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The Phone Rings

[Except from upcoming book, due late fall.]

The phone rings. He sits in the black leather chair in the downstairs of his house, the blinds beside him closed, his legs stiff. His breathing is steady, in and out, in and out. The chair is ripped in the right corner by his leg, and his fingers toy with the black duck tape that was placed there years ago. He stares at the tv, muted, images of wreckage and fallen buildings and what he knows are screams coming out of the mouths of those who appear covered in dust. The phone rings.

He can hear her crying upstairs, his wife, as she paces around the kitchen floor, moving furniture around, reorganizing the plant arrangement, lighting candles and blowing them out, only to light them again.

It has been 27 hours and he has not moved. They had been in the car, driving home from a late lunch, so spontaneous for them on a Tuesday afternoon. When her brother called and told them something has happened, he calmly said, “let’s wait until we’re home to listen.” It was silent then, the rest of the ride, and is still, silent. She knew not to question him. She knew his encounters with death have provided him with a knowledge on how to face it. When his plane caught on fire. When the grenade never detonated in Vietnam. When the armed robber pointed the sawed off shot gun between his eyes. When the gunman ran through his offices. He knew that death ran its own violent path and couldn’t be predicted or persuaded. So he chose to wait. When they got home they turned the tv on. And he hasn’t moved since. The phone rings. This time it’s the dentist. He can hear her answers. No, we haven’t heard anything. No, she isn’t in the city. At least we don’t think. She’s usually in the village. She should be in the village. Thank you. We appreciate your concern. The click. The sobs. She joins him downstairs in the darkness. 28 hours. The phone rings. It is not his daughter.

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