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  • (Mendocino, CA. My father Joel returns home from a business trip. My mother Lois and I have, on the spur of the moment, disappeared to go camping in Malibu.)

    (The phone rings, and Joel picks up.)

    "Hello?"

    "Yes, this is the [something something] calling. Your wife and son were in here a few days ago, and we're just calling to do a quick follow-up."

    It's probably the elementary school, Joel thinks. But why call? "Yes," he says. "Hi there!"

    "It's really nothing, we're just calling to see how it's going."

    How what is going?

    "Well, I would say it's going fine."

    "How is he doing? Is he happy? Does he seem happy to you?"

    "Sure, I would say he seems pretty happy."

    "And is he going outside?"

    "Yes, he loves it outside. You know, we live right in the redwoods. It's very pretty."

    "Oh, splendid, Mr. Kugelmass. That's so good to hear. And are you making sure to give him the right kinds of food, as your wife promised?"

    (Joel looks frantically around for our note. Or perhaps, he thinks, I should be looking for a document from the school. Nothing.)

    "Ma'am, I'm sorry to be rude, but I find this all very strange. Before I can continue this conversation, I must know why you are asking me these questions about my son!"

    "I'm very sorry, sir. Let me back up a step. This is a call from the Fort Bragg Public Library. Are you aware that your wife and son recently adopted our cat?"

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