There was no need to check the caller ID. I knew it was him. I could tell by the ring—it grabbed you by the shoulders and spun you around. Even the phone seemed to panic, sprouting arms and legs and scurrying down the counter.
“Pick it up! Pick it up!” it implored. “He hates to wait!”
“OK, listen very carefully. Your mother bought a new cereal that’s the best cereal I’ve ever had in my life. It fortifies your whole body. You’ll never eat another cereal again as long as you live.”
“Wow. What’s the name of it?”
“The name of what?”
“The cereal. What’s it called?”
Brief pause. Obscure questions like this annoyed my father.
To himself: “Uh … What’s the thing called?” Then to me: “It’s got a helluva box. You should see all the literature on the back. It’s very educational. I’m just trying to remember the name of the thing … Hold on.”
Muffled crushing sound. His massive hands were slaughtering the mouthpiece.
My mother, responding from a cave in Tora Bora, issued an unintelligible squawk.
“Adam’s on the phone! He wants to know the name of that cereal!”
“Arrayrrrkkkk?” It was impossible to understand her. She was in the other room, and the TV was blaring.
“The name of that cereal you bought!”
We were getting close to launch.
“THE CEREAL! WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE CEREAL YOU BOUGHT TODAY?”
“DO I HAVE TO BUY A BULLHORN TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH YOU? OR SHOULD I SEND UP SMOKE SIGNALS?” To me: “She won’t be happy till she blows my voice box out. If you want to know the truth, she’d love to kill me. Then she can eat all the cereal she wants with her next husband. Hold on. Let me get the box.”
He dropped the phone on the counter. It slid off and bounced on the floor a few times. I heard the sound of slamming cabinet doors and a snatch of conversation as my mother entered the room.
Joyce: “Calm down. It’s over there—two feet in front of your face.”
Some more rustling as the receiver made its bumpy pilgrimage back to his hand.
“I got it right here. Just hold on …”
“OK, you there?”
“It’s called … Frosted Mini-Wheats.”
Six weeks later, the telltale ring sounded again. My startled telephone, frantic and disoriented, jumped up and hurled a pepper grinder through the kitchen window. I ran in and lunged for the receiver.
“Hey, Dad. How’s it going?”
“Do you have a minute?”
“Yeah. What’s up?”
“OK, well, your mother and I have decided we want to die together. I don’t want to get morbid or anything, I’m just—did I interrupt your dinner?”
“No, no, I’m fine.”
“Listen, we’ve been together a long time. I could never live without this woman. And if I go first, I can promise you, she won’t last long. She’ll will herself to die. Are you sure you’re not eating?”
“OK, now point two: no funeral. We want to be cremated, and we want to go in the lake. You know, the lake behind the neighborhood here.”
“Right. I know.”
“So here’s how it works: Whoever dies first, they get incinerated and put in the closet. When the second one goes, mix us together and put us in the lake.”
“We won’t have to deal with this for a long time …”
“And I want the cat in there too.”
“You want the cat in where?”
“I want the cat cremated and mixed in with us.”
“Oh. So Mom’s OK with that?”
“Hey, she knows what that cat means to me. Here, ask her yourself.”
He called for my mother.
She hollered back from the laundry room: “What?”
“Adam’s on the phone! Tell him about the cat!”
“What about the cat?”
“The ashes! When we’re dead! Never mind!” To me: “I told you she lost her hearing aid again, didn’t I? They have a shrine to her at the hearing aid factory. Listen, once we’re all dead, mix me, your mother, and the cat together. Then put us in the lake. Just dump us in by the bird feeders.”
My mother entered the room.
“Here comes Seattle Slew. They built the Panama Canal in the time it takes her to move from one room to the other.”
“Why are you yelling? You know I can’t hear you from back there.”
“You couldn’t hear me if we were Siamese twins locked in a trunk.”
“Don’t give me nightmares,” she said, picking up the other phone.
Me: “So you’re OK with the cat, Mom?”
Joyce: “If it makes him happy.”
Merv: “Listen, Adam. We’ve only been married 60 years. If that’s not love, everyone can go screw themselves. I mean, next to us, Romeo and Juliet were a couple of morons.”
Me: “It’s quite a love story.”
Merv: “I almost had a heart attack the first time I laid eyes on your mother, she was so beautiful. She’s gotta be the kindest human being who ever lived.”
Me: “I agree.”
Merv: “I told you she bought me those Mini-Wheats, right?”
Adam Resnick is a screenwriter and a former staff writer for Late Night with David Letterman. His new book is Will Not Attend.