Always Be Closing

Greg Jenkins

The silver-haired man, Jerry Bender, kept sliding his hand across the glossy little table to touch the girl’s hand. Sometimes she’d let him; sometimes she wouldn’t. She liked him, but she wasn’t sure how much she liked him. She noticed that anytime she pulled her hand away from his, the move didn’t seem to discourage him in the slightest.

They were sitting together in a dimly lit piano bar called Snuggles. It was early evening. At his request, the pianist, who was seated nearby, was playing a series of old love songs—standards by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach. Bender’s appreciation of them was obvious even if hers wasn’t. In fact, it was unclear to him whether she even recognized any of what she was hearing.

“You know that tune?” he asked her. “Ever hear it before?”

“I don’t think so.”

“That’s ‘Witchcraft,’ ” he said. “Sinatra.”

“Uh huh.”

“Supposed to be casting a spell on you. Is it working?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You feel any different?”

“I feel a little drunk.”

He frowned at her in mock sadness and disapproval. “Sam,” he said, “that’s the trouble with you kids today. You’re ill-acquainted with fine music. With the classics! That stuff you listen to, it’s all just . . .”

He waved his hand as a frustrated substitute for whatever pejorative had escaped him. Then he lowered his hand, very gently, so that it lighted atop hers. With a coy smile, she pulled her hand away.

“Jerry,” she said, “you’re a sweet man—”

“Don’t I know it.”

“You’re a real sweetheart. But you’re moving, too, fast.” She spoke these last words with staccato emphasis, like a third-grade teacher correcting a child.

“Who’s moving fast?” he laughed, palms lifted. “I’m just sitting here. I haven’t moved an inch.”

Just then the waiter happened by; he was a mustached man with an air of elegance and sophistication that, like the music, seemed rooted in an earlier era.

“Another ginger ale for the gentleman?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Bender said.

“And how about the lady? Another Captain and coke?”

“I’m fine, too,” Samantha said.

“Oh, go ahead and bring her one more,” Bender said. She opened her mouth to object, but before she could produce a word, Bender said: “One more Cuba Libre, what the hell,” and, with a tilt of his silver head, sent the waiter off into the tinkling dimness.

“Jerry,” she said, “you’re trying to get me smashed.”

“Not at all.” He sipped his ginger ale. “I’m trying to get you to relax, is all. You’re as tight as . . .”

“If I were any more relaxed, I’d be a wet noodle.”

“Just as tight as . . .”

“I’d go slithering right onto the floor. Voom!”

“Listen,” he said. He slid his hand across the table and nuzzled his pinky against hers. This time she kept her hand where it was. “Let’s get outta here, huh?”

“And go where?”

“I dunno. Somewhere more private.”

“This isn’t private enough? We’ve got our own little—”

“It’s a bar, Sam,” he said. “It’s a public place.” He made a show of glancing around at their surroundings. Other men and women, all smartly dressed, were huddled at their own tables. “Besides,” he said, “getting to know a terrific young lady in a bar—it’s so crass.”

“Oh, I don’t—”

“So cliché!” He gave her hand a jiggle. “C’mon. Let’s get outta here.”

“You still haven’t told me where we’re going.” Her tone was resistant and playful at the same time. 

“Whatsa difference?” he shrugged. “My place, your place. Doesn’t matter.”

“Well,” she said. “That would be pretty private, wouldn’t it.”

“Only thing that matters to me is spending some personal time with you.”

From deep within Bender’s pinstripe blazer, his cellphone rang—he’d already taken a handful of calls—and he drew the device out, read the caller ID. “I’m sorry, Sam,” he said. “Excuse me for just one second.”

After tapping an icon on the phone, he leaned back in his padded chair and directed his gaze upward, as if the person calling him might be suspended by wires from the ceiling. “Bender,” he said. For a long moment he did nothing but listen silently and stare up at the ceiling, concentrating. Abruptly he nodded three or four times in quick succession and spoke up vigorously.

“Tommy,” he said, “I don’t give a damn what kinda cockamamie tale he’s been feeding you, OK? You sell him, understand? That’s what we do.” He paused briefly. Impatiently. “No,” he said, “that’s completely beside the point. You close him; that’s the point.  And you can tell me tomorrow how you did it. Remember—ABC, baby. Always be closing.”

Sighing, Bender put the phone away and shook his head. “New guy,” he said apologetically. “Some of these new guys . . .”

