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"After the Tone" - by Dan Schneider 

Dan heads Cosmoetica, a website that the New York Times Book Review called an online lit revolution leaderCosmoetica was nominated for Time magazine's Coolest Website Of The Year nominee in March 2006, and my short story.  Among other honors,  Dan is a Million Writers Award nominee.


© 2006 Dan Schneider


South, Lakeway, Texas, 12:07 PM


"We see in color, but we remember in black and white," was what the old saying was, but although it had little bearing on himself or the way he had lived his life, to Desmond Penniston, on this day, the saying seemed to be the wisest words he had ever heard uttered, because if there was anything that Desmond hated more than getting messages from solicitors on his answering machine, it was hearing the inane messages of people he barely knew, or those who left longwinded messages for people who did not reside in his home, especially when they uttered apothegms like the aforementioned. His only quarrel with the saying, however, was that he always felt there had to be room for the grays of life. Otherwise, he thought it pure wisdom. Perhaps the worst example of this habit of leaving long messages, however, at least that he could recall, was a nearly ten minute message he received about a year ago from what sounded like a teenaged girl going on and on about how she felt she was now a woman because she had gotten her first period. She kept referring to a girl named Ayla as the one who lived at his number, but as there was only him and his grandmother, they were both embarrassed by its replay.


What kind of a person reveals such intimate details on an answering machine? Even had she left the message at Ayla's correct number, why leave the message at all? Would Ayla's mother or father have been thrilled to know that their daughter had a friend who felt it was appropriate to leave such intimate information available for all to hear? What if Ayla had a baby brother? His grandmother was utterly appalled by the message, but, despite his initial disdain, Desmond found something heartbreaking in it. He kept it, and every night, for nearly three weeks, after his grandmother had fallen asleep (she was zonked out by 9 PM at the latest), he listened to the message over and again, until he had memorized every single word the girl said. Yet, now, it was all lost to him, and he could barely recall why he ever had a fascination with it in the first place. Was it because people cross into each other's lives in ways they can never guess? He did not have one of those caller ID programs on his phone, so he never knew exactly where the caller, who was so intimate with Ayla as to not have to leave her name or number, merely the sound of her voice, lived. Yet, as time passed, even this fascination for connection faded back into irritation that the whole thing had ever happened, smearing itself into a sort of dun nothingness. One would think that people would somehow recognize that they were not leaving a message for a loved on or a friend, and just stop speaking, by discerning the voice of the message. But, no...on and on they would ramble, as if they were actually speaking to a person, not a machine. Is there some desperate need for some people to connect with something, anything at all, that they will attempt to do it with a machine? He had heard of old married couples, and when one of them died, the other might replay the deceased partner's voice on an answering machine, but that was simple grief. To connect to a stranger, and a stranger's machine was, well, strange, but even more, although Desmond was not good enough with words to properly frame his true feelings well enough.


It had been a few weeks since his grandmother died, of a massive coronary, brought on by decades of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, but Desmond had yet to change the message on his answering machine. He didn't long to hear her voice, the way a spouse might. Even that notion gave him the willies. And it's not like he would ever forget his grandmother's deep, hoarse, raspy old voice. In a sense, he was comfortable with her voice and message on the machine, since it would keep him hidden from bill collectors or anyone else looking to stir up trouble in his life. Every so often people would actually leave a message for his grandmother, not him, for it was her house that was he was living in the last two years, while he had transitioned through the midlife crises so many do: a bitter divorce, a child custody case, and the loss of two jobs. What they were was not even important to him now. Two years may as well have been two centuries. His thinking, his desires, his ideas of life had changed totally. Partly this was because of his re-acquaintance with his grandmother, after many years of their relationship consisting of mere holiday cards being exchanged.


