Tagged: time

March 16, 2017 Scribble 0

A chance to bleed.

I spent the morning re-writing explanations of my writing tools so they would make more sense. I actually found a few ideas I had forgotten such as planning climaxes and struggles. I think most of these things are apparent, for instance, you tend to see them pop up. But that is the pantser in me; plotters get ahead faster. I used to be just a pantser because it fit better with my observational nature. However, if you fail to notice a detail, it will show in the story. So you have to think about the plot to help build up the scenes. Anyway, plotting is much better than pantsing when you get to the middle of part two and you have no idea what comes next.

***

What’s better: a comb-over or buzz-cut? The buzz-cut aficionados swear running a blade through their hair solves so many problems and looks better. If a bunch of round heads looks better, then fine. The comb-over set swears at least they have a few hairs to shape up their head. Of course, they look ridiculous if only two hairs cover the bald spot. Maybe it is time to think about a toupee?

***

Four women stand like a choir bunched up against the rosemary wall separating the federal courthouse from the sidewalk. They can stand on the path and protest as long as they keep it open for visitors. Together they hold a sign; “Justices for Our Brothers.” On the back of the sign slashes tally up the number of hugs offered to anyone who passes. The count totals more than 600.

***

Chicken and Wild Rice soup simmers in the kitchen. The wild rice resembles black-eyed peas with the brown speck surrounding the white kernel. Orange rounds of carrot float on the surface. The perfect soup for a cold day. But, it’s nearly 90 outside. For some reason this year, I dislike the warm weather. With nearly 400 inches of snow I want another storm  to dump more frozen water. Might as well see if additional records are broken. Towards summer, the melt may lead to a second round of records as the most snow leads to the most runoff. Maybe a new lake will form in the Fallon desert. Lake Tahoe has enough water to keep the Truckee flowing for three years. And more is on the way. Northern Nevada lies under piles of snow and ice. Send some of that south; we need a few more days of winter.

***

In my present condition, the only thing left to eat is dirt. Dirt contains no cholesterol and no sugar. Depending on the source, dirt contains iron and other minerals. Free-range dirt sounds organic, but even it can lead to problems; the raw soil might contain natural asbestos or arsenic. Even dirt has its limitations.

***

Mark Twain spent a sojourn in Territorial Nevada. Some of his observations in the gold and silver camps of the Sierra Nevada ended up as well-remembered short stories. Other pieces found there way into longer novels from his office in Hartford, Connecticut. The school room scene in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer originated at a schoolroom in Carson City. Always be on the lookout for interesting events or scenes. They will prove useful at another time.

***

I still like to ramble adding unneeded words to sentences. My mantra has become, “Get to the Point!”

***

A nine-foot stone wall stands across from the Spanish mission with water flowing over red sandstone rocks. Two fat pigeons, one grey and other steel, each splash through the puddles of water before they fall to the pool. The artificial river meanders passed a canyon of concrete, Mexican fan palms, and under flat tan rocks until the water reaches the pump. With a whisk, the water starts the climb again.

A potable water truck pumps rainwater from Utah into the pool. This is water trucked 500 miles to make the desert green. A  pet project of a former mayor who demanded a water fountain between the city courthouses. At the end of the river, the Poets Bridge features Earth House Hold poet Gary Snyder and 19 other poets and Las Vegas artists.

March 15, 2017 Scribble 0

I spent twenty minutes holding my head to the right as a doctor went in again for my fourth thyroid biopsy. “Boy this is really deep,” he said. “Yep, maybe you’ll be the guy,” I said. It is clear with have a nodule or two. We don’t clearly know if it is cancer. “At least if it is cancer, this is the best one to get,” said my endocrinologist. “It takes so long to grow.” Comforting. While other writers are busy taking people to other places, I’m in an endless loop of out-patient surgery. No, you would not be interested in the waiting, prodding, and sore neck. It doesn’t jump off as one of those stories you want to hear.

***

Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” True. Sometimes you just have to write it out and hope something sticks. Then let it fall to the floor. In Hemingway & Gellhorn  he says,” Never crumple pages. Always let them float gently into the basket. Any writer who rips out his stuff and crumples it will go insane in a year, guaranteed.” I like the idea of floating paper to the trash. I would float this to the trash, but it’s a huge monitor.