“Boy,” she said, “that phone of yours never quits, does it?”

“Just call me Mr. Popular,” he chuckled.

Round tray in hand, the waiter returned and suavely placed a tall dark drink in front of Samantha. She batted her long-lashed eyes at him—at both men—in thanks.

The set of his jaw more serious now, Bender seemed to have experienced a small satori. “But you’re right,” he said. “You’re exactly right. The barrage of phone calls . . . Always work, business. Never a social call.” He sipped his ginger ale. “Maybe my priorities could use some fine-tuning, you know?”

“How do you mean?”        

“I mean work is important; I won’t deny it. Making a sale, making money . . .”

“Money has its place.”

“But other things are equally important, and maybe more so.” Reaching inside his blazer, he once again brought out his phone. “Here,” he said. “How about this.” As ostentatiously as possible, he shut it off. “Now—no more calls the rest of the evening. How about that?”

“Sweet,” she said.

“You gonna drink to it?”

She gave her eyes a lighthearted roll. “In a minute,” she said. “So tell me, Jerry. What’s more important to you than your work?”

“Than my work?”

“Yeah.  I’m kinda curious.”

“I’m glad you asked that question.” Elbows on the table, he cupped his cheeks with his hands and stared straight at her. “Number one on the list, Sam, would be your beautiful eyes.”

At this, she squawked with laughter. “Oh, Gawd,” she cried, reaching for her drink. “Maybe I will have a belt.”

“Even when you roll ’em at me, they’re beautiful.”

“Oh, Gawd.”

“And I’m sitting here going nuts trying to figure out what color they are. I’m serious.”

Again she laughed. “You can’t tell what color they are?”

“I can’t,” Bender said. “And it’s driving me nuts. It’s like—”

“Ha!”

“Like sometimes they’re brown, OK? And then sometimes they’re green. Brown, green. Green, brown. How’s that even possible?”

“They’re hazel, goofball,” she said.

“Hazel!  Is that what they are?” He scooted closer to her so he could plumb their depths more fully. “They’re magical, is what they are. Hey, maybe you’re the one that’s casting a spell.”

She had a sip of her drink and wagged her finger at him. “Jerry,” she said, “you may’ve shut off your phone—”

“I certainly did.”

“But it seems to me you’re still at work. Still selling.”

“Still . . .?”

“Selling, yes.”

For the moment his expression gave up its mirth; he looked solemn and bemused, as if she’d said something absurd to him, or had spoken to him in a foreign tongue.

“What do you mean?” he asked. 

“Aren’t you trying to close the deal with me?”

“How so?”

“Get me to hop in the sack with you?”

He let his mouth hang open in something like shock and indignation. “Samantha Hershey, how can you even allow a thought like that to enter your head?”

Unfazed, she locked her hazel eyes on him and refused to let go.

Finally he started to laugh. “OK,” he said. “I suppose you’re right. You are right.” He paused. “But who the hell could blame me? I happen to find you fascinating and alluring.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you find me fascinating and alluring?”

She took a moment to study him. “I dunno,” she said sincerely. “I don’t exactly know much about you.”

“Do we ever really know anybody?” he wondered.

“Except you’re quite the salesman.”

Pursing his lips, Bender folded his hands together and bowed his head pensively. He could’ve been a churchgoer, praying for guidance.

“Sam,” he said, “selling is what I do for a living. True. But it’s not who I am as a human being.”

“I should hope not.” 

“Truth is,” he said, “and this isn’t something I’ve shared with many folks, I’m actually a very naïve guy.”

“Naïve?”

“That’s right.”

“You?”

He nodded. “Naïve about women. Naïve about everything, really. Naïve and innocent.”

Another You? seemed poised on her lips, but she held it back, said nothing.

“Oh, I’ve got this professional façade,” he conceded. “Clever and calculating, I guess. But that’s all it is—a façade.” He watched the teeny bubbles float and fizz in his ginger ale. “Hate to admit it, but people take advantage of me all the time.”

“No.”

“Oh, yeah. Apparently I’m an easy mark. More sinned against than sinning, as a great poet once put it.” He rubbed his hands together. “Sammie,” he said, “let me tell you a story.”

“All right.”

“This is a story about Jerry Bender and who he really is.”  

When she started to say something more, he held up his hand in a gesture that seemed almost ceremonial. “Just listen,” he said. “Please. Just listen.”

