coup de fil

The phone rang, a not too frequent occurrence around here. The time difference, something - even my own family can't seem to get the coordinates right to reach me except via email. But the same goes for bill collectors so that's a plus.

It was Annie, the pilates instructor.

"Saw you and Eric on bikes yesterday, riding into the village."

And I was off. As the words spilled out, the most boring mundanities tumbling into the receiver, I realized I hadn't spoken but a few sentences to anyone except Eric in weeks. The dam had burst, but the reservoir was full of recycled lines from an especially dull episode of The Archers. "Yes, we're trying to get fit. Bike riding, walking, weights and no bread or dessert. It's so hard!"

Too polite to interrupt, she let me ramble on. "They've been putting gravel down on the sidewalks out front - it's been a nightmare. When are they going to finish the roadworks around here?"

"And it's still so cold! But the other day there was a beautiful blue sky and some sunshine. All the flowers are starting to come in, so that's nice."

Silence.

"I mean, it's better than being sick - we've both had our fill of that this winter. And running out of fuel all the time."

Someone stop me, I thought. But I kept on. "Have you noticed the price of produce just keeps getting higher and higher? I spent four euros, that's right, four euros - on a barquette of strawberries yesterday."

She finally broke in to tell me she'd be starting up classes again. And that she had to go.

I hung up and opened the door to the studio. There was feedback, organs howling, tambourines shimmering, guitars and vocals careening around the room. Eric stood between the speakers, looking triumphant.

"Who was that?" he asked.

I just shuddered. Then climbed back into the time machine.