Chris. I’m so glad you’re there.
I’m always here dad.
This neighbor. I mean my neighbor’s son. He killed himself.
Oh that’s awful.
He was your age Chris. He owned a house in town, a few miles from his parents. The poor kid, I’m shivering.
Did he have a wife?
No, he lived alone.
I was just checking you’re still there.
I’m here, I’m here. Chris?
You don’t run around anymore with drugs, right?
Dad I told you. Just a bit of pot every once and a while. It’s very acceptable here. Even the cops—
Chris the boy who killed himself has your name.
It’s a common name.
He has your whole name Chris, our family name. He has your wallet. You look like him. You are him. I identified you. You are lying dead in the La Crosse County morgue.
Dad, are you on drugs? I’m walking down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to get a caramel macchiato. Do you want me to get a stranger to vett me and prove to you I’m here?
Chris don’t get animated. I was asked to call you. To straighten things out.
Are they straight now?
You need to go to the FBI office. Actually do you see a woman behind you in a yellow bandanna?
She’s an agent. Just go up to her and we’ll get this cleaned up. I’m so happy you’re alive.
Chris. Where have you been hiding?
Well our company is trying to build these new waffle makers. It’s an exciting time.
Chris how old am I?
Did you really not hear me Chris?
Good. It’s happened again. Someone has killed themselves here and it has turned out to be you. This time you had a fifty in your wallet and two Safeway cards. Why do you have two Safeway cards Chris?
Who are these people dad?
I don’t know little buddy, but this isn’t funny anymore. I’m having heart palpitations. You can’t keep doing this to me.
Dad I’m not doing anything.
Why are you mad at me Chris? How many Packer games did I take you to?
Dad it wasn’t me. I’m in Oakland—well I actually just crossed into Berkeley now.
Yes Chris, it’s one city, then another. Why not be in Boston or Ecuador? You could be a computer for all I know.
Ecuador’s not a city.
It is if I goddamn say it is. Stop killing yourself in front of your father.
Dad please stop crying.
Because your son Chris is alive and the big, yellow sun is out, even in Wisconsin according to Accuweather.
You’re a rotten son. Almost as rotten as your father.
Dad you’re a wonderful being. You belong to the volunteer fire department.
Your mother knew the truth.
Don’t all mothers know the truth?
I’m not the man you think I am. That’s why you keep killing yourself.
Dad you’re fine.
I cheated on my taxes.
When we had you I was jealous. I pretended to be sick so your mother would give me more attention.
It’s all in the past dad. I don’t care. I love you lots now.
Chris you don’t understand.
Dad I’m getting a headache.
I told you about that cell phone cancer.
Dad I’m getting really busy here. I don’t have a bunch of free time. Plus I don’t think you should call anymore when someone who looks like me kills himself, because they aren’t me. I live in Oakland. If I came to La Crosse you’d know it. Also my daytime minutes.
It’s not my fault you moved somewhere that’s two hours behind the rest of the world.
No Dad, the office does not have an insurance policy on me and no the La Crosse police only called once. They asked a few questions and that was that.
Chris I’m not crazy. You are dying everyday. And it’s because of that office job you have. Now granted I did work out of an office as well, but as a salesman I spent the majority of my life on the road.
Dad Uncle Ed is going to visit you soon.
Ed’s off his rocker.
He wants to talk to you about medication.
I’m not medicating for nobody.
How about for me?
Why don’t you quit that job Chris? If you don’t I’ll never get the stench of death out of my nostrils.
I can’t quit dad, my whole future is tied up with this company.
Oh Jesus, it’s like you’ve been trained to say that.
Yes, you trained me. Plus I do go to a bunch of parties in the area, so I do get out of the office.
Chris your mother spoke to me last night. She thought it might be time for you head on home to the old man.
How could you speak with mom dad? She’s in a coffin.
The bond Chris. The chemical bond.
Dad if you wanted me home, why haven’t you asked?