*                                 *                                 *

You know I’m a widower, right? I already told you that. Girl I married was my high school sweetheart, name was Amy. Wonderful girl. Best thing ever happened to me in my whole crazy, up-and-down life. Course, at the time, everybody said: “Don’t do it.  Don’t get married. You’re too young. It’ll never last.” I was just nineteen, Amy was eighteen, and maybe the naysayers had a point, you know? But they were wrong! Not only did the marriage last for thirty-plus years, it was a thing of absolute beauty. A kind of miracle.

Then, as fate would have it, Amy got sick. Early onset Alzheimer’s. And I know about cancer and heart disease and diabetes . . . all of them horrible. Suffering that goes beyond human reckoning. But if there’s anything worse than dementia, I can’t imagine what it would be. To watch a person you’ve been bonded to for most of your life gradually lose her identity, to watch her personality get stripped away from her, like tearing the leaves off a tree, one leaf and then another and another, till finally the tree is barren . . .  God. It was little problems at first—she’d lose her keys, forget what day it was. Eventually it got worse. Much worse. One time I came home from work, and she was gone. She’d wandered off somewhere. Just wandered off. Police found her three miles away in a yard, feeding breadcrumbs to birds.

By the time Amy died, I’d been forced to put her in a . . . in an institution. And I don’t know which part of the ordeal was more painful to me—the fact that I’d lost my beloved wife, bless her heart, or the fact that, before she died, I’d had to send her away. But honestly, I had no choice in the matter. Her condition had become too extreme. I could no longer care for her properly, even with outside help.

I, uh . . . I hope you’ll forgive me if I become somewhat emotional as I discuss these things with you.

Afterwards—after Amy passed on—I was a total wreck. A basket case. First off, I was overwhelmed with grief. Every night, for months on end, I’d cry myself to sleep. I hope to God you never feel anything remotely like it. Even today, this very second, I’ll tell you truthfully: I’d rather someone had chopped off my right arm and my right leg . . .  But beyond the grief, there was guilt. A ton of it. Because every day I’d ask myself: Did I do everything I could’ve to help her? Was I there for her often enough? You’ve seen how my job pulls at me. You’ve seen the phone calls I get, people bugging me at all hours. Ah, woulda, coulda, shoulda. So the guilt was like a worm, eating its way through my heart and my soul.

I tried all kinds of remedies. Met with counselors, psychologists. Cleaned up my diet, started eating healthy for a change. Even joined a gym. Quit the gym when I strained my shoulder, which made me feel worse than ever. Then I went back to church for a while, first time in years. Taught Sunday school too, if you can picture that. Even though I became friends with a bunch of loving and supportive people, religion frankly didn’t do it for me either. Wasn’t my salvation. Finally I took a leave of absence from my job and just traveled around, visited some of the world’s great cities. Paris. Dublin. Rome. Searching for inner peace. When in Rome, I never did as the Romans do, but that’s another story.

Any case, nothing helped. So I came back here to my hometown, and I began thinking of . . . well, of doing away with myself.

I’d sit out back on my patio during the evenings as the sun was going down over the hills and all the shadows were getting longer and darker. I’d actually observe the shadows getting longer and darker. And I had this old Colt .45 handgun. It was called a Peacemaker, and for good reason—thing was the size of a cannon. I’d sit there and put a single shell in the cylinder and then spin the chamber. Makes a very distinctive sound, that spinning. A soft ratcheting noise. Hear it once, you never forget it. Then I’d cock the gun and hold it up to my right temple. Just hold it there. Never once did I pull the trigger, don’t ask me why. But the potential was there.

It was definitely there.

Well, sometime during this rotten period in my life, I learned about a business called Endless Echoes. Right here in town, though they don’t exist anymore. Maybe somebody told me about ’em, or there might’ve been a piece in the paper, I can’t remember now. But the idea behind them was simple. Strange but simple. For $49.99, you could go there and record a message to a person who’s deceased, OK? Endless Echoes would then send that message away someplace—to this giant radio tower—and your words would get beamed into outer space. A hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second. On and on your message would go, to the far reaches of the universe.

And possibly—this is the strange part—just possibly, your message would make it to the afterworld. To heaven. And the person you’d addressed would actually hear your words, just as you’d spoken them.  

I know, I know, a little mystical here, a little crystal ballish, not solidly based on what we think of as hardcore science. But if you’re desperate enough, you’ll try just about anything, am I right? Lotta people bought into Endless Echoes at their $49.99 a pop. And, call me a horse’s patootie if you like, I was one of them.

So I went there, place about the size of a barbershop, and I met the couple that ran it, Filipino couple, Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza, very warm, very accommodating, and they explained to me what was what. Even then I thought the whole proposition was fairly sketchy, but I’d made up my mind to push ahead, regardless. Paid ’em the fee, and I found it worth noting that they did accept credit cards.

The two of ’em took me into a different room, tight little space, no windows, no carpet, very softly lit, not much to it at all. Felt like I was in a cave. There was a desk and a swivel chair. And on the desk was a big black microphone, which they showed me how to work.

Mr. Mendoza (he did most of the talking) asked me if I had any questions, and I said: “How long can I take in here?”

He said: “How long do you think you’ll be?”

I said: “I dunno.  I’ve never done this before.”

He just kinda waved his hand at me, said: “Don’t worry about it.  Take as long as you need.”

Then he and his wife went away and left me in this shadowy cave of a room with the mike.

I want you to know I was well-prepared for what I was going to do. I’d jotted down some notes on a sheet of notebook paper, a sort of outline, so I could be organized. I pulled out the sheet of paper, sat down, clicked on the mike and started to read. Man, it felt downright queer to be in this dim little room by myself, reading my innermost thoughts out loud into a microphone. But I did it. I went down my laundry list and hit on this point, that point and another point. How we’d had a perfect marriage, how my job had demanded so godawful much of us, how her sickness had tested us in ways no couple should ever have to be tested. . .

Wasn’t a bad message, but you know what? It didn’t feel genuine. Felt contrived and artificial, it seemed to me, like an assignment you’d do for a high school English class. So I took the paper and ripped it to shreds, and I said: “Amy, forget all that. Let me try again.”

And this time I just talked to her. The way I’m talking to you. Right now.

“Amy,” I said, “my God, I miss you. I miss you and I love you.” I said: “Why did this ever have to be?” I said: “I hope you forgive me. I hope you still love me. I hope that one day we’ll see each other again.”

I went on in that vein for I dunno how long. Half hour, an hour. Maybe longer. Rambling on, you know? Stream of consciousness. Mr. Mendoza had told me Take as long as you need, but I’m sure I went past the limit even though there wasn’t a limit.

But here’s the key. When I got done, I felt better—about everything. My life, my loss, my future. I was beginning to feel like maybe I had a future, and it didn’t necessarily involve putting a .45 caliber bullet in my brain. Whether Amy might actually receive my message I couldn’t say. I hoped she would. But I guessed that my time at Endless Echoes had been spent productively.

So the next week I went back again. And the week after that. And the week after that. I became a regular. Each time, you know, I’d pay my $49.99, and I’d sit down behind that black mike—it was shaped like a single-scoop ice cream cone—and I’d pour out my guts to my deceased wife. Anything that was halfway relevant. I talked about the time we went to a Mets game, and she somehow caught a foul ball. I talked about the time we took a painting class at the college, and we each painted a ruby-throated hummingbird; hers looked more convincing than mine. I talked about the various trips we made to Miami Beach. We’d sit on the deck outside our room and watch the blue-and-white waves break on the shore. Each and every wave is unique—you ever ponder that? To us, they may look alike, but each one is different and special, just like people. Just like the moments that make up our lives . . .

Every time I recorded a message, I felt a shade better. Every time. So before long I was back in the pink, right? And all the while this was going on, it never occurred to me that what I was doing could be seen as foolish. That there’s no logical basis for believing that sending radio messages into outer space could somehow result in communication with the dead. That I might be frittering away my hard-earned dough on something whimsical and stupid. All I knew was, my life was brightening.

Naturally, the day came when I decided to tell Amy that I was going to stop the visits, stop the messages. I hoped I’d straightened out some things with her, and I’d definitely straightened out some things with myself. My point of view, it was mission accomplished.

“God bless you, Amy,” I said into the mike, “and God keep you. And remember,” I said, “this isn’t goodbye. It’s more like . . . till we meet again.”

I sat there for a minute in that chair, you know, slowly swiveling back and forth, and I felt very peaceful. Very serene. Like always, the room was dim and quiet. I was letting my mind go off somewhere else, like a balloon on a string. You let go of the string, and the balloon just sails away. . . .

