The call

In my wallet I carried a scrap of paper: ‘Eleanor King, New Orleans, 504-296-3845.’   I finally got up the nerve to call the number.  I expected nothing—the number was forty years old—but was rather surprised when someone answered.  It was a female voice—a brittle voice.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello, I’m looking for Eleanor King.’

‘This is she.’

‘Um…my name is Jackson Calvert.’  There came a long pause.  I knew she was still there because I could hear her breathing.  ‘Are you still there?’

‘I’m here.’  Her voice had been kind before, but no longer.

‘Mrs. King, do-‘

‘It’s Ms. King.  I never married.  Once a King; always a King.’

‘Sorry: Ms. King…do you know my last name?’

Another long pause.

‘I know you,’ she said.  ‘I used to pray bad things’d happen to your family.’

‘Oh…’  I took a moment to respond.  ‘Ms. King, I’ve been looking for information about your brother’s death.’

‘He died.  In prison.  Bad kidney.’

‘Yes, Ms. King.  I know that’s the party line.  But I’m more interested in what my father and grandfather may have done to contribute to his death.’

‘Ask ‘em, then.’

‘Ms. King, my grandfather has been dead for more than ten years.  And my father and I don’t talk much.’

‘Pox on ‘em.  Good riddance.’

‘Would you be willing to tell me what happened?  From your perspective?’

‘Why I help you?’

I paused before speaking.

‘Because I want the same thing you want.’

‘How you know what I want?’

‘Well…I don’t…but I want to see that my father pays for what he’s done.’  I wondered for a moment if Eleanor King had dropped dead on the other end of the line—I couldn’t even hear the sound of her breathing now.

‘You come to see me,’ she said at last.  ‘Come to see me in New Orleans and we’ll talk.  I have something for you.

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