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The following is a dramatization of a phone conversation Charlie had recently with his brother, Elmer. The entire dialogue is Dad’s side of the call (since I obviously couldn’t hear Elmer’s side) and is a fairly typical example of every conversation my dad has with any of our relatives who live back in North Dakota.

There are three things worth noting before we begin.

1. Dad is deaf and he will not admit it or use his hearing aids. Yes, he does in fact own hearing aids, but refuses to ever wear them which leads to a lot of SHOUTING as well as blaring TVs and music in the Schulz household.

2. Whenever someone asks how he’s doing, the standard Charlie answer usually involves “cheating death,” “death is coming eminently” (a claim he’s been making for the last 40 years or so), or “one day is worse than the next.”

3. Every conversation with relatives must at some point include an obituary briefing; a rundown of who’s dead, who’s dying, and how long he has or can out live them.

So with that, we set our scene:

The phone rings twice. Dad ignores it. The answering machine kicks in. No message.

BEAT

The phone again rings twice. The answering machine kicks in. Then Dad recognizes the number on the Caller ID just barely quick enough to grab the phone before Uncle Elmer hangs up in disgust.

“Hello?”

Hello?”

“What?”

“HELLO?!”

“WHAT?”

“Who’s that?”

“SPEAK UP!!!”

“ARRRRRGH!”

“ELMER!”

“Oh! Is that you?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure it isn’t Fudd…?”

“Is that’s right? Well what the hell!”

“What’s that?”

“WHAT?”

“Oh, we’re just livin’ one day to the next.”

“Ah, shit. Who knows?”

“Yeah, we got the kid here for the summer.”

“HUH?”

“I don’t know.”

“No, she’s not working. We had some nice hamburgers last night though.”

“Yeah.”

“How’s Mott? Dead?”

“Yeah. Dead, eh?”

“That’s it?”

“Anymore dead people there?”

“Blotty?”

“Oh yeah?”

“Ah, shit.”

“Well, that’s the end of that.”

“Anything else to say there?”

“Nothing, yeah?”

“Okay then. Good enough.”

“Yup. Bye.”

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