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I met Ralph Hill at 212 N 5th #6- the cottage at the rear of the city lot. After no response to my third knock- I kicked. Three times. Hard. I knew he was home because I could hear the incoherent sounds of a senior citizen’s afternoon drunk coming from what seemed to be the roof! Sure enough after the third kick, 7 drunk men fell on the floor in front of the door. I counted them through the glass pane as they fell.

Apparently, Mr. Hill had served our country in the war. I never was quite sure which war. But he was either crazy before he went, went crazy while there or became crazy as his brain deteriorated from his alcohol abuse after. However it came to be, Mr. Ralph Hill was certifiable. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. Because he not only received a veteran’s pension but he also received a check from the state to help him make it through the dark days of his mental condition.

Strangely, Mr. Hill and I became fast friends.  He really hated me at first. I understood though.  You see, for years
Mr. Hill had been heating the cottage by leaving the oven door open and the oven on high. On the snowy day that I discovered this was his practice I called the maintenance people and ordered that gas be connected to the cottage and a new furnace installed. He was furious! Until he finally believed that I spoke the truth to him as he sobbed.
“No, Mr. Hill, I promise” “I will not the raise the rent on you if you have a furnace.” “Really, I promise“.  

Over time he came to trust me. He would call me frequently to issue a maintenance order because his floors were moving in circles. And I would send the maintenance man over and the floors would stop moving as soon as Mr. Hill passed out.  

There were some problems with the law that caused me to visit Mr. Hill but it wasn’t anything serious. Usually one of the 7 senior citizens had gotten his senior feelings hurt and the men would begin to fight,in the rafters,where they drank. And they’d all fall to the floor again. And the least drunk of them would call the law. I think that’s what happened the day Mr. Hill passed away.  

The police department called me to say that the rafter buddies had shown up at the appointed daily time and Mr. Hill would not answer. They were worried because they had left the day before all in a mad huff. And because I was the property manager, it fell to me to bring the master key and check on Mr. Hill.  

The police informed me that they had traced his where abouts to 4:00 PM the day before when Mr. Hill had walked to the office where he picked up his monthly check from the state. After that, he had not been seen.

Sure enough, as I entered the cottage, it was clear that Mr. Hill had slipped out of this life sometime in the night. The police officer accompanying me assumed the tasks associated with Mr. Hill’s physical remains.  

I, being the property manager of the (previously grand) Madam, was responsible for everything else. But there wasn’t much else.  

All that remained to witness the life of Mr. Ralph Hill was a pound of ground beef in the refrigerator, several bottles of medications indicating that he knew he was ill, whatever liquor the rafter boys had stashed above and one index card that Mr. Hill apparently posted on the door after the rafter boys had their fight the day before. Then removed upon his return from the state offices and laid on the counter in the kitchen.
h3.The index card read, in his own shaky hand:

    Gone to find some Real. Good. Friends.

                         - Ralph Hill

I pray you did, Mr. Hill, I pray you did.


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