***

It turns out nobody reads this blog. (more…)

March 7, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

The Big Squeeze is coming to Las Vegas. The Spaghetti Bowl, a large mess of on ramps and off ramps between the US 95 and I-15 will soon be reduced to two lanes. It already becomes two lanes on US-95 under the Bowl, so I’m not sure how this is a squeeze, but through media hyperbole and advertising, I’m to understand this will be terrible.

This morning, I decided to find an alternative route. On the advice of some friends, I decided to try North Fifth, a new road into North Las Vegas.

After fifteen minutes waiting for a light to change and let three cars through at a time, I’ve decided I can suffer through the impending peril of the Big Squeeze. Even if I sit for 5 extra minutes, it will surely beat a 55 minute commute to go 20 miles via surface streets. This is ranting I know, but you have to start 750-words somehow.

We spring back this weekend. Frankly, this just means getting up earlier. Remember to set your clocks ahead. (Don’t think about it too much: Your head will explode).

Sequoia Strawberries in the flower bed mulch
Lined up like bare root roses
Patted safe in the warm soil
Watered and blessed; a hopeful refrain.

Spring lasts a few days before summer rays
Bear down on the garden beds
Warming the soil to dry dust
A delicate balance to keep them moist.

The morning frost reminds spring follows winter
Breezes as March enters like a lion
Or sneaks in like a lamb.
Either way, the garden struggles to bloom.

A small leaf springs up from the bare root tip
As roots firmly establish themselves
And the plant becomes accustomed to its new home.
It spreads out to take space.

Small droplets in the morning light
On large leaves of green vermillion
Summer sun gobbles up the water
As ladybugs jump through the delicate flowers.

“Are you drinking enough water?”

“I think so.”

“It’s getting hotter and you need to be refreshed.”

“I went to the bathroom three times tonight.”

“You’re diabetic. That’s a sure sign of the disease.”

“I don’t suppose four tall glasses of water had anything to do with it.”

In these writing exercises you are supposed to write whatever comes to your head, in any order, without stopping. This came to my head just now.

S. I. Hayakawa was a U.S Senator from California, and before that he was a semanticist at San Francisco State University. I first read his book Language and Action in high school. The idea Bessie the Cow was an abstraction allowed me to add only those details that made her a cow, rather than endlessly describe all of her features. Abstraction allows writers to write a picture that others fill in. Hayakawa warned to stay at the top of the abstraction tree, otherwise you could lead others into an existential hell.

Trees have a colored leaf. And the leaf is made of smaller parts from veins to individual cells. Staying at the top allows the reader to fill in the abstractions, without the writer having to describe the color of the veins or explain the arrangement of the cells. However, sometimes a writer wants to describe these things. Knowing when to stop is the art of writing. A writer must be careful not to chase themselves around in circles!

Hayakawa also addresses the power of words to hypnotize and manipulate. If a person can be convinced a brown cow is really white through powerful descriptions, then a writer can powerfully draw a crowd in with the force of prose. He cautions readers to avoid taking whatever a person says at face value; question them and their motivations. Abstractive communication allows writers to rely on simile, metaphor, irony and pathos to communicate an idea. Abstraction has power as long as everyone agrees on the definition of the abstraction.

Too deep? Enough philosophy on the mechanisms of writing.

“I just don’t feel motivated or respected.”

“You hate your job?”

“Just the people. Nobody sees my contribution.”

“So you’re looking for a reward?”

“I would like to be respected and given a little credit.”

“For showing up?”

“For making this place work despite the lack of respect.”

“You received a paycheck this week?”

“Yes.”

“I think you they must like you.”

I’m running out of words for this session’s writing activity and likely this will end long before I ever get to the bottom of a deep well. There. We now have 750-words!

March 3, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

America is divided. The Hatfield vs. the McCoys. #BLM vs #BLM. Of course, it is nowhere near the biggest mix up as The Orange and the Green.  At least not yet. (more…)

March 2, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

According to my new writing goal, I am supposed to just write down whatever comes to my head and finish up in 750 words. The whole thing sounds a bit of a waste of time, frankly. I don’t have the luxury of writing nothing; there is so much more to write and get done.

