"Oh, hi. Is that you, Annie?" He couldn't resist, even though her Midwestern accent left no doubt. "Sorry, I was busy for a second there. Didn't hear a word you said."
She laughed. "Now Mack, I know you heard every word. Don't you be goin' and tryin' to kid a kidder. I wasn't born yesterday, ya know. Whaddya want me to tell him if he makes it back alive?"
"Actually, you already answered my question."
There was a pause at the other end. "Actually, I don't remember you askin' a question. What's wrong with you, Mack? Still smoking too much dope or do you just do that on Sunday mornings to make it through the church service?" At this she started to laugh, as if caught off guard by the brilliance of her own sense of humor.
"Now Annie, you know I don't smoke dope—never did, and don't ever want to." Of course Annie knew no such thing, but Mack was taking no chances on how she might remember the conversation in a day or two. Wouldn't be the first time that her sense of humor morphed into a good story that soon became "fact." He could see his name being added to the church prayer chain. "It's okay, I'll just catch Tony some other time, no big deal."
"Okay then, just stay indoors where it's safe. Don't ya know, an old guy like you coulda lost his sense of balance over the years. Wouldn't wanna see ya slip and hurt your pride. Way things are shapin' up, Tony might not make it up to your place at all. We can do snow, sleet, and darkness of night pretty well, but this frozen rain stuff. It's a challenge to be sure."
"Thanks, Annie. I'll try and remember your advice. Talk to you later. Bye now."
His head was pounding more than ever; little trip hammers beating to the rhythm of his heart. "That's odd," he thought, "who would dare put something like that in our mailbox?" The painkillers had not yet fully kicked in, but were present enough to dull the edge of worry that he was starting to feel, and he was suddenly very tired. Laying his head down on the desk, he thought he had just dropped off to sleep when the phone startled him awake.
"Uh . . . hello?"
"Hi, love. You sound like you've been asleep." It was Nan, sounding unusually cheery, even though he felt he could hear the underlying sadness that lurked just beneath the surface of every conversation. She loved this kind of weather as much as he usually did. He switched on the desk lamp and glanced at the clock, surprised that he had been out for a couple hours.
"Uh, sorry. I guess I dozed off for a bit."
"Well, you sound a little groggy. Is everything all right?"
"Yup." Even though it was almost dark outside, Mack could see that the storm had not let up. It had even deposited low, and he knew some would eventually break from the weight, especially if the wind kicked up. "I had a little tussle with the driveway when I got the mail, but other than that, everything is fine. Where are you?"