When the story finished, we turned the radio back on and found someone speaking French. That was especially nice, because it reminded me of the vacation we just came back from, which I wish never ended. After a while, Dad asked me if I was awake. I told him no, because I knew that he didn't like to leave until I had fallen asleep, and I didn't want him to be tired for work in the morning. He kissed my forehead and said good night, and then he was at the door.
"Dad?" "Yeah, buddy?" "Nothing."
The next time I heard his voice was when I came home from school the next day. We were let out early, because of what happened. I wasn't even a little bit panicky, because both Mom and Dad worked in midtown, and Grandma didn't work, obviously, so everyone I loved was safe.
I know that it was 10:18 when I got home, because I look at my watch a lot. The apartment was so empty and so quiet. As I walked to the kitchen, I invented a lever that could be on the front door, which would trigger a huge spoked wheel in the living room to turn against metal teeth that would hang down from the ceiling, so that it would play beautiful music, like maybe "Fixing a Hole" or "I Want to Tell You," and the apartment would be one huge music box.
After I petted Buckminster for a few seconds, to show him I loved him, I checked the phone messages. I didn't have a cell phone yet, and when we were leaving school, Toothpaste told me he'd call to let me know whether I was going to watch him attempt skateboarding tricks in the park, or if we were going to go look at Playboy magazines in the drugstore with the aisles where no one can see what you're looking at, which I didn't feel like doing, but still.
Message one. Tuesday, 8:52 a.m. Is anybody there? Hello? It's Dad. If you're there, pick up. I just tried the office, but no one was picking up. Listen, something's happened. I'm OK. They're telling us to stay where we are and wait for the firemen. I'm sure it's fine. I'll give you another call when I have a better idea of what's going on. Just wanted to let you know that I'm OK, and not to worry. I'll call again soon.
There were four more messages from him:
one at 9:12, one at
9:31, one at 9:46, and one at 10:04. I
listened to them, and listened to them
again, and then before I had time to
figure out what to do, or even what to
think or feel, the phone started ringing.
It was 10:22:27.
I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was him.
From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, pages 1-15. Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Safran Foer. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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