Yet, here I am just writing. And counting time.

(more…)

My Life Soon Ends 0

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Sunrise bounced through our carbon polymer dome inching closer to my eyes on the pillow. I looked at the divergence of yellow and red light flaring through the bubble and then across the room. The sixth day of Shepard seemed it would shape up as a typical butterscotch day. I saw the sun’s reflection on MaxPol.

The sun woke me every day, but it didn’t always reflect from MaxPol’s dome. Pioneers colonized Mars 160 years ago by surviving the solar flares shielded from the neural damage of radiation. Those before me found a way to release water, and they invented calendars, fashions, and traditions. They built the central dome of MaxPol and spread out from there.

I understood the privilege the pioneers gave me. Every person born on Mars understood the sacrifice required for the next generation.

Maggie put on a white dress for the afternoon matching ceremony. She transfixed me with her beauty. I looked past her to the mirror as she added a garland of chamomile to her hair. She resembles Aleren.

When she is matched my life soon ends.

Maggie stood still admiring her reflection. She finished up her hair and let her arms fall straight down. “You will make a beautiful bride.” She blushed and turned away.

“At ceremony you will be matched with a partner. Then you will make handsome babies.”

“And go like you,” she added.

“You must produce at least three children as a Last Born,” I reminded her. “That is the contract.”

“And when those children are born, I will go.” She sighed.

“All Last Born villein must repay steerage,” I said. “And you are the last to repay.”

A generation before myself, then me, and now my daughter all expected to settle the debt.

“This planet requires too much,” Maggie said.

“It only seems that way because of all the work we must do.”

“No. Mars owns us until we die.”

Grandmother Viola agreed to the villein contract with the Interstellar Transport and Exploration Company in an attempt to escape Earth. She wanted to make her mark and she wanted to escape the marriage her mother had arranged.

With Vi’s signature, she agreed her next three generations would work as miners, scientists, and in my case, a Last Born. We married and raised a family, taught the Martian traditions, and prepared our children for the needed work. Some of our children left MaxPol for distant settlements and some became apprenticed to a scientist. In most cases, like my middle son Adam, we never see them again.

When Maggie reached the age of viability at one sol, roughly when the fear of her dying passed, her mother walked out of our pod to end her life. Aleren birthed three children according to the contact and had nothing left to do but complete transformation.

On that day, she dressed in a white robe, weaved flowers through her hair, and slipped out of our pod onto the soil of Mars. Beyond the dome the air was thin, and Aleren had only a few precious minutes to reach the transformation pedestal.

I stood with my two boys and cradled my daughter as Aleren walked away. I was proud of her and I kept the boys from noticing my tears. When she finished walking, Aleren raised her arms upward, and turned toward our window. Adam held my leg and hid his face, Zach stood like a soldier, and Maggie slept. Aleren ended her life on Mars as we watched.

She kneeled and her whole body began to swell. Seconds later, her white robe exploded upwards in the wind. Aleren was gone. She aged 16 sols, gave birth to three children, and in that instant completed her transformation.

After that day, I continued teaching our children the Martian traditions and duties passed down by the pioneers. In time, the children forgot their mother as the picture of her face faded in the hallway.

When he turned 16, Zach apprenticed to a climatologist. Later, Adam went to the far colonies to work in the mines. Maggie was born last, roughly three sols after Adam, and being the baby she never knew Aleren. She was a handfull and the elders of MaxPol let me add two sols to my life due to her difficulties.

Looking at her today, you would never know she struggled to learn. When she leaves our dome, I will have aged 27 sols, fathered three children, and will walk on the surface of Mars to join Aleren.

“Father, are you thinking?”

I shook off my melancholy. It struck me I should not upset her before the matching ceremony.

“I was remembering your mother.”

“I only know what my brothers have told me,” Maggie paused. “Why did she leave us?”

“She realized her purpose,” I replied. “Her benediction and death allowed you to live.”

I needed Maggie to understand the gift Aleren gave her.

“I barely passed one sol,” Maggie said. “I never had a chance talk with her, learn from her, or gain her wisdom.”

“All Last Borns have one job; to ensure life goes on. She spoke to you often in your crib about your future.”

“A baby maker, you mean,” Maggie said. “Enough. It is time us breeders became naturalized freemen.”

“Your mother was very proud you would be a Last Born,” I said. “Your children will be citizens,” I paused to look her in the eyes. “The first generation of Free Martians.”

“And I will not be able to see it,” Maggie said.

I gave Maggie credit for grasping the gravity of her journey. And it gave me pause; I would not see my family earn citizenship either. Zach and Adam would never be freemen, but at least they had the chance at a long life. I did have that comfort to fall back on. And Maggie would be the final Last Born. My grandchildren would decide the future for themselves and their children.

I placed the freshly pressed robe on my dressing table. After the matching ceremony, I would come back alone and prepare for my transformation. Maggie would be off to her Last Born colony and will miss it. Just as well; Maggie didn’t remember Aleren’s passing and she wouldn’t remember mine.

Under the central dome of MaxPol, the matching ceremony candidates stood on a transparent stage. Maggie embraced her friends and I could hear their laughter float to my seat. All the parents sat away from the Last Born children. The audience cheered as the chancellery read the names of all of us preparing to transform.

As a group, Maggie joined the rest by holding her right hand equal to her head and reciting the vow. Each swore to build up the community, teach their children, and carry out their purpose as a Last Born. At the end, the chancellery invited the parents to stand. The crowd cheered as the chancellery thanked us for completing our service.

Everyone became silent for the marriage partner epistle. Maggie gasped when the chancellery chose Charles, a tall, black-haired Last Born, for her partner. I imagined their handsome babies.

At the end of the ceremony, Maggie found me. She pulled Charles behind her. She seemed assured and ready to begin her new life. I tried to act casual, but my happiness betrayed me. Tears welled in my eyes and I pulled her close.

“They made a good choice,” I said. “Your children will be strong.”

“Yes, I suppose.” Maggie took a furtive glance back at Charles. “He is as good as anyone.”

“I guess you two are off for your training?”

“Yes. We learn the private bits about each other,” Maggie said.

“Don’t practice too much.” I couldn’t help myself. Maggie punched my arm and Charles became scarlet.

“It looks like they want you to go.” I pushed Maggie and Charles toward the stage. “I am sure everything will be fine.”

Maggie wrapped herself around me dropping her head on my shoulder. She wept and pulled me closer. I rubbed her back and whispered, “You make me proud.”

“I love you too,” she said.

Maggie saved me from an awkward goodbye. I stood with the other parents watching her leave. Soon I stood alone with nothing left to do but return to my pod.

I dressed in my transformation robe and reflected on my life. None of my children died, they each learned something from me, and there was nothing left to teach them. The last thing to do was complete my transformation.

Before the matching ceremony, I transferred my credits to Maggie, uploaded my last words, recorded a congratulatory video for my grandchildren, and pressed my robe with an iron. I fingered the trim on the collar feeling the intricacy of the lace. Everything seemed in order.

At central day, an alarm sounded and a happy voice reminded me to proceed to my transformation. This was it. I would perform the last part of my vow.

I climbed up to the airlock between our pod and the Martian sand. Across the complex, I watched as other parents also entered their airlocks. I counted as many as six other men and three women. Not as many as in the past, but still a sizable number. I realized I had never spoken to any of them.

Over the speakers the Requiem Aeternam began to play in the airlock. I decided it was a fitting anthem for my last minutes on Mars. I took a deep breath and let it out. The door opened and the atmosphere blew out the rupture in the dome.

On Mars, I lived a total of 27 sols. On Earth, I would celebrate reaching 50 years. For the first time I felt tired.

Aleren and I practiced this final moment of my life sols ago. We let out our breath like we were coming up for a dive. We giggled when we had to breathe in.

Now on the sand it was difficult. I felt the effects of the vacuum on my face and my lips tingled from the lack of oxygen. I failed to realize how hard it would be. Yet, I wanted to experience this. The moisture in my eyes evaporated and my lungs started to freeze with my slow exhalation.

