The Corpse in the Office

I grew up in the Bronx on McGraw Avenue,  a tree-lined street that bordered the beautifully designed and landscaped apartment complex called Parkchester.  (See PARKCHESTER, CELEBRATE ME HOME  Oct 16, 2015)

There were six or eight stores on our street,  a bar called The White Gander, and several private houses with ground floor offices.  My dad had his medical practice in one of those offices and we lived “over the store” in what we thought was the nicest house on the block,  with two beautiful magnolia trees in front.

Other than the occasional rowdy crowd spilling out of The White Gander,  ours was a quiet street, but at times the doorbell would ring well after office hours and my dad would go down to deal with one emergency or another.

As family legend has it,  once the bell rang about 2 AM.  My sister and I slept on the third floor and didn’t hear it,  but it woke my folks a floor below, and down went my father to answer the door.

Later when he came back to bed my mother was asleep, and it wasn’t until breakfast the next morning that she asked him what had happened.

Between spoonfuls of oatmeal my dad explained.  “Two fellows coming out of The White Gander late last night saw a man lying on the sidewalk.  When they tried to rouse him he was unresponsive, and so seeing my shingle they rang the bell.”

“My goodness, what was the matter with him?”,  asked my mother.

“Well”,  said my father,  “we carried him into the office and put him on the examining table, but I could see he was already dead.  In fact after breakfast I’ll have to call the medical examiner to pick up the body.”

“You mean he’s still down there?”,  my sister and I cried almost in unison.

“Well”,  said my dad, “there was no point doing anything about it at 2 AM, and I knew he’d still be there in the morning.”

“But how could you leave a dead man lying down there all night while your wife and children were sleeping right upstairs!”,  my mother demanded.

“There was really nothing to worry about”,  my father said,  “the poor guy couldn’t get off the table.”

Of course my dad was right, and so when he finished his oatmeal he went down to the office to call the coroner.

As he had predicted,  the corpse was still there.

Dana Susan Lehrman


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