A clicking cut in the ambient noise, a shuffling of paper.

     A lot of people—

     I’m not going to answer that.

     I didn’t even—

     I know what you’re going to say. I’m not going to talk about it. (Two seconds.) Okay?

     Okay.

     Okay.

     Um. (Throat-clearing.) Can you talk about anything he left behind?

     (One second.)

     Left behind?

     Like—

     You were at the funeral. You’ve talked to people, you’ve seen the place. He left plenty behind.

     Fingertips drumming the table.

    Okay, then. (Throat-clearing, shuffling of paper.) So. As the executor of his literary estate, can you speak to any unpublished materials, and, um, if so, any plans for them?

     We’re still—we’re still sorting through that.

     So there is unpublished work?

     There are—hmm. (One second.) There are loose ends we’re tying up.

     Such as?

     Loose ends.

     (One second.)

     Give me something here, man. (Three seconds.) So, unpublished work?

     I’m not going to talk about unpublished work.

     Come on.

     (Five seconds.) A deep inhale.

     Forty-nine novels under seven pseudonyms. How’s that?

     (Six seconds.)

     What?

     Forty—

     Holy shit.

     That work for you?

     (One second.)

     What, I mean. Who?

     You wanted the mystery, there’s a mystery. (Two seconds.) Do you mind?

     No, no.

     Metal scratching flint, ambient crackle like milk hitting Rice Krispies, an exhale, a cough.

     He liked you, y’know. That’s the only reason I’m giving you this interview.

     I appreciate that. Thank you. I . . . (Three seconds.) Thank you for saying that.

     I know I’ve been a dick; I apologize. It’s been . . .

     Don’t worry about it.

     (One second.)

     More coffee?

     Can I ask you one more question?

     If.

     Purely public record.

     (Two seconds.) Wooden chair legs against tile.

     I’m going to get more coffee. You sure you don’t want any?

     Yeah, I’m good. Thanks.

     Footsteps. Liquid pouring, its pitch rising, a cough, a cough.

    Okay. (A refrigerator door opening, suction like an upside-down container filled with air being pulled up and breaking water’s surface.) (Voice distant:) One second. (Liquid hitting liquid, fridge door shutting and zipping vacuum-silent, a drawer sliding, a drawer sliding and wood thumping linoleum and the rattle of flimsy metal, metal clinking against ceramic, metal landing on metal. A faucet running.) (Voice closer:) Okay.

     Take your time.

     Footsteps, chair legs on tile, chair legs on tile, a throat clearing.

     Okay. I’m good. Shoot.

     (One second.)

     I’m sorry that—

     It’s fine, it’s fine.

     Okay. I—(one second)—sorry. (Two seconds.) They never found anything, right? The cops?

     No. They—

     Nothing. Not in the river, not on the coast, nothing.

     They—

     No wallet, no phone, watch, hat, shoes—nothing.

     No, you know that. Is there a question?

     (One second.) Throat-clearing.

     Sorry.

     So?

     (Three seconds.)

     You never said he’s dead.

     (One second.)

     I wrote—

     You wrote his obituary. You gave his eulogy. Half-dozen interviews.

     And—

    Better place, better world, at peace, passed on, shuffled off this coil—not this mortal coil, mind you—I’ve gone through it all. Repeatedly. All euphemisms. Noncommittal euphemisms. You never say he’s dead, never said the words, Matthew is dead.

     Silence. (Indeterminate span of time.)

     That’s not a question.

     (Two seconds.)

     No. (Two seconds.) It’s not.

 

⊡ ⊡ ⊡

Brent Rydin lives and works in Boston. He is the founding editor of Wyvern Lit, and has pieces published or forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, The Island Review, Cartridge Lit, WhiskeyPaper, Chicago Literati, and CHEAP POP. He has a website and tweets at @brntrydn.