He had actually grown up in her care, after his parents were killed in a robbery at a bank, when he was six, and he loved the old woman, even though, in his late teens, he had hit the road, and lived all over the country. Back in the 1980s, he toyed with the idea of becoming a computer programmer. This was when he lived in Seattle, and homes without computers were still the majority. Job security, he thought. But, something had happened to kybosh those plans. What it was was not important now. There were other episodes that lasted a year or so, until he finally made it back to the Hill Country, a man with few dreams left, meager experiences to look back on, but, worst of all, no real desire to get angry over the lack of good things nor memories in his life. It was an odd thing, that folks in these parts possessed, this ability to just slip into the oblivion of life, and not utter a peep against eternity. His grandmother was a perfect example of this archetype. As Desmond was her only heir, the home was actually now his, willed in full to him, but he had still not fully contemplated the idea, and it would still be a while before the deed was put in his name by the county. The house was not worth much, although the few acres around it might be in the near future, as more and more people swarmed into the area, and development picked up. Real estate was always a good investment, and if he could float by for another decade or so, he felt, the land might be worth a mint, and he could sell it, and retire further out west, near the Mexico border, or maybe go to New Mexico and die amongst the cacti, up in O'Keeffe Country.


That was all in the future, though. Now was what he had to deal with, and, in a sense, he simply refused to believe his grandmother was gone, and enjoyed listening to her voice on the answering machine, as he had the mysterious teen girl from a year ago. He recalled how, when he first moved back in, his grandmother did not even own an answering machine, and her telephone was still the old rotary dial type. When he bought a push button phone, and an answering machine, he allowed her to be the one to tape the message, and it absolutely thrilled her. In all her years, too many to properly record to strangers, it turned out, she had never heard the sound of her own voice. As she played the message over and over Desmond saw a part of her he had never seen before come to the fore. She was young. Her eyes were not now merely glazing with cataracts. He thought of young girls he knew, from his own childhood, and how they would stare endlessly and wondrously at things like wasp's nests' intricacies or the filter of sunlight through butterflies' wings. His grandmother was there, and the butterfly of her prided message glimmered into him from several years' distance. He almost coughed as phlegm filled his throat, and he wiped one of his eyes. The greeting became, to his grandmother, something that hid her old, decrepit self. In it, she could be a seductive young minx. It was almost as if she was trying to sound like one of those women on a phone sex line. Of course, Desmond had had to write out exactly what she needed to recite, but inflection and intonation are things that can utterly negate the content of what's being spoken by how it is spoken. And, his grandmother was taken aback by the depth of her voice, after so many years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.


"I sound like Betty Bacall," she beamed. In her eyes, he could see his grandmother doing one of those internal morphs, where she became Betty Bacall, the starlet from Hollywood's Golden Age, and imagined living the life of the old movie star. She seemed overcome with emotion at the very notion.


He asked her what was the matter, and it was only then that he learned that she had never heard her own voice before, at least on tape. She was at first embarrassed by the fact that it sounded so different to her, although it was the same voice Desmond knew from his earliest youth, then amazed and thrilled by its passage, although she never really took to the sound of her voice. Not that it was a bad sounding voice. But, even sounding like a movie star can be disconcerting to some, for it means you don't sound like yourself, or what she heard of her own voice inside her head.


She asked him, "Desmond, do you think that all the great singers go through the same thing when they first hear themselves singing on a record? I mean, like Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald?"


He said, "I guess so, except that a speaking voice and a singing voice are naturally different, so the feeling they get might not be as bad as what you experienced. You know how all them English singers sound just like Americans when they sing. Accents are kind'a phony, I guess."


He could still see her, that day she recorded the message, expertly practicing exactly where to put an emphasis, as if it was something that National Security depended on. She would record and rerecord dozens of versions of her message, over the next few weeks, until she was satisfied with it. It was as if she were Ingmar Bergman, and every enunciation and stress not only revealed her mood, but something deeper about herself. Finally, the message that still played on Desmond's answering machine was ready.


His grandmother's voice said, "You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!"


Yet, she had tried so many different inflections to get it just right, and was never quite satisfied. When she asked Desmond why he didn't want her to mention that he lived there now, he said that he liked being anonymous. And it was true. He also felt a bit embarrassed having to move back in with his mother's mother, at his age. But, pride goeth before a fall, so he swallowed his pride, and ended up working at the local Wal-Mart, part-time, as well as having a paper route to bring in a little extra money. This meant there was no sleeping in for him. Seven days a week he was up at four a.m. Had someone told him that, in his mid-forties, he would be doing part-time jobs to survive he would have laughed. No, he would have believed he would have a wife, family, kids. Now, he had lost that, and never saw his kids, although a third of what little he made yet went to feed them.


