Anzzia Magazine Summer 2019 Volume #31 - Page 40

The Living

by

Robert M. Stumpf, II

The phone rang just as I settled into my morning Sits bath.

"Shit!" I mumbled as I hurriedly got out. The cool morning air made my open wound ache.

A second ring. I slipped slightly as I left the bathroom and turned through the living room.

"Who in hell could be calling at six in the morning!"

A third ring and I grabbed the receiver from the kitchen wall phone.

"Yes!"

The voice came from someone who couldn't speak actual words, "Mr. Stumpf?"

"This is he." I was trying to figure out if I could place the voice.

"Since you were close.....since you were close...since you were close to Dave..." a screaming could be heard in the background, sounding like some stench from Satan's hell "...since you tried....since you tried so hard..."

"Yes!" I'd decided, despite the weirding voice, that this was a prank call.

"David died last night."

"Uh-huh," I said, "thanks for telling me." I hung up, mumbling, and returned to my Sits bath.

The warm water comforted the open wound where they'd cut out the pilonidal cyst.

I'd been home from the hospital less than a week and was still hurting. I'd talked to Dave just a couple of days ago and he seemed a bit better. In class, too, he was more of his old, sarcastic self.

Still, students usually don't make crank calls like this. I got out of the tub, went back to the phone and punched the buttons.

It was busy. I tried again and it rang. Almost immediately Jim, Dave's dad, answered.

"Mr. O'Conner?" I asked, even though I knew the voice.

"Yes." he replied in the bored tone he always had. "Did your wife just call me?" He knew my voice by now.

"Yes, she did," his voice shook just a bit.

"Then I understand." I hung up the phone and stared at it. I could feel the droplets of water inch down my naked body. My stomach cramped. I bent forward and began to cry.

The surreal and absurd sometimes come together like some rainbow fog arching over reality. Like when you're in an accident and suddenly everything goes into slow motion, and then, just as suddenly reality comes crashing back. I wanted the call to be a prank so badly that I had to go to the scene.

I pulled to a stop in front of Dave's house. The January cold chilled me because the car wasn't yet warm. I looked into the rear-view mirror to make sure I wasn't teary. My brown hair was down to my shoulders...needed to get a cut. My eyes were still bloodshot with dark rings beneath them. Snow beads glistened in my beard.

Jim was tall and lanky, just like his son. He greeted me at the door. Inside, a cigarette grey mist draped like depression