David J. Thompson

Would You Mind Getting That?

My friends, Jack and Debbie, still have
a land line with a ring so loud I hear it
in the guest room at the other end
of the house.  We just can’t seem
to get around to getting rid of it,
they say. Debbie’s still talking when
I get out to the kitchen, points me
toward the coffee in the  corner.
As I sit down at the table I hear
her say, No, I can’t help you get out,
Tim, but I did send a check to Janice
to make sure you get all the help
you need. She listens for a second,
cups a hand over her other ear.
No, no, she says. I can’t do that.
Bye-bye now. She hangs up,
smiles guiltily, then she sits down
next to me, pushes a blue plate
of orange slices toward me, tells me
to have one, they’re very sweet.
That was my little brother Tim,
she explains. I don’t know what happened
to him. Middle child, didn’t get the attention
or the love he needed, I guess. He dropped out
of college in the 80’s to play guitar in a band
with the wrong kind of people, got into drugs,
and he’s never been right since. He’s back
in court-ordered rehab again now, nobody knows
what to do for him anymore. I tell her how
that really sucks when the phone rings again.
We both sort of jump and she looks across
at the phone, then back at me, says calmly,
Would you mind getting that? And tell
whoever it is that I’m not here.


David J. Thompson grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a former prep school teacher and coach whose list of heroes includes John Prine, John Sayles, Frank O’Hara, and Brooks Robinson. He spent two months this fall traveling in Ireland. Please visit his photo website at ninemilephoto.com.