Uncle Harry had no answering machine because hardly anyone ever called. Most of his friends and relatives were already dead. He had outlived them all, even though he smoked and drank most of his life. So much for all their talk about clean living, he sometimes thought.
The only person who talked to Uncle Harry regularly was his nephew Teddy. Teddy called several times a week, just for a few minutes to say hello and see if everything was OK. Some days Teddy had to call twice or more because Uncle Harry didn't answer the first phone call. When he finally did get through, Uncle Harry would chastise Teddy for his bad timing. "How do you always manage to call me when I'm in the bathroom?" he would ask.
Tuesday morning, Teddy let the phone ring ten times. He then hung up and went back to work. That afternoon he called Uncle Harry again. Again, no answer. A couple of hours later, he called again. Still no answer. He called Ira, Uncle Harry's next-door neighbor.
"Hello," said Ira.
"Hi, Ira, this is Teddy."
"Hi, Teddy. How are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine, Ira. But I'm a little worried about Uncle Harry. I called him three times today and he didn't answer once. I don't think he could have been in the bathroom all three times, do you?"
"No, I don't think so," laughed Ira. "He does complain about that, doesn't he? Anyway, I'll go next door and see what's up. If he doesn't open the door, I know where he hides his spare key. I'll call you back in a bit, okay?"
"Okay, Ira. Thanks a lot," Teddy said.
A while later, Teddy's phone rang. It was Ira. He sounded shaken. "Teddy, I'm sorry it took so long. I have bad news. Harry didn't answer the door, so I used his spare key. He was dead, Teddy. I'm sorry."
"Oh, my gosh! That's terrible!"
"I called the hospital, and they told me to call the coroner's office. The coroner said they were busy, and wouldn't be able to make it here until tomorrow or the day after."
"What happened? Did he fall? Did he die in his sleep? Is he lying on the bed with a peaceful look on his face?"
"Not exactly, Teddy. He's lying on the bathroom floor with a look of surprise on his face. We can move him to his bed later. But right now I've got to go home, Teddy. I think I might be in shock or something. I don't feel right."