It’s nine o’clock
after a big Thanksgiving dinner,
my wife, her relatives, and I sitting
around the table, finishing
our coffee, our perfunctory conversation.
The phone rings,
my brother from Seattle.
Before I take the receiver, I know
he’s drunk.
Even after the Twelve Steps and
the thousands of dollars in drunk-driving fines,
he’s drunk.
Pat, he says, is working eight to four
at the new Safeway bakery.
She’s suffering middle-age woman things,
he tells me.
She’s forty-six, he says.
Has benign cysts on her uterus,
misses the Bay Area, gets
depressed a lot.
He pulls on his beer.
When she gets home, he goes on, we’ve got Toy Story.
We love that movie.
It’s such a fucking great movie, he says.
We even bought our own copy.

Pat lights a big old fat one.
Like she used to.
We both loved your last letter.
It was like you were here
in Seattle.
You’d like Seattle.
There’s a lot of people like you.
Careers, energy, you know.
Except that it rains a lot.
It rains all the fucking time.
It’s really kind of depressing, he goes on.
All the rain and shit.
Pat wishes she was back in California.
It was her idea to move up here, though.
To be with her mother and shit.
You know. . . .
After her dad’s death and all.
My wife asks me, was he drunk?
Sure, I tell her.
But I could understand him.
I could hear every word.