The Hypothetical

The Hypothetical

By Richard M. O’Donnell.

Sophie heard the buzzing of her cellphone and read Harvey’s caller ID as the phone vibrated across her bed stand. She often took work to bed, so she smiled at the distraction. “Hey! I could sure use a break from these briefs. I thought interning at Samson and Young would be exciting, but gee, it’s as tedious as counting the bathroom tiles at Grand Central Station.”

“Then my timing is perfect, Sophie. I’ve got a hypothetical for you.”

“Oh, I love hypotheticals. Did you think this one up during your flight to San Diego?”

“No, it came to me when we landed.”

Harvey had a radio voice she could listen to all night. They’d been best friends since nursery school to the detriment of more than one relationship, she mused. Her last boyfriend claimed Harvey was too good looking for her not to be sleeping with him.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Batter’s up.” Sophie was always game for a hypothetical.

“A terrorist tells you you have two minutes to talk to a love one. Who would you call?”

“That’s a curve ball. Who would I call?”

“Clock’s ticking,” he reminded her.

“Gee… my mom or dad? Certainly not Junior.”

“Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

“This is a hard one,” said Sophie, “and the premise is ridiculous. Why would a terrorist let you make a phone call?”

“You think too much.” Harvey sighed. “They’re terrorists. I suppose, to hurt as many people as possible. Come on, who came to mind first?”

“To be honest, it was you. I always call you first. You are my best friend.”

“Okay,” said Harvey. “So now you’ve called me? Forty-five seconds to go. The gun’s pointed at your head. What do you say?”

“Wait!” exclaims Sophie. “You left that part out. The person I call may actually hear me getting killed!”

“It’s a possibility.”

“Then I definitely couldn’t do that to my parents or little brother.” Sophie paused. What would she do with her last few seconds of life? The answer struck her like a pillow in the face at a pajama party, so she picked up her pillow and hugged it tight. With certainty, she knew she loved Harvey and had for a very long time. She almost laughed at herself for being so blind. When it was his turn to answer a hypothetical, she knew exactly the question she would ask him.

“I would definitely call you then,” she told him. “We’ve been through everything together. You could handle it where they couldn’t. I’d call you and ask you to tell them what happened and that I love them.”

“I like that answer,” said Harvey. “I would ask you to do the same for me.”

Sophia closed her eyes and pictured him slouched in his seat at the airport gate, waiting for his next connection, his ginger hair mussed, his Donegal askew on his head and his green eyes heavy from lack of sleep. Harvey hated to fly. Then there were those infernal sport socks he wouldn’t change because the Cavaliers were on a winning streak. She scoffed at herself; even the thought of his stinky feet endeared him to her.

“So Harvey,” she said, grinning like the Cheshire cat. “I have a hypothetical for y…”

The report of a gunshot shattered Sophie’s eardrum, and she flung the phone away. It broke against the wall into pieces that she kept finding over the years, behind the furniture or embedded in the carpet. One microchip she pulled out of her one-year-old’s mouth and no amount of pounding on the bathroom door by her husband, Bill, could force her out until she finished her cry.

Photo by Kiewic.

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