Aleren made it roughly 40 steps before the wind scattered her across the surface. I wanted to walk at least as far as her. Except I had not counted on the difference in our age. I struggled and my heart pounded hard in my chest. I walked less than 20 steps before I managed to reach a small rise in the dirt. I climbed over it, dropped to my knees, and realized death was near. My eyes began to burn, so I closed them, and let the sun warm my face.

As I gave in to it, the ground under me opened and I dropped beneath the surface. I tumbled down and landed hard in a dark hole. The fall took my breath away and I could see nothing but black; did somebody dig me a grave?

“Place him in the bateau and run to the compression chamber,” a male voice said.

The taste of oxygen differed from the thin nitrogen and carbon dioxide of the surface. I took a shallow breath. It felt cool in my aching lungs. Around me I heard voices, but my eyes were blind. Nothing took shape.

“It may be too late,” said a female voice.

The transformation prepares us for the responsibility of ensuring life begins on Mars. Each Last Born teaches, scolds, counsels, and nurtures their children. I took a final breathe.

“We must save him. He deserves to know the future.”

“Adam?” I thought I heard the voice of my middle son and realized it was a dream. His voice took me to my memory of all of us standing together for a portrait under the main dome of MaxPol with the yellow sun shining behind us. I smiled thinking about my family as my transformation ended.

I knew Mars was a better place.

The Baby Picture 0

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“The usual?” Mary grabbed two slices of sourdough from a bag before slapping on some tuna salad.

“Yeah,” Tom replied looking around the deli.

Two small puddles of rain water merged on the floor. He shook the drops from his umbrella before sticking it into a cloth grocery sack. Water leaked through the canvas of the heavy bag. He looked around to see if anyone saw its contents.

Mary sliced through his sandwich, placed it on a plate with pickle, and pushed it toward him. He placed on his tray a banana from the fruit basket and a cello-wrapped brownie from the deserts.

“Just a cup of ice water,” he said paying for the lunch.

(more…)

A Visitor Awaits 0

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Bolsón de Mapimí, Chihuahuan Desert, Old Mexico

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. – Eden Phillpotts

The desert wind blew warm and dry across his face layering grit on his chapped lips. He dropped the square bottle to his mouth and let the agave drip down his chin. The cold air bit into his bones. He wrenched the long robe tighter around him.

“What’s that?” he shouted out as he spun into the wind. He cocked his head to the left listening for a voice. The bottle sloshed at his side.

“Un visitante?”

He laughed a high cackle and spun around with his arms outstretched as if to collect all the stars in the sky. The bottle swung up in the air and a stream of Mescal sprayed out into the wind raining down on him. The drops bounced off his nose and forehead. He looked up and watched a drop grow larger and land in his eye. He wiped his face and shook his hair. He shouted at the stars.

“There are no visitors here. Nobody dares come into this hell-forsaken sand trap.”

He laughed before listening again. There was nothing but the wind blowing past the field of creosote and ocotillo. The wind rubbed the plants together forming a low hum.

“No me diga?”

The man cocked a confused look toward the sky. He took a step and stumbled forward to his knees. The bottle dug into the sand. He listened to the wind.

“You don’t say.”

(more…)

Moments Before the Ambulance Arrives 0

A Conversation

“We found him out here just laying on the sidewalk?

“Nude?”

“Yep. He looked dead.”

“And then he jumped up?”

“Yeah. Jumped off and started yelling.”

“All that stuff about ‘do you know who I am?’ and “you should listen’?

“I think he must have been a big shot once. I don’t think he is anymore.”

“He ran for awhile and then collapsed?”

“Strangest thing; seemed to run out of energy. He ran around, bumped into a few people, and then fell down. I swore he died again. Oh my, he’s sprinting away.”

“You guys need to hold him down. There, I think they have it.”

“That guy knows how to run.”

“Too much adrenaline. We can counteract it with this dose. Right in the neck. That’s it.”

“Will he be much trouble?”

“No. We’ll take him away and keep him safe.”

“What if he sprints again?”

