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.”