999. Call It What You Want

Go on and place your bets now about how long it was before I talked to Ziggy. Go on. I’m sure some of you are numbering the days, while others are thinking of weeks and months. It’s okay. I remember vividly how long some of our previous “separations” were and I know you do, too.

But like I said, I called Flip first. He had been expecting me. We’d talked on Christmas and he’d been preparing for this eventuality.

“How far are you from Nashville?” he asked.

“Um, I’m not sure. I think we’re sort of between Nashville and Memphis?”

“Well, they’re only three hours apart.” Flip had probably traveled between the two cities as a roadie dozens of times. “So you’re probably an hour and a half, two hours?”

“I guess?”

“You really have no idea where you are, do you.”

“I couldn’t point to it on a map, no, but I know how to get from here to where I need to go.” As it turned out I was wrong about where we were on the map, but it didn’t really matter.

“Just give me the address and AAA will do the rest,” he said. So I did. “I can be there by Sunday.”

“Okay. We might go to church on Sunday, though, I’ll warn you. My mother might want to go. It’ll depend on how she feels.”

“I’ll try to come around dinner time. If you’re not there, I can take care of myself.”

“You can page me when you’re on the way.”

“Sounds good. Tell me again, though, how you ended up taking your mom to the woods?”

“I’ll tell you when you get here.”

“All right.”

There was still no answer from our landlady.

I decided to call Janine to tell her we were all right. I got her machine. Jake’s voice was on the message now. Interesting. I told her we were settled and didn’t say much more than that.

I tried Courtney at the Allston house, didn’t reach her, but I did chat with Christian a little. “You keeping up with your pull-ups and stuff?” he asked.

“No,” I admitted. “My grip’s still uneven from the accident and all.”

“Ah, that sucks.”

“I’m sure it’ll get better,” I said, but in fact I wasn’t sure of that at all. I’d fallen off the wagon with my exercises weeks ago.

I went back to the bungalow after picking up some newspapers and discovered Claire was cooking.

“What are you making?” It smelled like bacon, and as I came over to the cooktop I saw strips of cooked bacon sitting on a paper towel. She was unwrapping slices of cheese and lining them up on four pieces of bread.

“Sandwiches,” she said.

I didn’t question whether she felt up to eating a sandwich. She obviously did since she was obviously making them for both of us. She put the bacon in with the cheese and grilled the sandwiches in the leftover bacon grease in the frying pan. She cut them diagonally and put them on plates with sprigs of parsley like in a diner. I didn’t even remember buying parsley.

Although it was a little chilly, in the high 40s, we sat on the back porch to eat and look at the woods. There was a lake not far through the woods but we couldn’t actually see it from where we were. What we could see was mostly trees.

It was strangely peaceful. Claire had been much quieter for the past two days than she’d ever been before. The constant stream of complaints and delusions had stopped, at least for a while. We sat there on wooden chairs just listening to the wind in the trees and I found it soothing. Trees don’t care about your problems. Trees don’t have lawsuits or communication problems with their significant others.

It was a really good sandwich. I didn’t remember her making them like that when I was a kid. I decided not to say that, though. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid she’d quit cooking with fat for a while. She might have made us all give up cheese, too. And I’m sure there was a point where she’d stopped cooking bacon because of the nitrates scare.

(They cause cancer, you know.)

My pager buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out to look at it. My heart twisted in my rib cage. That was Ziggy’s number.

So if you had 36 hours in the pool of how long it would be before I talked to Ziggy again, you win.

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