Kendra Liedle

The Fortune

When you reach a certain age, you know that a dreaded phone call can come at any time. For Jared Nichols, one of these phone calls comes on a Thursday. It’s morning, much too early for any real conversation. Jared’s in the shower and it’s only when he snatches his phone off the counter on his way out the door that he notices the missed call.

There’s a name and a voicemail—Michael Nichols, his brother. Upon seeing this, Jared pauses momentarily then slips the phone into his pants pocket and walks out the door. Once he gets to his car, he automatically plugs the phone into its charger and begins his drive to work.

Jared works in a large expanse of an office in midtown. Officially, his job is in marketing, but he spends most of his time compiling databases and doing sales pitches by phone. He finds no real joy in it, but he decided long ago that he wasn’t cut out for a career change this late in the game. He’s in his mid-forties after all. While he doesn’t relish the long, monotonous days in the office, the commute’s okay. In fact, he finds the empty space of time between home and work to be calming.

As he drives, Jared leans forward and begins to reach a hand toward his stereo when a wave of obligation comes over him. He glances down at his phone, still displaying a new message alert. It’s unusual for his brother to call at such an early hour, Jared thinks. Maybe one of his nephews had to make another trip to the ER. This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. They were rambunctious little devils, always injuring themselves in some way or another.

Jared approaches the freeway as he listens to his brother’s voicemail via speakerphone:

“Hey there, Jare…” Michael starts out, sounding almost normal. Then, his voice crackles a little and there’s a long pause before he continues. “Um… I’m not quite sure how to say this so I’m just gonna say it— Dad died last night.”

The words seem to echo and hang in the air.

When Michael says, “they couldn’t reverse the liver damage,” all those words hovering in space and time fall thunderously on the floorboards of Jared’s Corolla.