I also read some crime fiction.
My light reading tends towards my day job in the world of murder and mayhem.
In Lawrence Block’s A Drop of the Hard Stuff, the formerly hard-drinking ex-cop protagonist dials a telephone number and hears a murder victim’s recording: “I listened to a dead man’s voice. I hung up, wondering how long it would be before someone unplugged the machine, how long before the telephone company cut off the phone service.”
He muses: “You don’t die all at once. Not anymore. These days you die a little at a time.”
Earlier in the day I read this passage, I had received yet another one of Those Letters.
I was informed that my request for an address change for my own rapidly dwindling bank account could not be honored because the institution required the signatures of “all account holders.”
Emphatically, I am the lone account holder.
Alas, this is neither a novel status nor bureaucratic request, nor even close to a fresh encounter with the same financial institution.
So I called the “customer service” (irony intended) number, endured the extended musical intervals (note to institutional consultants: peppy hold music for your estate departments is not likely to disembeast your callers), and eventually used my cross-examination skills to secure an affirmative answer to the question, “So what you’re demanding once again is that I produce my dead husband’s signature on this form you just sent?”
It’s difficult how to describe how many ways the institutional representatives tried to evade acknowledging that’s exactly what they had demanded.
Computer networks ask me if I want to click on a link and re-establish contact with Jim.
Oh, how I wish it were that easy.
I could not erase his voice from the home answering machine; I did, however, have to disconnect the telephone line. And I kept the old machinery, from which to extract his voice.
Jim’s voice remains on at least one child’s cell phone–characteristically, with a pun. Sometimes I call it just to hear him.
Although I placed all the children’s telephone lines in my name many months ago, the corporate overlords evidently do not change the caller ID when the account holder changes. I am stricken every time the eerie electronic voice announces a call from my husband.
Another network sends him emails urging him to resume issuing 140-character updates, as they have not heard from him in awhile.
That is not the way he keeps in touch.
Amazingly, I found that he somehow has been registered to vote at our brand new address, which he has never occupied in corporeal form.
“Say hi to Jim,” says someone I encounter on the street, who has not seen us for some years.
It’s enough to drive one to sample a drop of the hard stuff.