The funeral was held on a Thursday, which didn’t matter since Joseph had stopped keeping track of the days, how long it had been since then was unclear. Work had ceased to count in the reckoning of days. Perhaps work was the least important thing of all, which was something that had never before occurred to Joseph. The police returned his family’s personal effects two days prior which was the only other date of note so far.
Joseph had unpacked the personal effects onto the dining room table and there they had remained. The table had no more important role in his new life then to hold the items that represented his new world. A world made up of himself, memories and reminders of his former happiness. The personal effects spread out on the table only served to cement the reality of his new non-life. The effects amounted to his wife’s purse and a few stuffed animals and a McDonald’s toy that someone included perhaps as a gesture not to offend by assuming it was as meaningless as any other fast-food toy to any other parent.
The cell-phone on the table buzzed. Joseph had not moved or touched anything until now and he reached out in surprise and excitement expecting somehow that his wife was calling him to tell him she was ok. The sledgehammer of reality struck again an instant later as the rational part of his mind overcame the emotional. With tear-filled eyes he tried to focus on the number of the caller. It didn’t matter did it? Perhaps it did if they didn’t know she was no longer living. They should know, she was a good person, an important person, they should know that she was no longer there. They should have realized the world was no longer right. How could they not? He pushed the button to answer and tell them…but the caller had already hung up. Who else hadn’t realized? Who else didn’t know? Who else didn’t value her friendship enough to care if she were alive or dead? Angrily Joseph thumbed through her recent caller list. The most recent, some idiot from her book club by the looks of it…,nothing, nothing, and there, on the day of the accident, the only day from which anything in his new world revolved, one call not one minute after he had kissed her goodbye and started his car to head to work.
An intense need to know who had been the last person to talk to her burned inside him with a fire equaling that of his grief. He pushed the call button and waited. Momentarily a bored sounding woman answered, “Child Services Agency.”
Confusion swirled inside, Joseph felt silly and at the same time frustrated with his suspicion confronted with the obvious answer that this was a benign call from someone at the Agency that Tory had worked at during the early days of their marriage. It had been so long that he’d forgotten. He fought the intense desire to hang up and paused for a moment determining to ask who might have called her. He should know he convinced himself. The woman repeated her greeting sounding just as bored as the time before, “Child Services Agency.”
Joseph blurted out the first thing that came to his mind, something he’d heard his wife say numerous times in the distant past. “I need help with a person.” He thought it was so cute how Tory used that phrase to get total strangers to open up and provide her with a seemingly limitless amount of information. It was her gift. He thought in this moment perhaps the phrase would work its magic for him too. He intended to explain that he wanted to talk to the person who had most recently called Tory but what happened next surprised him.
The woman’s voice took on a more interested tone… “Which asset is reporting in?”