That’s when it happened. Something freaky. Something weird beyond words. A woman’s voice spoke to me! It was Amy’s voice, I swear! It sure sounded like her voice. I mean, it was faint and faraway and kinda ghostly—which is what you’d expect, if you expected anything at all. But it was her voice; I’d have bet on it. It came at me from I dunno where, just seemed to well up all around me, from outta nowhere.

“Jerry,” she said, “don’t go. Don’t leave me.” She said: “I miss you, Jerry. I love you.”

Let me tell you, I just about fell on the floor and jumped on the desk at the same time. I thought Holy moly! I looked around every which way, didn’t see anything unusual. I stood up, sat back down, stood up again, sat back down again. Maybe thirty seconds passed. Slowly. Only sound I heard was my own breathing, which was a good deal quicker than normal.

“Amy?” I said. My voice wasn’t much more than a whisper. “Amy? Is that you, hon? Amy?”

But not another peep out of her. Then or ever.

Wasn’t for want of trying on my part. That evening I stayed there another hour or two, babbling away, trying to get Amy to say something more—anything!—but she held her tongue. Total silence. 

And over the next several weeks I went to Endless Echoes every single evening—always the $49.99 a shot—and did everything I could to draw her out, but no luck. Only voice I heard was my own. I was there so often, the Mendozas should’ve just dropped the fee and charged me rent.

Course, I told ’em what’d happened. The, uh, the incident. The voice. Thought I might give ’em a reason for my new, souped-up schedule, even though it didn’t necessarily cast me in the most rational of lights.

Mr. Mendoza folded his arms on his chest and hit me with this blank inscrutable stare, like he was in Reno, playing seven-card stud. “Your wife spoke to you?” he said.

“She did!” I told him. “I heard her.”

He never changed his expression, not a whit. Nodded a couple times—sixteenth of an inch nods—and went: “Hmmmmm.”

I said: “Do you believe me?” Considering his line of work, I thought maybe he’d lean my way. “You do believe me,” I said, “don’t you?”    

It was like being stared at by the Great Sphinx of Giza. No change whatsoever. “Well,” he said after a while, “such things have been known to happen.”

And that’s all he said.

*                                 *                                 *

In the piano bar, Samantha had twined her fingers around Bender’s. Her eyes were fixed intently on him, and her lips were parted as if she’d been placed under light hypnosis. He smiled at her and, with his free hand, reached for his ginger ale. Smoothly, artfully, the pianist was breezing through “The Look of Love.” 

“That’s a pretty wild story,” she said.

“Isn’t it?”

“Is there more to it?”

“Certainly is,” Bender said. “You haven’t heard the ending yet.  You haven’t heard the kicker.”

“I’m all ears.”

“You’re not all ears, Sam,” he said with a snort. “But the rest of the story is what makes my point. It’s what sheds the light.”

Again he scooted closer to her so that now their shoulders were almost touching.

“What happened next,” he said, “happened a few months after all that other stuff—which I’d done my best to put aside. So I was in this exact same watering hole, Snuggles, with one of my sales buddies, guy named Harry Blintz. Real strong closer, Harry. He and I had a table over that way”—a bob of the silver head—“by the bar, and we were talking shop. Or trying to. Fact is, we could barely hear each other for all the noise coming from the bar.”

“What sort of noise?”

“Laughing, mostly. Laughing, joking, carrying on.”

“The whole bar?”

“No,” he said.  “Just this one couple. They were sauced for sure, and they were having a big ol’ time.”

“Did you know them?”

“They had their backs to me,” he said. “So I couldn’t get a clear look at ’em. But you know, they did seem kinda familiar.”

“Huh!”

“Guy kept saying: ‘Do it again. C’mon. Just one more time.’ And she’d laugh like hell and say: ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ Both of ’em shaking and cackling like a pair of loons.”

“What, um . . .” The expression on Samantha’s youthful face was vacillating between hilarity and dread. “What did . . . ?”

“It’s coming,” he said. “So this woman somehow manages to pull herself together—major effort, OK?—and she pauses for like ten, fifteen seconds. And then, in this haunted house voice, she says—”

“Oh, no.”

“She says: ‘Jerry, don’t go. Don’t leave me.’”

“Oh, no.”

