The first thing I heard was a weird scratching on the phone, like aluminum foil was being rubbed against the receiver. Then I heard my mother’s voice, frantic.
“I must have just missed your call,” she said. This was last Thursday.
But I didn’t call, I told her.
That didn’t stop her. “No, Dan,” she said. “I just got your message.”
I didn’t leave a message, I told her, because I hadn’t just called. This seemed to clear things up on my end.
My mother kept talking.
“No, but I just got it. You said you were about to meet Hunter Thompson.”
I paused, the only way a man can pause when your mother calls and insists that you’ve just left a message that you did not leave explaining that you’re about to meet gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who you cannot meet because he died five years ago.
“You’re saying that you just got a message from me, claiming that I’m about to meet a deceased Rolling Stone writer?”
“Yes,” my mother replied, and without hesitation. This seemed like a perfectly normal thing for her to say.
I didn’t know what to say next. Of course, my mother did.
“You said you were sick.”
“No, in the message. Are you sick?”
I did not know what to say. To this point in my life, I had never had to deny the unlikely voicemail/I’m sick/meeting dead gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson trifecta. I started considering the possibility that my mother had been taking hallucinogenic drugs.
But thinking out the right way to respond to this line of questioning, something started to click. Back in the fall of 2005, I did get sick, and I did cancel on my friend, Andrew, who I was supposed to go with to meet a Mr. Wright Thompson — then a writer for the Kansas City Star, and now a reporter for ESPN. I asked my mother if the name Wright Thompson sounded familiar.
“Yes, yes, that’s the one. Are you supposed to meet him today?”
I explained that no, I was supposed to meet him in 2005, but I’d canceled because, well… I was sick at the time. Another pause. The timeline began to click into place.
“Do you mean to tell me that today, you just got a voicemail that I left for you five years ago?”
I started laughing, but my mother’s tone didn’t brighten just yet. I could hear her on the other end, still reaching for something motherly to say.
“You sure you’re not sick?” she asked.
And then, finally understanding the absurdity of the whole thing, she started to laugh too.