UNCLE JIM CALLED

(Rabe’s story appeared in the 7/8 & 15 New Yorker.)

A week ago Thursday, my uncle Jim called. When I picked up the phone and said, “Hello,” he said, “Hello.” The voice was familiar and yet I didn’t recognize it. “Who is this?” I said.

“Jim,” he told me. “Uncle Jim.”

“What?” I was very surprised, because I thought Uncle Jim was dead. “Who is this?” I wanted to know. I really wanted to know.

“I just told you. Jim. I’m here with Hank. Is your mom home?”

“No,” I said. I thought Uncle Jim had been dead for years.

“Where is she?”

Now, the Hank he’d just referred to was probably his older brother, and my mom was their sister, Margie, and the thing of it was, the bewildering thing of it was that I thought they were all dead. “Is this some kind of joke?” I asked.

“We’re not laughing,” he said.

“Look,” I said, “I was in the middle of something here.”

“Oh, yeah? What?”

“Well, cooking. Dinner.”

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