When I am thirty-eight, I receive a phone call. The operator asks me if
I wish to accept charges from Theodore Russell, my father. I haven't spoken to the
man for at least nine years.

He's calling from the hospital. He's having an ulcer treated, he assures
me that it is nothing serious.

Then why did you call, I ask. My voice is so enormously bitter that
I am surprised; I stop.
There is a silence. Then my father replies, I called because I want to
forgive you
. When I say nothing, he continues, I want you to know
I am not angry at you for deserting me and not talking to me for these last
years of my life. Are you listening to me?

Yes, I say.

I haven't been such a good father. There are things in life that are regrettable
but are probably for the best. Are you still there?

Yes, I say.

What I wanted to say was that I love you. I am always behind you in whatever
you do. If you need money I'll send you money. Do you need a car?
I'm fine, I say, I have a car. I've had one for years.

Is the weather nice there?


And what are you doing nowadays?

I'm on the junior faculty at this college. It's called Newpoint. I teach
intellectual history.

Never heard of it. What else do you do?

I travel a fair bit. Just research.

Are you married?


Haven't you met anyone?

I haven't yet.

You're not overexerting yourself, are you? You sound tired.

I'm fine.

Take care.

I will.

No, really. Listen to your father. Take care of your body. Your mind will
take care of itself.


I am always behind you. Remember that.

Yes, I say, I understand. But I don't understand at all.

I lived longer than you, he says, I know these things. Trust me. And if
you ever need anything, just call me.

Suddenly, I know I do need something. My jaws stiffen. I can hardly say
it: I need to know--

What? he asks. What do you want to know?

Where's Hanna?

Is he going to answer? Is he going to go deaf?

What? he says, Who? I repeat her name but my voice isn't louder.
Instead, it dissolves, I can't breathe, I close my eyes.
A sourness collects at the base of my mouth and I spit it out but
another pool is forming in my mouth.

Wait a minute, I say. I put the receiver down on the table and run to the
sink for nothing. It's simply dry heaves.

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