I had attended a Christmas party in the offices of my accountant, where I had discovered a remarkably handsome woman arguing with a man I didn’t know. From what they said, I gathered that Callas had once been quite fat—as opera divas often are—when she first established her reputation. Afterward, she carefully and deliberately shed a third of her weight, turning herself into the sleek, fashionable woman who attracted the attention of Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, among others. The topic of debate was whether Callas sounded better when she was fat or when she was thin.
“What do you think?” the woman asked abruptly.
“It might be sexist,” I told her, “but things tend to sound better when they come from an attractive package. You, for example, remind me of a Mozart aria.”
She laughed and told me that was the most original line she had ever heard. One thing led to another and there I was, listening to Maria Callas on a late Sunday afternoon.
“Why do you need to see other people?” I asked the empty house. Its answer was no more satisfying than Kirsten’s had been in McGregor.
I poured myself a Pig’s Eye beer and drank it way too fast. I poured myself another. I figured I had two choices. I could sit around and feel sorry for myself or I could work. I chose feeling sorry for myself. That lasted until the telephone rang.
“Are you all right?” Kirsten asked.
I was so surprised to hear her voice my heart skipped a beat and a voice shouting from the back of my head told me that it had all been a terrible mistake—of course she loves you.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?”
“I thought you might …” After a long pause she added, “I knew you would be okay, I was just checking.”
“Thank you for your concern,” I replied stoically. Sure, like I was going to tell her I was hurting.
“Mac, you’re not like anyone else I know. All the men I know, they have a-gen-das”—she sounded the word out—“they have plans, they have mission statements. You don’t. No, come to think about it, you do. You do have a mission statement. But yours is so simple and concise. Live well. Be helpful.”
Why are you telling me that? I asked myself but didn’t say.
“You’re a good guy,” she added. “There aren’t many like you out there.”
“Umm, I have to—I have to go, now.”
She said, “I’ll talk to you later,” but it sounded like “good-bye.”
And that was the end of that.
I hung up and listened to Maria for a little while longer.
“Screw this,” I announced. I went to the CD player and replaced Maria’s disc with another. A moment later Bonnie Raitt filled my house, asking, “What is this thing called love?”
I poured a third Pig’s Eye—promising myself this would be the last—and settled in with my telephone directories. It’s rarely that easy, but you have to begin somewhere and after seven years maybe Jamie wasn’t hiding very hard. It was seven when I started dialing, eight-fifteen when I finished. Everyone was home—it was Sunday night in Minnesota, after all. There was one honest-to-God Jamie Anne Carlson listed in the Twin Cities, only she was sixteen years old. Her father, a doctor, had given her a phone with the stipulation that she stay the hell off his. There were thirteen ‘J’ Carlsons in the Minneapolis white pages and eight ‘JA’s—including a Jean Autry—but no Jamies. The St. Paul white pages listed six ‘J’s and two ‘JA’s. None of them was the woman I was looking for.
I returned the phone books to their proper place under the junk drawer in my kitchen and moved to what my father used to call “the family room,” just off the dining room. Boz Scaggs followed me, having replaced Bonnie Raitt in the ten-disc CD player.
I fired up my PC and accessed the Web site of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. I found the screen for motor vehicle information and completed the request form, asking for Jamie’s driver’s license information. The request cost four dollars, would take at least twenty-four hours to complete, and left me wondering what to do next.