February 7, 2011

Except for the first few paragraphs of each chapter, I took Dead Ginny off the net in 2005 but if you want to read and/or listen to the sucker for free, click this. Thanks. G.


Gerard Jones

Chapter Twelve
Pacific Heights

In September I moved to 1990 California Street, a huge Queen Anne mansion on the corner of Octavia in Pacific Heights. The owner had converted what once had been her private residence into ten or eleven separate apartments. Her name was Carrie B. Rousseau. She had lots of cats; many, many cats, dozens of cats. When the wind was in the right direction, the place reeked of unchanged kitty litter. She only charged me $48.50 a month for rent, however, and the place was completely furnished with all kinds of antiques Mrs. Rousseau and her husband had picked up on various trips to Europe and the Far East before World War I—Japanese silk screens, English China, Chinese rugs.

She and her husband had both been architects. They'd had a hand in rebuilding San Francisco after the earthquake and fire. He was dead but not forgotten. She was lonely. Hence, no doubt, the dozens of cats. She may also have been slightly crazy. I used to sit out in what used to be her and her husband's living room and shoot the shit with her. She ended most of her sentences with, "Don't you know," and sometimes seemed to forget who she was talking to and often seemed to forget what she was talking about. I didn't mind. She reminded me of my grandmother. She knew the song my grandmother used to sing to me when I was a kid—usually with my head leaning against the prickly arm of her maroon overstuffed chair while she soaked her feet in Epsom Salts. The song was: Hello, Central, Give me Heaven (Because My Mother's There). Songs used to have long titles back in those days. It was a real tear-jerker. I used to get Mrs. Rousseau to sing it to me. She forgot a word or two here and there but filled in the gaps with pleasant lilting noises. It's a song about a kid calling the operator, probably not long after the telephone was invented. My grandmother used to choke up some when she sang it. Her own mother had died a long time ago. Probably not long after the telephone was invented too. "Central" was what they used to call the operator. I forget what the operator said. What could she say? Mrs. Rousseau choked up a little too. It was the sort of song that would have made most anyone choke up. After Mrs. Rousseau died and went to heaven, I read in the Chronicle that some sort of quasi-religious new age cult had purchased the mansion at 1990 California Street, but then tried to back out of the deal because they claimed it was haunted by the ghost of Carrie B. Rousseau and the spirits of dozens of dead cats.

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Gerard Jones
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