Post 64: Excerpt from The Rooming House Diaries

The second novel by Bill Mathis will be published in August 2019 by Rogue Phoenix Press. Available for preorder through Amazon as eBook or paperback around mid-July, 2019.

Diary 1

Josef Sawicki

Born November 3, 1858, Olsztyn, Poland (East Prussia) Died April 19, 1936, Chicago

Diary found in Ledger One and translated from Polish to English with occasional comments by Mae Sawicki, Josef’s daughter-in-law.

Chapter One

Yesterday, I noticed several flecks of blood in my spittle. I don’t feel sick or any worse. To be truthful, I am old and don’t intend to live forever. I can’t wait to be with Walentina again, God rest her soul. So, today, February 10, 1934, is the day I shall write my story down so my progeny may refer to it and know the many wonderful things I have accomplished, as well as all the truth about me. Not that I’m a dishonest man, but there were times, not many, where I left out a few details. First, I must take a piss, being old has affected such things. I used to have a bladder like a horse, now it’s like a puppy. 

Now I continue my writing, even after being rudely yelled at by Henryk. I refuse to call my son Hank, like the rest of the world. I named him Henryk, it’s a good Polish name. He yelled at me for carrying coal up to the hall stoves on the second and third floors. He said I should at least get dressed first, that limping around in my dead wife’s nightgown was not proper and I looked godawful. He says that a lot when I don’t dress and stay in her nightgowns, “You look godawful.” He doesn’t understand sleeping alone is lonely and her old flannel nightgowns make her feel closer to me. I miss her so much. He says fifteen years should be enough.

See, I’ve been wearing them since the night she died. Except for around the shoulders, they fit me. She always sewed them extra big. She didn’t like anything tight around her when she slept. Of course, they tore out around my arm pits so I sewed some longer threads on to connect the sleeves. Mae finally added some material and made the arm holes bigger. “Crazy old man, I don’t want you shutting the circulation off to your arms,”she said.

Hes right. Back when I did it, I figured hed eventually lose the need to sleep in them. Now, I hope they hold together till he dies. Theyre getting hard to keep fixed, but he cant live without them. Mae

I’ve been through some bad things, but losing my wife was the worst. That first night I kept crying and tossing all over the bed. I grabbed Walentina’s pillow to hug and felt her nighty under it. It still smelled of her. I hugged it, kept wiping my tears with it, covering my face with it. Without thinking, I got naked and pulled it on over my shoulders and down around my body. Since then, only when I’m in her nighty can I sleep. We’d never slept apart and that was the best I could do.

Stay tuned for the next excerpt next Wednesday. Sign up to receive them via your email.