Otis Hall was the eighth and final child born to Carmen and “Bump” Hall, in the small town of Accident. His mama used to laugh and say, “You were an accident that was born in Accident. We weren’t planning on having any more young’uns, but the good Lord saw fit to give us you.”
Throughout his childhood, Otis’ siblings affectionately and jokingly called him “an accident waiting to happen.” If a piece of sidewalk was just the slightest bit raised above the other, Otis would stump his toe and fall down. It there was the tiniest bit of a tree stump left in the vast yard, Otis would find it, trip over it and fall down. There were thresholds in every doorway of their old house and sure enough, Otis would at least twice a day, trip over one of them and fall down.
His mama and daddy owned a little country store, and it was a given that if he even looked at a nice, pyramid-shaped group of vegetables or fruit, they would come cascading down like a stack of dominoes.
His teacher and the neighbors took to calling him “the Jonah.” Back in his day, if you were called a Jonah, it meant that you brought bad luck every where you went. “Here comes the Jonah,” they’d say.
His mama told him not to pay any mind to what people called him, because they just didn’t know what a good boy he was, and although he had been an accident, he was a blessing from the Lord.
When his mama and daddy died, Otis took over their little country store and somehow managed not to destroy everything in it with his clumsiness. Eventually, a big box store came to town and the little store had to close its doors.
Despite Otis’ moniker of being a Jonah, he became a greeter for the big box store. Only having to say “hello and welcome” to the patrons seemed ideal, although a few times, a display was positioned a little too close to the door and one misstep from Otis sent the goods tumbling into the isles.
Otis worked at the store for almost thirty years until one day, it started pouring and the rain-soaked patrons tracked in water. Otis slipped and fell down. While waiting for the ambulance, he heard one of the youngsters laughing while he said “told you. He’s a Jonah.”
At the hospital, the doctor told Otis that he had broken his hip…badly. He would need extensive physical therapy and constant care. His older siblings were long gone and having never had time for a wife and children, left Otis at the mercy of a nursing home.
He spent several months there, learning to maneuver with a walker that he fondly called his “rollater.” It had the usual bright yellow tennis balls on the front legs, that he had covertly mucked from an unused “loaner” he found in the closet.
He didn’t like being there. It felt like a prison and he often complained that everyone “just seemed so old.” There wasn’t much attention from the staff and many nights, he listened to the cries and moans of people who had all but been forgotten.
One day, Otis decided to be a rebel and “break out.” He packed his bags, called a taxi and left. He had heard about the Battery Park Hotel and sets his sights on living there. Although there was some question about his mobility, he was granted admission.
He had found his milieu. He was welcomed by the other residents, who knew nothing about “the Jonah.” He had been flashed by Eloise and yes, like all the other men, he loved her. He had met Irene and thought she was beautiful, but he knew that she would never be interested in a broken-down old “accident,” like him. Raden had offered the same obligatory nod that he afforded to everyone else, but he and Otis had never spoken.
At night, Otis didn’t hear cries and moans. He heard laughter and sometimes, the sound of big-band era music, playing on someone’s antique record player. He was happy.
On game night, Otis would leave his room a good thirty minutes early. It took him a while to negotiate the long hallways and more often than not, the elevator doors would try to close on him mid-way into his entrance. He would good-naturedly fuss at the doors and call them “scoundrels.”
There had only been a few mishaps during Otis’ tenure there. Once he overturned one of the game tables and checkers went flying all over the room. The people with two good hips, took it in stride and picked them up,one by one. In the dining room, he accidentally knocked over a large basket of rolls and much to the chagrin of the employees, it resulted in a mini-food fight. Even though most of the people had two good hips, they were a bit slower than they were in their youth, so the five second rule didn’t apply.
Otis was found huddled in the elevator, along with his trusty “rollater.”
To be continued________________________