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.
What about Hemingway and Fitzgerald?
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.