Still, he was a grown man, and he felt that he could have and should have handled the death of his grandmother better. He dreaded the call he had to make to his ex-wife, to tell his kids of their great-grandma's death. They loved her, as much as he did, and he was never any good at such tasks. She was even loved by his ex-wife, who sent flowers, and a card, that conspicuously had the name of her new husband on it, along with his kids. That she felt it necessary to use his last name on the card - Mr. & Mrs. Wilton Straffenburg - was uncalled for. A simply Jenny would have sufficed. They lived too far away, however, to fly in for the memorial service. It was too expensive. Besides, his grandma had wanted to be cremated, so that's what he did, and on the night after it was all done, he sat back in the big reclining chair that he suddenly realized was all his. Everything his grandmother had owned was willed to him. He felt almost as if he was a vampire, though, sinking into the softness of a chair his grandmother had bought specifically for her back ailments. He was a bit disturbed at how easily it soothed him. He was too old, and now, he was the next in line to die. Yes, his death might be decades off, but there was no one in his life ahead of him on the cosmic conveyor belt to oblivion.


He muddled through the weeks thereafter, until one afternoon, just after noon, in fact, when he was not working at Wal-Mart, he got home from his route, and discovered that there were seven messages on his answering machine. The first thing he thought of was that they were from some collection agency that had finally tracked him down through some means, which was one of the reasons he wanted no mention of his residence at the house on the answering machine's greeting, but then, after the panic subsided, he realized that living with his grandmother had finally allowed him to get out of debt, excepting what he owed his ex-wife and kids every month. This meant that all his years of living had meant he had merely broken eve, and that due only to an old woman's death. It was not that he was so exceptional in this dismal fact that stuck with him, but that he was so common, that made him feel blue.


Tentatively, he walked over to the flashing red signal on the machine, and pressed the PLAY button. Here is what he heard:




You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


Lori, this here is Tamar McCullers. It's been a few weeks since I heard from you, girl. I wanted to let you know that you were right about Bobby Halloran. That man is a dog, he's always been a dog, and he will always be a dog. I just saw him the other day, and he's still the same dog that he was back when we was in school. I walk up to him at the local HEB, and he's there having his way with the cantaloupes. I swear, it was the weirdest thing to see- a grown man, a man in his golden years, and there he is smiling like some twelve year old squeezing his first girlfriend's titties. I swear, I could see the drool running down his chin. And his eyes were all lit up, until he saw me, and that I was watching him do all this perverse stuff. Then he smiled, waved, said, "How ya doin' Tamar?" then hobbled along with his cane. The man is a total pervert, if you ask me. I remember how you had a big crush on him, though, back in the old days. But he liked Lisa Randall. You remember her? She was that girl with the red hair, and the freckles, and all the boys liked her because she developed in fourth grade. She married Buck Witherspoon, the lawyer. They live in Houston now - a suburb really. I forget which one. That was, oh...thirty-five years ago, or more, I think. Back when Nixon was still President, maybe LBJ. I hear she's a great grandmother now. Oh, that reminds me, by the way. Did you see that ad in the paper? They're having a 15% Off Sale at the mall- at Sears. I told you, when last we spoke, that Alma and Jack were coming to visit this summer, with the kids, so I was wanting to go to the mall to pick up some things- knick-knacks and presents for the kids. Ever since I lost my driver's license over that little accident a few years ago you know...well, I hate to impose, but I was hopin' you could come and pick me up and we could spend an afternoon at the mall. It's been too long, and I hate sounding like I'm calling you up, only to use you. I hate being cooped up all day in this little apartment. You have no idea what it's like to be self-sufficient all your life, and have it all vanish. My boy, Grover, tells me that I should join some local senior citizens centers, but I can't stand the attitudes. It's like all the folks there do is wait to die. They play checkers, gossip, watch tv. They don't exercise their minds, and they shrivel up like their bodies do. It's horrible, just horrible. I'd rather be alone. I would! I miss Teddy so much, I tell you. He was a good man, a good father, a good husband. Why do the good ones always get taken so quickly? And Bill, I've always marveled at how you were able to get on with your life after he...well, you know. It was a terrible way to go, just terrible. Anyway, that's about it. I miss you, deary, I really do. Give me a call when you get in, and we can set up some afternoon in the next week or two, ok? I'm looking forward to it. We shouldn't let so much time pass between get togethers. But, let's do it in the morning, ok? I wanna catch my soap operas in the afternoon. I just love "General Hospital" now that they're bringing back some of the older characters who were my favorites. Talk to you soon. Bye.



