I heard a sound, turned, and saw my father approaching through the mist. He was smiling, as usual. “Your mother told me to come and get you,” he said, “so here I am. Are you ready?” I told him yes, that I was ready, and that I had always been ready. He said, “Good.” He reached out and I took his hand, and we walked along in silence. Without effort, we covered a great distance, and I soon found myself outside our home in Norris. Pointing to a light that was still on in the kitchen window, my father said, “Your mother will be so glad to see you. She’s been waiting a long time.” Then he looked at me and said, “I have, too.” We walked up to the window and looked in. My mother was sitting at the table, looking at one of her old picture albums. My father opened the front door and we went inside. The kitchen wasn’t where it used to be. There were several doors, all of which had to be opened and closed without making a sound. Behind each door was a room I didn’t remember, and in each room there were people waiting. The people had familiar faces, but there was something in each that made them unrecognizable. Everyone looked concerned. No one said a word. Finally, after one last room and one last door, we entered the kitchen. Looking very tired and very old, my mother smiled up at me. She said, “Oh, Stephen, you’re here,” as if she’d been granted her dying wish. My father left me and stood by her side. “He was asleep,” he said. “That’s what took me so long.” My mother nodded. “How is Mary?” she said. “Where is she? Is she still outside?” When I told my mother that Mary and I were divorced, she said I was mistaken. My father said, “Shall I bring her, too?” My mother said, “Yes, of course. We aren’t a family unless Mary is here.” My father walked across the room and opened the door. “Mary!” he called. “Mary! Mary! Mary!” I jumped up. The room was dark. I was alone.
[From Chapter 17, A Listening Thing]
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