Retrieval

by Lynn Kozlowski

"Who's this?" his boy says. "Who's this?"

Ben and his boy are waiting for burgers. The diner is between meals. The other booths are empty. The radio is loud.

"You know?" Ben says.

His son smiles and says, "I know," leaning forward in the booth.

Ben knows this song. He likes it. He knows all its words. But when he reaches for the woman's name, the place is empty.

"I know, " Ben says, hoping this small hole in his mind will fill in while he pauses. "I know."

His face turns grim. The hole is empty. He waits for the name to be there, to appear in that empty spot. Before, with something so familiar, if it wasn't there wholly, it was there in pieces, and he had small blanks to fill in—he had a sound to hold onto, a rhythm, a rhyme, a nice upstanding first letter, even a whole first name. Now it is a pure gap. Empty.

"You'll kick yourself," his boy says. "You love her."

Second verse. He tries to see her. He tries to think of a time he has seen her. Empty.

"I know her," Ben says. "I know her."

He holds his breath and listens. A kind of panic is forming. He must know this singer. He knows the voice. She keeps on singing. A song he knows by heart. A familiar voice in a hit song. "I just can't think of it . . . . I just can't think of it."

"Want me to tell you?" his boy says. "You'll kick yourself."

The song stops, and the announcer gives the singer's name. The words are strange. The name doesn't even sound like a name of anything in any language he knows.

He wants to ask his son if that was the name he had in mind.

Another song comes on. "How about this one?" his boy says.

Another song Ben knows by heart. Another hit.


Copyright © 2002 Lynn Kozlowski

Lynn Kozlowski has a collection of short fiction forthcoming from elimae books. He has published fiction in The Quarterly, Pif, The Malahat Review, Blue Moon Review, LinnaeanStreet, PigIronMalt,  and elimae. He has work forthcoming in Pindeldyboz and Tatlin's Tower.
 
 

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