You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


Lori, it's Tamar again. Forgot to mention it in my last message, but have you seen that latest movie about them two gay cowboys? Harold Jefferson was over the other day, bringing me the salt for my water softener, and he was tellin' me all about it. He said it was disgustin' and un-Christian, and you know, even though I'm not that religious a person, I think that this thing with homosexuals has gone too far. Yet, I read me the story that the movie was based on. Didn't like it, but I got a feelin' the film might be better, what with all them shots of the mountains. Sort of like that A River Runs Through It movie from some years back. Anyway, then I saw Linda Tucker, and she was raving about how good a movie it was- even better than that Spielberg film about the Olympics- you know- the one where they killed all those Jews? So, I'm kind of torn. A part of me feels it would be a wicked thing to go and see this gay cowboy movie, yet I tend to trust Linda's judgment, and she's a woman of great character and smarts, you know? And, after all, a little wickedness never damned a whole soul.


Then, she said the strangest thing, She tells me, "Tamar, my daddy always said that a man sees things in color, but remembers things in black and white." I didn't exactly get what that meant, but when I thought about it, it sort of made sense. Like some of the things your papa used to say, when we was girls, you know? Anyway, I was just thinkin' that instead of going in the morning, maybe we could catch a late afternoon matinee, one day, you know, between four and five pm, and see the movie at the mall, then do some shoppin'. Movies are cheaper before six pm. Anyway, it's just a thought. Let me know what you'd like to do when you call me back. Bye now.



You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


It's Tamar again. Where you been, girl? Anyway, I got me a paper and found out that the movie's playing all over, so there shouldn't be any trouble catching it anywhere. My niece, Lynn- Lynn Chancey; you met her last year at the Oatmeal Festival up in Bertram? Anyway, she just called me and told me about what happened last night. They had some big soiree up in Nameless Valley, but no one showed up. I could tell in her voice that she was ready to cry, but holdin' it in. She's so lonely, and such a good gal. It's a shame that she's still lonely. I mean, we're lonely, but at least we had some true love in our lives. She's only had the backhand of life. She's only a decade or so younger than me, yet she's never found love. It's so sad. I was listenin' to her voice and feelin' all sorry for her. I guess it's true what they say, 'Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.' Anyway, the more I hear about this gay cowboy movie - Humpback Mountain-  no, no, Brokeback Mountain, the more I'm gettin' an itchin' to go and see it, even if Preacher Rowe would have damned us. Remember that old fool? You know, his son runs that tax service over on 183 in Cedar Park. I was drivin' there a week or so ago with my boy, Clem. He was takin' me to lunch at Bubba's Icehouse, and did you hear? They closed Bubba's down. So, we went to Whataburger, instead. But, we drove by Manny Rowe's tax place, and would you believe it? He had these two young kids dressed up as Uncle Sam and the Statue Of Liberty, and they's wavin' to all the cars that drive by. Now, I ask you, would you trust your taxes being done by a man who pays people to dress up in such ridiculous costumes? I know I wouldn't. I mean, do they really believe that sort of gimmick will work? I mean, I seen folks do it for car washes and lube jobs, but that ain't nearly as important as getting your taxes done, right? Anyway, I'll talk to you in a bit, Sweety.




You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


Oh my God, Lori! Have you been watchin' the tv news, or listenin' to the radio? Did you hear about what happened at the dam? You know, when I was callin' you the last time I swore I heard a big bang, outside, but figured it was just the neighbor kids playin' with fireworks again. You know, they got a burn ban in effect, 'cause of the drought, but those little monsters don't give a damn if they burn the whole town of Lakeway down to the ground. It's a shame, a damn shame. I was over at The Thirsty Mind bookstore the other day, and all the people there were talkin' about it, that these fireworks were gonna end up burnin' the whole town down- just like that Bedford house?


