My father shouts into the telephone as if the chatter of salesmen on my end of the line is as loud as the rock music on his.
“Put it on VH1!” It’s the middle of a weekday afternoon.
“Dad, I’m at work.”
“I’m at work.”
“Oh.” He knows there is no television in my cubicle. In the adjoining workstations, the other loan officers convince strangers to install that jacuzzi now that interest rates are down.
“Listen!” he insists.
“Dad -” But he’s already turned the phone toward the stereo speakers through which he routes his television. Presently the volume on his end escalates. Over the line, or satellites or whatever, the bass and drums and guitars and voice all bleed into a sound like waves crashing in a junk yard. I picture him stretched out on his couch in front of his plasma screen, the remotes for his television and DVD and VCR and satellite dish lined up within reach on the coffee table. When he comes back on the line he pauses for dramatic effect, and then, as if I haven’t already figured out what he’s watching, he screams:
“Pink! Floyd! Yeaaahhhh!” His words explode across the line as if there is no greater sentiment to express in all the universe. He catches his breath. “I wish I had a joint!”
“Dad!” I protest. “You can’t say that on this line. Someone might be listening.”
“Remember when the radio station sequenced *Dark Side of the Moon* with the lunar eclipse?” I was nine, my brother seven. The eclipse had come at 2:00AM. He’d given us each a half cup of coffee to keep us awake. We’d laid on the floor with the lights out, our buzzing heads cushioned on the sofa pillows, feeling the bass vibrate through the floor. Out the living room window, Earth’s shadow smudged the lunar surface.
“The song is about a solar eclipse,” I remind him.
“What difference does it make?” he says. “I must’ve worn out three copies of that album. Hang on, this is my favorite part!”
He starts to sing along with the rock band on the television:
“All that you touch, and all that you see…”
“Dad, I’ve got calls to make. I work on commission…”
“All that you taste, all you feel.”
I hear a click, and then my father is joined on the line by the voice of Barry Murtree, my supervisor, who monitors my calls for quality assurance. Murtree is singing with my father.
“All that you love, and all that you hate…”
“C’mon, Seeber,” Murtree breaks off singing to enjoin me. “Humor the old man!”
“All you distrust,” they shout, “all you save.”
My father is old. This song is old. There’s a bald patch spreading across the top of my head. I can’t separate these thoughts.
There’s another click on the line. “C’mon, everybody,” Murtree says.
My colleagues on the phone bank join in, Brooks and Chattworth and Tevins, then Phillis Gawain, who won’t even look at me unless we’re feverishly shtuping our way through a coffee break in the janitor’s closet on the third floor. Their voices rise above the partitions and make the gooseflesh rise on the back of my neck. I can feel the blood pooling in my ears.
“All you create, and all you destroy!” they sing, and I realize that I know the words like I know the beating of my heart. But I can’t go there. I can’t contribute my voice to this spontaneous chorus.
“All that you eat, and everyone you meet!”
“Yeahhh!” my father screams over the phone. “This is so fuckin’ great!”
I feel like a balding, divorced, phone-bank working kid being sung Happy Birthday to by the waitresses at Sambos. I hate Happy Birthday. I hate Sambos. This is so embarrassing. I hate Pink Floyd. The past forty years flash before my eyes.
“Man, we had some good times,” my father says over my harmonizing colleagues. He’s sounding wistful. “I sure do love you, son.”
The rest of the phone bank is leaning over the grey partition now, singing down into my cubicle. The mouthpieces of their headsets obscure their lips like alien orthodontics. They finish the song and clap, as if to shout, “and many more…”, then disappear back into their cubicles.
“Dad,” I say, “I gotta go.”
“Hang on a minute,” he says, “your mother wants to talk.”
Care to Share?
Consider posting a note of comment on this item: