Sunday, June 21, 2009

He heralds newsworthy deaths

Telephone rings: Carlisle.

“Hello,” Mill pretends not to know.

“Are you sitting down?” Carlisle asks.

“I’m pacing,” she says.

“Why do you pace so much?” he asks.

“It’s exercise,” she says.

“It’s a lunatic asylum in there,” he says. Mill’s ancestors were more stable than Carlisle’s.

“The market is down,” he says, but that's not why he's calling. "Are you sitting down?” Then, as is his custom, Carlisle reads the Times obituaries page to her.

“It’s curtains for Curtin,” he summarizes before reading the text. “Scholar of the slave trade dead at 87.”

Bogle bit it,” he says.

“Founder of Vanguard?” Mill asks.

“Bob of the Ventures,” he says. “You’re too young to remember Hawaii Five-0.”

“I am not!” Mill protests foolishly, tired of hearing him say she is too young to remember things. “I washed dishes to it.”

Mill learns more about life from Carlisle’s daily slog through the obituaries than she likes to admit. She pretends to an estranged discomfort at the thought or mention of death -- shudders on cue at it -- but she is in fact glad that people die: and not only people but all living things. Mortality is the universal sign that democracy exists outside its documents, that it has a natural basis, she thinks.

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