"Muse," I said. "It's me. I thought you weren't going to stay at the house while I was gone."
"I was hungry," she said, "and there's no food in my house. I thought I'd come and pick through your pantry."
"Good luck. There's not much there."
"I know. I'm looking as we speak. I can't believe you don't even have a couple of cans of soup laying around for emergencies. Aren't you Californian's supposed to have supplies for a couple of days, in case an earthquake brings the house down around your ears?"
"I never bother. I can always stand to lose a few pounds."
"What about water?"
"I'm not too proud to drink out of the toilet."
"Blech. Remind me not to kiss you until after you brush your teeth."
"Will do, Muse."
I heard rustling sounds in the background as she dug through my kitchen cabinets. "So, if you weren't expecting me to be here, why did you call here instead of my place?"
"I did call your place," I said. "When I didn't get an answer, I figured you'd be hiding out at mine. You're predictable like that."
"Thanks. Glad to know there are no surprises left in our relationship."
"I'm sure you'll come up with something, Muse."
"I try, I try. So, how was the flight?"
I shrugged, forgetting she couldn't see me do it. "Uneventful. Got into Chicago ahead of schedule, switched over and got to Sacramento about eight... no, make that five. I forgot there's a three hour time difference. I slept most of the way, so no biggie there."
"Ford. Silver. Shiny. Don't know any more than that. Gas is fifty cents more a gallon here than it is back home."
"I knew I didn't drive for a reason."
"You're a mooch, Muse, that's your reason."
"So, drove myself to the grandparent's place, about an hour north of Sacramento. Surprised my grandmother when I came in. She didn't have her hearing aids in, so she didn't hear me walk in the door."
"What, you didn't knock first?"
"We're a walk-right-in sort of family, at least at the grandparent's house. Personally, I prefer to have at least three days advance notice of people dropping by my house, but that's because I'm a mean fucker."
"You're not a mean fucker," she said. "You're an anti-social one. There's a difference."
"Right. Anyway, we went to dinner, a Sizzler of all places..."
"What's a Sizzler?"
"Well, when I used to live here, it was sort of a higher-end buffet place. Ten years later, it's just sort of one of those buffet places where old people come to sit, stare and graze. Nothing special. After dinner, just as it was getting dark, we drove out to the cemetery to see where my grandfather is buried."
"Cemetery at night. Good idea. That always turns out well."
"Okie zombies don't really give me too many heebie-jeebies. So, we found the grave, and it's a little... well, weird. I mean, there's no headstone yet, and they haven't put grass over the grave yet, so it's just bare exposed dirt there. I'm not sure if that made the whole thing more real or less. My grandfather was under that dirt, you know? So freshly planted that the grass hasn't grown back over yet. So I stick with the 'weird' thing for now."
"I can see where that would be an odd thing for you. The whole affair must have sort of an unreality to it, since you didn't go to the funeral."
I shifted the phone to the other ear. "Yeah. It's starting to sink in a little more, though. I've already run into a couple of my relatives besides my grandmother. Two of my grandfather's sisters, who helped take care of him there the last couple of months. They were filling me in on some of the more unpleasant aspects of his death... just the lingering, and the wasting away. Nothing I didn't already know, but to be able to hear it from people who were with him in his last few hours... that gave the entire thing a little more gravity, you know?"
"I understand," the Muse said. "Hey, you do have some soup in here. It fell behind the microwave."
"Glad you just love me for my larder," I said.
"Oh, honey, I love you for more than just that. I also love you for your CDs. I'm going to borrow some."
"Can I stop you?" I asked.
"Not from three thousand miles away."
I sighed. "Just try to put them back in the right cases when you're done, okay? I spent weeks looking for my Robbie Robertson discs once you were done with them. I don't know how you ended up doubling them up inside my Philip Glass cases."
"Skill, baby, skill."
"Yes," she agreed. "Or something. You should probably go to bed, shouldn't you? What time is it there?"
I looked at the clock over the refrigerator. "Midnight here."
"Three by your body clock, and you only got four hours' sleep last night. You must be completely wasted."
"I am, Muse, but I had to check in with you before I zonked out. If everybody wants a piece of me the next couple of days, I wasn't sure when I'd get a chance to get in touch with you again. Didn't want you to worry."
"So sweet. I'm handling your absence well enough, and I'll be even better once I cook this soup. You go on and go to sleep. Drop me an email or something tomorrow, if you get the chance, let me know if you see Bigfoot or anything. I need some entertainment, dear."
"Glad I mean so much to you, Muse. I'm touched."
"You mean more than you know, love. No go! Sleep, and I'll eat, and we'll meet up tomorrow, perhaps, in cyberspace."
"Can do, Muse. I'm going to sleep like a dead grandfather tonight."
"Glad to see your sense of humor is still atrocious."
"You love me," I said.
"I do," she replied, and made a kissing noise at me. "Goodnight, sleepyhead."
"Night, Muse. Kisses."