“She says: ‘I miss you, Jerry. I love you.’ And then they practically fell apart laughing.” Bender looked down at the table, glimpsing his own dour reflection, and then off into the distance.

“The Mendozas,” Samantha said.

“The Mendozas,” he said.  “Couple con artists.”

“Oh, my.”

“It was her voice, not Amy’s, that I’d heard in that room.” He scowled in disgust. “They’d played me for a sucker.  And here they were drunk in a bar—this very bar—yucking it up at . . . at my expense.”

With sympathy and a hint of anger, she grasped his hand more tightly. “What’d you do?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you what I wanted to do,” he said, his voice rising. “I wanted to walk right up to ’em . . .”

“Yes?”

“. . . get in their sloppy faces and give ’em what for. Read ’em the riot act.”

“Is that what you did?”

“It’s like, how unscrupulous—how twisted—can you be?” Bender said bitterly. “To toy like that with a man’s emotions, with the most precious memories he owns . . .”

“Did you go after them?” she asked.

He met her eyes for a moment and then turned away. Shook his head slowly, broodingly. “No,” he said, “I didn’t.  I just sat there. Didn’t do anything.”

Her brow knit, she waited.

“Because, Sam,” he answered her unspoken question, “what good would it’ve done?  You think my words would’ve affected them? Would’ve made any real difference? Couple scuzzballs like that?”

“Well, I—”

“No. No. Would’ve spoiled the evening, and that’s it. Besides which,” he said, “I felt I should focus on the up side, you know, the positive side. What they did to me had actually made me a better person. I don’t say that was their intention, no. But that was the effect.”

“Huh.”

“Poorer but better. So I say God forgive ’em, and God forgive us all.”

“Yes,” she said.

He squeezed her hand. “And that, Sammie,” he said, “is a portrait of who Jerry Bender truly is. A regular guy. Naïve at times. Innocent for his years. And perhaps a little too eager to believe that people, all people, are fundamentally honest and decent.”

Holding hands, they listened to the music. For Samantha, the more of it she heard, the more agreeable it sounded. The pianist swept through “Embraceable You” with a flourish and stood up, concluding the set. Before he drifted away, he pointed with affection at Bender and favored Samantha with a wink.

She too stood up.

“Where you going?” Bender asked.

“To powder my nose.”

“And then?”

“Then we’ll get out of here,” she said.

“And go where?”

She shrugged. “My place, your place. Doesn’t matter.”

He grinned at her. “Let’s do your place,” he said. “Mine’s a mess.”

His grin stayed steady as he watched her stroll away. A woman sitting still could be nice, he thought. But a woman in motion—that was the real show, the real treat.

Solicitous as always, the waiter reappeared and stood beside him. “Everything fine, sir?” the waiter asked.

“Everything’s great,” Bender said. “In fact, you might bring us the check.”

“Not leaving so soon, are you?”

“We are,” Bender said, “but that’s a good thing.” He pulled out his wallet and slipped the waiter a fifty. “The sooner the better with that check,” he said.

Alone for the moment, he decided he might consult his cellphone one last time. When he turned it on, it started ringing almost instantly. Seeing the caller ID, he grimaced, and, for one of the few times in his long day, he appeared uncertain about what to do next. It was as if he didn’t want to take the call but didn’t want to ignore it either. He blinked down at the ringing glowing thing in his hand.

Then he tapped it, brought it up to his ear and put on his most congenial voice.

“Hey, darlin’,” he said. “What’s up? I was just about to call you, but you beat me to it.” He paused to listen. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m running a hair late, but I’ll be home just as soon as I—” He shook his head. “No, no,” he said. “I’m at work. I’m in a meeting, you know, one of those after-hours—” He ran two fingers over his jaw. “Voices?” he said. “In the background? Of course you do. It’s a meeting.  People talk at a meeting.” Another pause. “No no no no,” he said. “C’mon now. Don’t be like that. Hey, I’ll be home just as soon as . . . just as—”

From across the twilit room, Samantha was approaching. She looked refreshed and ready. And sultry. Bender discarded his congenial voice and went to his curt, business voice.     

“Hey,” he said into the phone, “I’ll be home just as soon as I can, OK? Amy,” he said, “I gotta run.”

 
 
 

about the writer

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Greg Jenkins is the author of four books, including A Face in the Sky, and roughly 55 short stories.  His work has appeared in such journals as Prairie SchoonerSouth Dakota Review and Chicago Quarterly Review.

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