—Sorry, she’s not in. May I help you?
—This is John Ferrar Holms.
—Farrar as in Farrar Straus Giroux?
. Ferrar as in Ferrari without the i.
—Holmes as in Sherlock?
, but without the e.
—Sorry, you have the wrong number.
—This isn’t 3530 North Fremont Street?
—The address is right.
—I wonder what could be amiss.
—It’s puzzling. Perhaps you’re in the wrong city.
—Is this Detroit?
—No. It’s Chicago.
. I am
in the wrong city. No matter. I will be happy to see anyone who happens to be in.
—There are no people in this house. Only voices, mice, and the soft eternal dust. The sunlight comes and the sunlight goes. The shadows multiply here and in the winter all is silent.
—That’s fine. I just need a moment of your time.
—I am just a voice. One might say I am time itself. But anyway what are you selling?
—Memories. Iron-clad memories. Capacious, oiled like a bear trap, repellent, unfathomable.
—That doesn’t sound so good. Can you remember something for me?
—What did Kirkson Davies say about my first girlfriend?
—This was when?
—Before the war.
—The most recent several.
—Well let’s see then. I’ve got it. Yes. He said, didn’t he: “She looks to be a very fertile woman.”
—Yes! My God. You’ve nailed it. And what was her name?
—Zenny? Zenny Bridgehampton-Flores?
—This is incredible. You’re a gemius.
—Thank you! Wait. A what?
—G-E-M-as in mayonhaisse
—Correct. It’s almost a genius but not quite. You have to do one more thing to prove yourself. You have to remember what it was I was reading last weekend at the Chelsea Market as I was waiting for my wife to finish haggling with the lobstermonger.
—Why, that’s simple. A magazine for the country-house set. There was a painting of a leaping horse on the cover, or maybe just a hoof. It was oddly comforting. You skimmed several articles. Your eyes landed on a byline. The byline read: “Kirkson Davies.” Incredible. It said “Kirkson Davies is a free-lance writer living in Green Brook, New York. He writes for Avenue
, Advertising Age
, and Penthouse
." You were thinking, What a freak.
—What a freak
. Yes, right, exactly so.
—You were wearing the shorts they issued you on your first day at Yale.
—So I was. With the orange pinstripes.
—You sipped a lemonade and dangled your sunglasses from your mouth, as you “sipped” at one of the ear-handles.
—Great heavens, this is the height of uncanniness.
—I have a confession to make.
—This isn’t a church, but still.
—I was watching you on a closed-circuit television. In fact, I watch you almost every weekend. During the week I watch other people, including Peggy Guggenheim, Guggen Peggyheim, Heimy Peggengu, and Gengy Pegaheimu. I’m a professional watcher, you see. It all started when I was tutoring Sony executives’ daughters in English, back in Tokyo before the war, the most recent several. I bought a pair of binoculars from a pair of longshoremen who were about three feet high. The binoculars were so powerful I could see through clothes, skin, bone, dirt, brick, concrete, stone, and water. I could see the inner folds of the brain, the ocean floor, passengers in an airplane high about Mount Fuji, mountaineers traversing Fuji’s other side, the dark side of the moon, the light side of life.
—Could you see into the past?
—Yes. That is the twist.
—It’s all coming together now.
—Your name is Peggy Heimengugg, isn’t it?
—Alas, yes. Yes it is. And you must be John Ferrar Holms, Holmes without the e.
—Or without the l.
—Don't let's be sad again.
—Don't let's. [They embrace.