solitary recliner, off the console table that displayed photos of his deceased parents, of his med school buddies on a summer fishing trip to
Cape May, of the clinical fellows presenting him with a teaching award
at graduation. Also a handful of digital snapshots of Kappelschnitzer on
birding expeditions to Costa Rica and British Columbia—not a particularly productive hobby but one that suited his temperament. All of this
reassured him. He understood women: if there had been a Shirley, she’d
have marked her domestic territory. And yet . . .
Kappelschnitzer poured himself a flute of schnapps—Litvak lemonade, his mother had called it—and settled onto the sofa with a tin of
reheated chow mein. He’d had his share of romantic relationships in his
day, coeds from Vassar and Wellesley, also musicians who played with
his sister in the philharmonic. None had stuck. The closest had been
Maia Garten, a ginger-haired cetologist who favored cone bras à la Lana
Turner, but somehow they hadn’t been able to take the final plunge. He
still couldn’t say exactly why. She’d been a lovely girl: witty, easygoing,
possessed of dolphin yarns for all occasions. She’d owned a one-eyed canary named Arion. Maybe the problem was that he’d never been lonely,
not deeply lonely in the way of artists and lovers: he’d been happy with
her, but he was also content without her. Did it matter? Maia Garten was
probably a grandmother by now. A woman of a certain age. Old.
Or dead, he reflected. That happened too.
He couldn’t explain why he looked her up on the Internet—Professor
Maia Garten Aldrich now, but clearly the same person with the same
playful eyes—or what inspired him to dial her number. She’d become
the sort of senior faculty member who listed her cell-phone number on
her Columbia University web page. Why did that not surprise him?
“Maia?” he said. “It’s Arnold.”
A long silence followed.
“Arnold Kappelschnitzer,” he said. “The guy you used to go with.”
“I know who you are, Arnold,” replied Maia. “I’m just, well, this is
He sensed hoarfrost in her voice: a burst of arctic chill.
“If it’s not a good time,” he apologized. “I mean if you’re riding a dol-
phin or something . . .”
They had joked about riding dolphins, he vaguely recalled. Or possi-
bly whales. She did not laugh. “May I ask why you’re calling, Arnold? It’s
been, what? Thirty-seven years?”