Why? There does exist fear. And I want to be a good father, not a fearful one.
You are dad. I want you to talk to Uncle Ed, tell him what’s going on. Tell him about mom appearing.
Chris when you were a baby someone broke into the house. I killed them.
Is this true?
She was a woman.
Hi dad. I’m at work in Berkeley. It’s cloudy but warm.
Now Chris I don’t want to be hung up on again. I’m telling you that when you sent the picture of your girlfriend Nikki to me I knew at once that this was the woman I killed.
Dad I’ll give you five seconds to stop that kind of talk. Plus Nikki’s not dead either. We’re going to have Ethiopian food tonight.
She’s only a geist Chris. I pleaded with your grade school teachers to fill you guys in about the hallowed realm, but apparently—
Dad why didn’t you let Uncle Ed in yesterday?
There were four reasons. But the most important is I don’t like him.
Dad you have to see someone. I will come out soon but I need some time. I don’t have many vacation days and money’s always tight. And the waffle makers.
Chris, you have to stop working so much. That’s an order.
It’s an order I can’t heed.
What is it Chris? Your voice.
Nikki left me. She really didn’t even leave me, but she did. She’s disappeared.
Goddamn it, I told you she was a ghost.
She isn’t a ghost. She wanted to go to Barcelona. She’d been talking about it for years.
Chris why did you kill yourself last Tuesday?
Dad will you get the hell off that jag. I’m talking to you now here live.
The FBI has had enough. They’re going to bring you in.
I don’t know Chris. Somewhere. They’ll have coffee for you though. Did you give your notice at work yet?
Dad I’m never giving my notice, my job is the most stable thing in my life. It’s there everyday I want, even weekends.
Chris you might not have many lives left.
Fifty times I’ve identified your body in three months and people talk about having bad winters.
Dad you’re killing me.
Are you trying to be funny?
No dad, I’ve lost all touch with humor and irony. But the guilt you shove onto me. The FBI should be at your house.
What did they say by the way?
They fingerprinted me. Nothing else.
Chris I have an old violin in the basement behind the bar.
Why are you telling me this?
It’s where I hide my money from the government. Just so you know.
Why would I need to know?
Keep it safe son, keep it safe.
Hi dad. I don’t like talking to these machines. So now I’ve identified you at the Alameda County morgue, happy? You seemed pretty fit. I didn’t know you carried my high school graduation photo in your wallet. If you knew you’d be out here I don’t know why you didn’t let me know. You could have stayed at my apartment. Anyway… I’d like you to explain this one to me. Am I getting my just desserts? I hope forty-nine more won’t follow.
Dad I’m in trouble. I need to talk to you. I trust you more than anyone dad. I think my company knows I’ve been embezzling money. I don’t know what to do. Help me dad.
Dad they are insisting this is you. I’m leaning over your dead body. It looks like some of your eyelashes are missing. And I mean on close inspection you have a beautiful body for a sixty-eight year old man.
Oh. They are telling me not to talk in here. Why? Who am I disturbing?
Dad it’s Chris. I know in my heart that wasn’t you on that slab. I know I didn’t listen so well and I’m very, very sorry, but I’m going very crazy right now. I can’t stop my legs from shaking. I’ll atone. I want my daddy. I’ll do whatever you want, just please call me right now.
Dad it’s been three days. My company won’t press charges if I plead insanity. I’m checking myself into the hospital. It is a very dark day in the Bay. All I can think of are the words La Crosse, Wisconsin. Those words are painted in the street in a hot pink. On health food stores in Berkeley. On the campus’ football field. I remember when you taught me to tie my shoes. I thought I could never do it and I hated you so much. That big bully, I thought. How can he keep pushing me? I never said how much you meant to me and I guess this is my way of saying it.
I’ve reached the steps of the hospital dad. Why would you go when I need you the most? I’m scared and I don’t want to die. I’ll do anything you say dad. Don’t forget me.
Read more about Greg here.
Read more about Charles here.