“Not wearing this special jacket, ankle cuffs, and diaper.”

“He looks almost normal.”

“Yes. Almost normal.”

Can You Hear Me Now, L.A.? 0

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A loud sneeze sent a nose full of snot onto the steering wheel and the windshield. James held the phone away from the explosion; otherwise, it too would have been covered.

“Are you gonna be alright?” Sally snickered through the phone.

“Damn ragweed.” James looked around for a tissue. He also tried not to run his hand through the sticky mess on his steering wheel. “I’m either blowing my nose or snorting up salt water.”

He dug through the console for a napkin or any kind of paper. He found nothing to wipe his mess.

He clicked on the speaker button and dropped the phone on the passenger’s seat. He moved his left hand through the snot on the wheel. James shook his hand onto the floor and yelled into the phone.

“I don’t have time for this crap.” His pant leg was now covered. “Just email Mike the job, call my doctor, and find me some tissues.”

James turned his convertible onto Mullholland Highway and headed north. The other end of the line was silent.

“I’m in a hole,” he said. “I’ll pop out in a moment.”

The cell towers often dropped calls and Sally waited. She figured he would always call back.

The sun was shining through the dried yellow mucus on the windshield to create a rainbow on his dash. He looked at the light and ignored the bungalows and exclusive homes of Beachwood Canyon.

James turned a few more times up the winding road. He reached for the phone and heard static. Then a voice came through.

“He says he won’t do it this time.” Her voice sounded distant.

“What does that mean?” he shouted. “Of course, he’s going to do it. There’s no one else.”

“I think it will cost more this time.”

“It shouldn’t cost anything more than last time.” He looked at the screen. “The job hasn’t changed.” He slapped the phone on the wheel and turned the car to the right. He corrected before he clipped two bikers on their way to the Hollywood sign.

“Just email him again and make it clear,” James yelled.

He pulled into a far parking spot at Lake Hollywood Park and stopped the car.

WH-form

James fell out of the car along with a stack of bent coffee cups. A wadded up napkin followed the empties and blew off toward the grass. He stumbled up grabbing the wad and ripped it apart. With the paper remains, he dabbed at the steering wheel.

“You still there?”

He heard a silent sigh.

“Good, we can iron this out.”

He explained how Mike had no excuse to refuse.

“It’s easy.” James talked with his arms. He waved his left hand in the air.

“He parks on the fifth floor under the camera.”

“Uh huh.”

“No one will see him get out.”

“Uh huh.”

“He takes the box with him and inches along the wall.”

“Why doesn’t the camera see him?” she said.

“It’s pointed out at the cars and not the wall.”

“Oh,” she said. He could tell she failed to see it.

“The camera points across the garage,” he explained. “It doesn’t see up close.”

“I see.”

He lost track of the next step. Honestly, this would go a lot easier if he could just do it himself.

“No one will see him coming,” he said, while pushing his finger toward the ground.

“I’m not sure everything will fit in the box,” she said.

“They came in the box.” James clinched his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Why is there a problem?”

“The canisters are too big and he can’t put his mask in the box with everything too,” she said.

“Just have him wear the mask and carry the box.”

A small boy and man passed him in the parking log carrying a kite. James looked up at the sky. A few clouds floated up from the ocean. It was a nice day for playing in the wind.

“Canisters?” he asked.

“They’re cupcakes, for crying out loud,” he shouted. “Just have him carry the cupcakes, wear his mask, and surprise her.”

“Cupcakes?” she asked.

“Yes, a dozen red velvet with the yellow baby bottle sugar decorations.” Sometimes she exasperated him.

“Do you think you can pass this on Sally?”

He heard dead silence on the other end of the phone and he wondered if she understood him. He raised his head and stared at the clouds. He shook his head dumbfounded. He wondered why everything with her required so much energy.

“Sally?” she asked.

She had to know her own name. Sometimes she drove him nuts. He looked around the park for a closer cell tower.

“Sally? James enunciated to make sure she heard him.

“This isn’t Sally.”

He pulled his phone away and then brought it back to his ear.

He heard a man in the background tell the woman to shut up. Then the phone went dead.