Chapter 72 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

Jim heard the phone ring, but he didn't get up to answer it.

It rang twice. Then, after a short delay, Jim heard Suzanne yelling "Jim! It's for you!"

Jim had been lying in bed, lonely and depressed and feeling sorry for himself. But now, someone wanted to talk to him, and he jumped up excitedly and grabbed the receiver.


"Hi, Jim!"

A cheerful voice. Jennifer's.

Jim was silent. After several seconds, Jennifer said, "Hello?"

"Hello, Jennifer." Jim sounded sad and rundown, and that was how he felt. He'd already been feeling blue, and a call from his ex-girlfriend wasn't something he needed at this time. It was like hitting a skull fracture patient in the head by suddenly opening a door in his path.

Jennifer attempted to recompose her cheerful aspect. "How are you doing, Jim? It's been a long time."

Jim sighed. "I'm doing OK. How are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine," said Jennifer.

Then came a lull.

Jennifer said, "So, how's work?"

Jim sighed. "Work's about the same as always. How's your job?"

"Mmm, it's OK. We got a new color copier, which is pretty neat."

Jim grunted. Another lull ensued.

Jennifer struggled to keep the conversation going. "So," she said "You're doing OK?"

Jim shrugged, and then realized that this answer wouldn't work over the phone. He said, "Yeah, I'm OK."

Silence. Jim and Jennifer listened to each other breathe.

Jennifer said, "I wish we could still be friends, Jim."

Jim didn't say anything.

After another lapse of silence, Jennifer said, "So, have you written anything new?"

Jim was on the verge of crying. He was choked up, and knew that he wouldn't be able to talk much longer. "Um," he said, "I kind of have to go now."

Now Jennifer sighed. "OK, Jim. Um, I'll talk to you later, OK?"

"Yeah, OK, goodbye," said Jim. He hung up the phone, and began silently weeping.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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