Anyway, it turns out it wasn't the neighbor kids shootin' off firecrackers. You won't believe what happened, Lori, you just won't believe it. There was a plane that crashed into the Mansfield Dam. Not one of them big jet liners, like on 9/11, but one of them small planes that crash all the time. Wasn't it just a year or so ago that a couple of them crashed, one of them right onto the golf course not far from where you live. But, this one, it seems, went smack dab into the dam. There's some black marks on the dam's side, like when you squash a mosquito on your arm. That's exactly what it looks like, girl. I ain't never seen anything like it. I'm lookin' at the live shots from the camera, as we speak. I'm telling' you, it's a scary world we live in. Planes flyin' into dams, and last week- you hear about that dog that bit that boy in the park? Ugly little mongrel. What's the world comin' to? There's this big black mark on the dam, I swear- just like a mosquito. Yes, just like a mosquito. But it ain't broke- the dam, I don't think. And, then down in the water, headin' towards Inks Lake, is the wreck. My, my. I never seen nothin' like it. When you get home you gotta turn on your tv and see it all. I'm so upset I need to speak to someone. They was readin' off the names of the passengers, and one of them was Peggy Singleton. I swear, I know that gal, or knew her. Ain't that the gal you worked with years ago? Gotta be. It seems like she was involved with this new church of revolutionaries, or something. Very weird. But, Singleton, that has to be the name of that gal you knew, right? They're buried over in Teck Cemetery, I think, right between the Royers and Smiths. I seen old Delta Combs Singleton there, dead since '69, I think. Anyway, call me as soon as you can- about this mess and that movie. Bye.



You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


It's Tamar again. It's so sad what I'm witnessing. Seeing all these people grievin' over the dead. I mean, I know there's a war going on and all, and so many poor soldiers is dying. But it's different when the people are from where you know, you know? I just need to speak to a familiar voice. I been so lonely ever since Teddy got his reward all them years back. I'm just hopin' that our parting ain't too long, you know. Some of the gals at the Senior Center tell me I shouldn't talk that way, but who wants to be alone all the time, especially when old? This is why I don't like that place. They're always sticking their noses into places where it don't belong. One of them said to me, the last time I was there, 'Tamar, it's dialectic that fathers wisdom, so you should always be willing to argue.' Now, I swear, I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, so told her to shut up and mind her own beeswax! I guess that's why I'm a-callin you. You and I go way back, and we come from the same place, and understand each other. I swear, I'm sorry it's been so long since I called. I just feel a need to hear from my oldest and dearest friend. I know that there was that incident over Bobby Halloran when we was girls, but that was so long ago. He's a wicked man, there's no doubt. The Devil will be turnin' him on a spit soon enough. I know we ain't talked about it much, but I always got the feelin' that even though we stayed in touch you never quite got over the fact that he and I, well, you know. It was nothin' though. We was just kids. He was a dog to you. He was a dog to me. And he's still a dog, and I heard the same from many a gal that he's been with, 'cause he ain't worth a damn thing to anyone but the fleas that suck his blood, you know? Anyway, I'm just a little paranoid, I guess, 'cause you ain't home, and I think maybe youse jus' listenin' on the other end whilst I prattle on. O, please call me back, Lori, I jus' needs to hear a friendly voice. 512-288-5930 is my number, just in case you lost it. Love you.



You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


I swear I don't mean to be bein' a nuisance, but I'm still just watchin' them recover the bodies and wreckage from that airplane that crashed. So terrible. They were missionaries, the reporter says. Some reporters are sayin' the pilot was drunk as a skunk. Can you believe such a thing? Imagine dying because the man who's in charge of things can't even control his own urges. It's the Devil, I tell ya. Poor Peggy Singleton having to die all because some fool can't control his addiction to the Devil's sauce. The preachers were right. They always seem to be, don't they? No matter how hard you try to get away from God's pryin' eye, he always catches you doin' wicked things. I wonder if any of them are gonna be buried down in Teck Cemetery? I just called Lakeway Church, and Pastor John said that they're gonna be havin' a special memorial service tonight, for the victims, and I'm thinkin' of goin'. I mean, I only knew Peggy Singleton, if she's the gal I'm a-thinkin' of, but I feel it's part of my duty as a citizen, you know what I mean? I just don't know what more can be done. It makes a person feel so helpless when something like this happens. Anyway, Lori, call me when you get in.




