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Short stories

Code Name

It starts with a phone call.

Hall, Oates is here, comes down the phone, loud.

He phones me up at all hours of the night. I think it has something to do with the time difference. I could be wrong. I am not very good with time or geography.

Hall? he says.

I cough to demonstrate that I am still on the telephone.

Silence is impossible, he says. It is a quote. He always quotes intellectuals. This time it is Maurice Blanchot. I introduced him to Maurice Blanchot. He always regurgitates my quotes – often misquotes and I have to correct him.

Please can we change my Code Name, I plead.

We have done this routine before – it vexes him.

What? comes down the phone, loud.

What about Lennon and McCartney? I’ll even let you be Lennon.

No.

What about Hemingway and Fitzgerald?

No.

I was going to say Batman and Robin, but he hates Superheroes.

I could be Oscar Wilde and you could be Marcel Proust, I whisper.

You are a decadent, he barks.

I was joking, I say, but seriously, what about Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello?

We are not playing a game, he says.

He’s irate. It always happens this way. I give in.

Abandoned Luncheonette, I say. This is the Code saying I am ready. He tells me in the morning a parcel will arrive. Inside the parcel, I’ll find a cyanide capsule. I have to swallow the cyanide capsule.

Goodnight, I say.

Good morning, comes down the phone, gleeful.  

Aaron Peterson

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