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by Wayne Scheer

Ernie intended to ignore the ringing telephone and let the caller leave a message. He had set the answering machine to go to message after three rings, but his wife had obviously changed the number of rings. By the seventh ring, he couldn't stand it anymore.


"You hear about Phil?" It was his sister-in-law, Marge. She never identified herself. She just dove into conversation the way a child might jump into a swimming pool. "He was in a car wreck. He's okay, just a fender bender, but it was enough to total his precious Cadillac. The insurance company didn't care that it had only eighty thousand miles on it. As soon as they heard it was a 1998 model, they wrote it off. He's devastated. You know how he loved that car? The truth is Diane couldn't be happier. She never liked the color. 'Shit brown' is the way she described it. I remember going to a restaurant with them once. He ordered for Diane. He decided they would split a pasta and a salad. It was a Mediterranean pasta. You know, with olives and artichokes? I can't stand olives. Make me gag. I don't know how people eat those things. May as well dump a full saltshaker in your mouth. Oh, before I forget. There's a sale at Bragan's. Half off shoes. We need to get there early--"

"Who's Phil? And which shoe is half off--right or left?"

"Oh, Ernie, it's you. I thought Jan answered. What are you doing home? Oh, that's right. Jan told me you had the flu. You should rest. You sound awful. Anthony Mason, you know, Larry's cousin? He thought he had the flu, but it turned out to be just a bad cold. The doctor wouldn't even give him antibiotics. He nearly died--Speaking of dying, did you hear about--

"Who's Anthony Mason? Look, Marge. Jan went to the gym. I'll tell her you called. I was sleeping--"

"Is she still going to the gym? Good for her. I don't want to keep you. I'll let you rest. You know I had a membership at LA Fitness. I went about three times and never went back. Is Jan losing weight? I hope not. She's skinny as a rail as is."

"I'll tell her you called." I hung up before she could say anything more.

She'll probably complain to Jan about my rudeness.