You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


Hello? Hello? Lori, are you there? Or are you just havin' your way with me? I don't appreciate this type of treatment, Lori Penniston. I'm not in a good sort today. Please, when you get in, or when you listen to this, please call me back as soon as you can. I just need to hear your voice. I need to...I'm so alone...[sobs are heard in the background].


Just as the last message finished, the phone rang again, and this is what was heard:




You have reached the Penniston residence. This phone number is on the National Do Not Call list, so if you are a solicitor, please hang up and remove this number from your lists. If you want to leave a message for Miss Lori Penniston, please leave a message after the tone. Thank you, and God bless you. BEEP!


Lori, Lori, are you there? This is Tamar McCu-


The voice spoke so quickly, as it always did, as if in a hurry to get someplace only sound goes. Desmond had had enough, and picked up the phone:


Hello, hello? Missus McCullers?


Lori, is that you?


No, this is Desmond Penniston, Lori's grandson. I just got in and heard all your messages. I was just playing some of them back when you called. I'm sorry that no one told you, but my grandmother died nearly a month ago, of a heart attack. I didn't know -


Now, Lori, don't you be havin' fun with me. I know you've still got a bit of the Devil in you, and that you're still upset about what happened with Bobby Halloran all them years ago, and...


No, Missus McCullers. I don't think you understand. This is not Lori Penniston. I am not Loris Penniston. She's dead. Dead. Do you understand? I'm sorry to have to be the one to break it to you, especially on a day when you're obviously very upset, and that you were her friend and all, but -


That's ok, Lori, I understand. Your voice seems a little bit different. You sick? Sometimes it's hard to talk about things that upset us. You remember what I was like when Marvin Stegman stood me up on that date? But, that's what I mean about Bobby and all. Things have a way of just working out, and...


No, no, this is not Lori Penniston. Do you understand? She's dead. D-E-A-D, dead. I am her grandson -


You always had such a wonderful sense of humor about you, girl. You can't fool me, Lori. But, back to this crash that's all over the news. I can't believe all I'm hearing on the radio, can you?


The phone on the other end seems to have hung up. The line seems dead. It is not. Desmond Penniston has just let it hang by its cord, as he knows better than to try to interrupt or make sense of what an old woman has to say. Tamar McCullers seems not to notice that the air is her only ear. Desmond opens his refrigerator, pulls out a jar of mayonnaise, some bread, and a jar of pickles. He also grabs some slices of ham and is going to make himself a sandwich as the sound of Tamar McCullers' voice drones on. His eyes will moisten as he listens to the voice of another old woman, as gone, in her own way, as his beloved grandmother. As he sits down and eats the sound of the telephone voice frames him in its power, and forces a tear from his right eye that he wipes away.


Yes, it makes one wonder about things, the past, you know? I was thinking about me and you and old Bobby Halloran. Remember when we used to go out west, where it's dryer? Just the three of us. I remember we'd go and see the desert in bloom, once a year. Do you remember all those colors, girl? The flowers were so bright- for just a few days. We went out there and camped in the wild. I felt like one of those pioneers like Little Jo, or that book by that woman, what's her name? Um...oh, Willa...Willa Cather. That's it. Time just don't know how to slow down, I swear. It's just like it was yesterday that the three of us...and then. It just wasn't like you thought. It wasn't. Me and Bobby and all. It was all a giant mistake, girl. I never meant...I just remember the sunset, that first night, after Bobby gave you his pin. You and him, and me watching from the car, as the sun went down, and such bright and beautiful colors filled the whole valley. It was like a thing God had planned, in advance, maybe for centuries, and all just for us. I remember it, girl. I remember it just like it was yesterday, we was so close, girl, back when you and Bobby was together, back when the valley was full with blooms...


  And Desmond saw it all, the flowers, the valley, but, somehow, only in gray.




All work is copyrighted property of Dan Schneider.





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