Hap

Ring.

“Do you believe in fate?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Fate. Do you believe in it?”

“Is that how you answer the phone?” she asked.

“It is today. So answer the question.”

There was a moment’s pause while I waited for her to think about it. Evidently, she didn’t. “I think I have the wrong number,” she said instead. “This isn’t Phil’s Garage.”

“Nope. I guess that answers my question.”

“What question?”

“About fate.”

Again, a pause while she digested that. “Look, is this 958-2427?” she asked, finally.

“Nope. Off by one number.” At this point, most wrong number callers would hang up without another word, strictly out of embarrassment (as if people don’t get wrong numbers). Some would offer an ‘I’m sorry,’ before putting the phone down, but very few do what she — whoever she was — did.

“Which number? I mean, which number am I off by?” she asked.

“The nine,” I said, truthfully, “This is eight-five-eight, two-four-two-seven.”

“Hmm — that’s funny. My old number used to begin with eight-five-eight.”

“Coincidence,” I said.

“Guess so.”

“Are you going to answer my question?” I asked.

“First off, I don’t know who you are. Second, I need to call my garage!”

“You only answer questions from people you know? I hope you never fill out a credit card application.”

“It’s not that — I mean — I don’t know who you are.”

“You sure take a long time to answer a simple question,” I told her. “My name’s Dave. Now you know who I am. Do you believe in fate?”

“Wait a second,” she said, in the obvious protest. “Just because I know your name doesn’t mean I know who you are.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Um — well, start with where you live, in case I screwed up on the area code, too.”

“Newton,” I said. “Just outside, actually. In Appleton.”

“Really — ” she began, then, ” — oh, okay. I got the area code right.”

“Let me guess. You’re in Appleton, too.”

Another pause. “Yes.”

“So let’s go back to my original question. Do you believe in fate?”

“Why do you keep asking that?”

“I’m curious,” I told her. “Especially since you’re not answering.”

“Curiosity killed that cat.”

“Satisfaction brought him back. Do you believe in fate?”

“Where do you live?” she asked, avoiding the question. “In Appleton, that is.”

“Cherry River Drive. Off Sunset.”

“Wow,” she said.

“You’re close, huh?”

“Yeah. Right around the corner, I think. You said your name’s Dave?”

“Right.”

“I wonder if I know you — ” she said, half to herself.

“I doubt it. I moved here last week.”

“Really?”

“Would I lie to a stranger?”

“I don’t know. Would you?”

“No. What’s your name?”

“Lori,” she said. “Hmm — I wonder if I should have told you.”

“Probably not. Now I’ll go through the entire phone book looking for Lori Somebody living near me. I’ll call you in a month when I’m done.”

She laughed. “All right, I guess I’m safe.”

“You can always hang up, y’know. I can’t call you back.”

“I know that,” she said, “but I’m enjoying this. How old are you?”

“You expect me to answer your questions when you don’t answer mine?”

“I told you my name!” she offered.

“That’s not what I meant. I’m twenty-two.”

“Really? I’m twenty-one.”

“A nice age. I liked twenty-one. You go to school around here?”

“State,” she answered, “like everyone else. I graduate this year, thank God.”

“Me, too. What’s your major?”

“Communications. You?”

“English. Philosophy minor.”

She laughed again. “I believe it. So you want to know if I believe in fate?”

“What was your first clue?”

“Don’t be sarcastic on me. Define ‘fate.'”

“You define it. Then tell me if you believe in it.”

“Hmm — all right. Let’s see, fate is when something happens to you because it’s supposed to happen.”

“So what’s predestination?” I asked.

“Oh, now we’re getting tough, huh? Okay, predestination is when, like, your whole life is planned out for you. Fate’s just sort of one little thing.”

I nodded even though she couldn’t see me. “So meeting someone on the train is fate, but marrying him, having his children, moving to a new job because of him, growing old with him — that’s predestination.”

“If it’s all planned out, yeah. That sounds good.”

“I like that. Better definition than I could come up with. So, do you believe in it?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I never really thought about it. I hope it’s not fate that says I have to go without my car tomorrow.”

“Where are you going with it?” I asked.

“Class. I’ve got a 9:45.”

“Another coincidence. So do I. Do you want a lift?”

“What?”

“Do you want me to take you to campus? You said I lived right around the corner.”

“I know, but — ”

“It’s all right. You don’t know me, I know.”

She paused again. “You really have a 9:45?”

“Yes. Would I lie to a stranger?”

“You asked me that already. I don’t know.”

“I wouldn’t, but don’t worry about it. Call your garage.”

“All right.”

“Be seeing you,” I said.

“No no no — I mean all right you can drive me tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?”

“No,” she said, “just curious.”

“Good answer. Should I get you, or do you want to come here?”

“Um — I’ll come there. That way — ”

“That way if you don’t like the way I look, I won’t know where you live.”

“Something like that.”

“Fine. Nine o’clock okay?”

“Perfect. By the way — ”

“Yes?”

“Do you believe in fate?” she asked. “You never said.”

“I’ll let you know.”