All the Lasting Things

All the Lasting Things by David Hopson Read Free Book Online

Book: All the Lasting Things by David Hopson Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Hopson
for the kitchen extension with brush in hand, incensed that such a careless caller might wake Henry, but paused before answering it. Claudia’s number on the caller ID. Claudia, who imposed uncharitable restrictions on the hours she allowed Evelyn to call her, could apparently phone Evelyn whenever she wished. Evelyn felt a delicious retaliatory impulse to let the call go to voice mail, but picked up the handset before it could ring again.
    “Mom?”
    Someone, Evelyn thought by her daughter’s tone, is dead. “What’s the matter?”
    “Calm, Mom, calm down. I haven’t said anything yet.” Claudia spoke in an unusually soft, coaxing voice that was anything but calming.
    “What’s the matter? Where are you?”
    “I’m at the hospital.”
    “The hospital? Are you okay?”
    “I’m fine.”
    “Is Oliver?”
    “It’s Benji.”
    Evelyn dropped the paintbrush, its moist tip kissing the top of her slippered foot.
    “He’s okay. They’re pretty sure he’s going to be okay.”
    “Claudia, tell me right now.”
    “I can’t tell you if you don’t calm down. And I can’t stay on the phone long.”
    Cast helplessly into silence, Evelyn bit into her bottom lip and listened.
    “There was an accident. Or. They won’t say it was an accident. But there was a fall.”
    “Benji? Benji fell? Where are you? I’m coming.”
    “Mom, no. No. Not until we know what’s happening. You’re better off there, with Daddy.”
    “Sandra can stay with your father.”
    “There’s nothing for you to do. There’s nothing for me to do. I’m sitting here. The doctors are still with him.”
    “But what happened ?” Evelyn pressed Claudia on the how, the why, the where, and Claudia, never dropping her mask of calm, answered with maddening composure. “Saratoga!” Evelyn cried. “What is he doing in Saratoga?”
    “A play.”
    “He never told me he was doing a play! As if I wouldn’t have gone to—”
    “Well, now’s not the time to get upset about that.” Evelyn hushed, chastened. “Mom? Are you there?”
    “What do you mean they won’t say it’s an accident?” Evelyn heard Claudia take a breath, a deep, shuddering breath, as if she were going underwater for a long time.
    “They think he may have jumped.”
    Evelyn put a hand to her heart. “Who thinks that?”
    “I’m telling you what they told me.”
    “Who is they?”
    “The people who found him. The police. Everybody.” The tremor in Claudia’s voice, comforting.
    “Why would they say that? He wouldn’t do that. He would never do that.”
    More silence.
    “I talked to him last week,” Evelyn insisted.
    “So did I.”
    “Why would they say he jumped?”
    “I know as much as you do, Mom.”
    Evelyn shook her head vigorously, as if she could loosen the idea of her son choosing to plummet to his death and send it flying out of her head. “Your brother’s not unstable.” Then, tuned to the possibility of some waspish response, “Not unstable like that .”
    “There is precedence,” Claudia said softly.
    The word precedence irked Evelyn, as if they were arraigning Benji in a court of law. “What? The pills? I wish you wouldn’t bring that up. It was twenty-five years ago. And he did that for attention. He barely took enough to put himself to sleep.”
    “I don’t want to believe it either, but who’s to say he’s not looking for attention now. We’re talking about Benji.”
    “That’s how you talk about your brother? At a time like—?” Evelyn’s voice crumbled under the weight of the sentence. She put her hand against the wall, as if she, too, might fall, and cried.
    “I don’t know what to think. But the more I think about it—I wouldn’t exactly say Benji is happy.”
    Happy? Evelyn thought. Who is?
    “Mom,” Claudia began, but confusion and sadness and a sickening tide of outrage had doused Evelyn’s circuits. She shut down. Hung up the phone. Cried until Sandra came, when she insisted she needed to be alone, climbed the

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