The dead kept calling me, cell phone, home phone, payphone (in the park I went to most days to eat my lunch) and I knew why they chose me. It was a down time -- my roofing job had disappeared along with the rest of the housing industry, Rhonda left me, blah blah blah. I'd seen the ads, Craigslist, a few other places, clicked on the link: Wanted, a translator for the dead. The pay was supposed to be good, but each time I'd opened an email and started to write I'd never sent it, and each time I called for more information I hung up. Maybe they were just tired of it and wanted me to stop.
The number always came up Unknown, but even without that I'd have been able to tell who it was: they were the only scented calls I ever got. Cinnamon and the swamp; I couldn't figure out how they did it, or how they rang my cell phone, now that I was no longer paying that bill. Anyway, they wanted me to translate what they'd written.
I don't speak dead, I said, which I thought was a clever response. I won't be able to understand a thing I read.
We can teach you, they said.
Thanks, I said, clicking through the vast Arctic emptiness of my desktop calendar as if checking my appointments, but I'm pretty busy.
You'll learn a lot, they said. You'll learn everything.
Wow, I said, thinking it impolitic to be impolite. They were the dead, after all. Everything? I said, and paused as if I was considering it. That's an attractive proposition, but I don't think I'm ready to know everything yet, at least not all at once. I'd like to learn things a bit more slowly. You know, go at my own pace. So, once again, thanks, but I think I'll wait.
I thumbed the off button, but I still heard what they said, the same thing they said every time. You'll wait? they said. A long, scented pause. I'm telling you, that phone was breathing. Then they said, We'll wait too.