Where you calling from? the old man asked. You gotta stop calling collect. It adds up. These short conversations add up, he looked outside at the trash blowing around in front of his trailer. There was no voice on the other line. Just silence. Breathing. A shortness of breath. Last time we talked you were in New York up around Plattsburgh. That’s where Lake Champlain is right? They were going to make that one of the Great Lakes, but they never did. Told me you took the ferry over from Vermont. That water’s deep.
You got a hundred you can wire me? the son said. I need a hudred pop, he told him. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days.
Borrowing money? Calling collect on payphones? What’s going on with you? dad asked.
I just can’t seem to get it right, the boy said. I’m always losing jobs. Or, they don’t hire me. It’s hard living in this Dodge. Haven’t had a shower in a couple of days now. Like to go to a truck stop and take care of that. Buy some deodorant. Get some food, he lit a cigarette.
What good is a hundred going to do you? Makes me think I’m throwing my money away. Your mom and I didn’t raise you to be like this. Running around the country like a chicken with his head cut off. I never know where you’re going to be. This has to come to an end.
How much gas you got?
How you getting around?
Got the car parked over by the library. I walk everywhere. Just use the Dodge to sleep in.
Where you at again?
Real pretty country up there.
If I sent you a couple of hundred could you get back to Whiting on that? Probably take three or four tanks of gas. That Dodge doesn’t do too good does it?
No sir, the son crushed the cigarette out under his shoe.
You need gas and food huh?
You coming home?
Guess I’ll have to.
I’d say your little adventure is about over. I’ll send you three, but you got to pay me back. I live on social security. Can’t be doing this all the time.
I know that.
And by chance that you don’t come home. That you just take the money. Don’t ever call me again. Comprende?
Call me when you get the money. I’m going down to the liquor store and wiring it right now.
Have a safe drive. You’ll be coming through Pennsylvania and then shooting across into Ohio and Indiana.
Yessir. I know my way back home.
I’ll bet you do. I’ll bet you do.
There was silence. Neither of them talked. Two men on the phone saying nothing.