. “You have the right to remain silent….” The other one was on the radio, stifling his laughter, “We got him. An old man. Yeah. We’re coming in now.”
Old man?! Artie was offended. Well, maybe. These officers were kids. What did they know. He tolerated the fingerprinting and photographing. Then they asked him if he wanted something to drink. A tea would be nice. Did they have Earl Grey? They brought him into a little room.
“So, Arthur…” The tea wasn’t bad, Artie thought. “Arthur, why were you peeping into Mrs. Williams’ window?” What was that? Peeping? “Yes, Arthur, her neighbors called us when they saw you prowling around.”
Mavis was the love of his life. They nodded, waiting for him to continue. No, no, Artie could see they didn’t understand. He had ruined things; he had squashed their happy ending. He’d been something of a skirt-chaser, he explained. The officers were grinning. Artie imagined this was hard to reconcile with the “old man” before them.
The desk sergeant searched the prints and then checked online. There he was. The old man had been a local celebrity, back in the day, touring clubs and recording. Jazz, blues, some rockabilly. Arthur was even credited with several studio recordings. Quite a few, actually. Well you never can tell with these peeping toms.
It felt like yesterday. Artie heard his voice break. Mavis had been crying, “I don’t want to see you leave me.” Leave her? Was she crazy? “I wouldn’t leave you for anything in this world, Mavis.” How could she even think such a thing? She’d heard a story about that girl. “I don’t want you to go,” Mavis sobbed and he couldn’t make out anything else. “Mavis, honey, you know I would never do anything in my life….”
Mavis had thrown him out of the house. After throwing dishes and her ring at him. His clothes followed him, out the window. She didn’t speak to him again. He signed over the house to her and continued the mortgage payments. He was fine living above the cigar shop. What more did he need, anyway.
He’d planted the rose bushes for her when they first moved in. Heritage Rose, the gardener had called them. She’d loved them. He had the gardener show him how to care for them properly; how to prune them for health and the different seasons.
“You were pruning her rose bushes?” The officers looked at him. Well, yes, obviously.
“At night?” They leaned forward. Were these officers simpletons? Of course at night.
Artie wasn’t going to upset her by knocking on her door. Mavis deserved beautiful roses. And she deserved to never be hurt again. Not even a tiny bit, and certainly not by him.
Artie sat back and sighed. Didn’t these young men understand about love?
[Dialogue inspired by “I’d Rather Go Blind,” performed by Etta James and Dr John, live on B. B. King and Friends, 1987. Original written by Ellington Jordan and Billy Foster. Original release: Tell Mama, by Etta James, 1968. Produced by Rick Hall (Original recording: 1967).]