from the Collection «Nine Stories»
A gray-haired man and a young, attractive girl were in bed together when the phone rang. The man asked the girl if she wanted him to answer it, and she hesitated before agreeing.
The gray-haired man picked up the phone and discovered that it was his friend Arthur on the other end.
Arthur was going through a difficult time in his marriage and sought advice and comfort from the gray-haired man.
Arthur explained that his wife, Joanie, had left a party earlier in the evening without him, and he was worried about her whereabouts. The gray-haired man tried to reassure Arthur, suggesting that Joanie might have gone out with their friends, the Ellenbogens, and would likely return home soon. Arthur was not convinced, as he believed that Joanie was untrustworthy and prone to infidelity when she was intoxicated.
As the conversation continued, Arthur revealed his own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy in his marriage. He felt that he and Joanie were mismatched and that she needed a stronger, more dominant partner. The gray-haired man attempted to offer advice and support, encouraging Arthur to focus on the positive aspects of his relationship with Joanie and to try to work through their issues together.
Arthur also mentioned his recent professional struggles, having lost a case at work that day. He wondered if his boss would be upset with him and considered the possibility of returning to the Army as a way to escape his current situation. The gray-haired man advised Arthur to address his problems head-on rather than running away from them.
Eventually, Arthur called back to inform the gray-haired man that Joanie had returned home.
"Listen, I just thought you'd want to know. Joanie just barged in."
He expressed his gratitude for the support and advice he had received and shared his plans to try to work on his marriage and career issues.
"I mean she's a helluva good kid basically, and if we have a chance to straighten ourselves out a little bit, we'd be goddam stupid not to at least have a go at it."
The gray-haired man, who was now experiencing a headache, ended the call and returned his attention to the girl in bed with him.