“I figured we were overdue,” said Kappelschnitzer.
Still no laughter. Maybe it had been a mistake to phone so late—yet
it was only eight thirty. Since when was eight thirty too late for a call?
“I know this is a strange question to ask after thirty-seven years, but
something unexpected happened to me recently, something unpleasant,
and I guess I was just wondering, why did we split up?”
He thought he heard a gasp, though he couldn’t say for sure. Or a sob.
“That’s rich. Really it is, Arnold Kappelschnitzer. Why did we split up?
We didn’t do anything. I’m not the one who announced out of the blue
that I’d met someone else.” He heard her call something into the ether
behind her. “It’s funny,” she said. “I had so much stored up for this mo-
ment, and now I can’t think of anything I want to say to you.”
“The someone. Her name didn’t happen to be Shirley, did it?” asked
Several seconds passed before he registered the click.
The next morning, Kappelschnitzer rushed through his early appointments to carve out time for private phone calls. First he made inquiries
at the Times, identifying himself as the dead woman’s nephew. Who had
paid for Shirley Kappelschnitzer’s obituary? Had they done any due diligence to verify the death? He worked his way through a series of interns
and clerks, all of whom confessed themselves ill-equipped to answer,
and he was about to announce, as a way of making his point, “The reason I’m asking is because Shirley Kappelschnitzer is still alive,” when the
senior editor for death notices took the phone.
“Paid cash in full,” he stated. “By Dr. Arnold Kappelschnitzer, dece-
dent’s husband. He presented the death certificate in person. Were there
“How should I know?” snapped Kappelschnitzer.
He had no better luck with the botanical gardens. Again in the neph-
ew’s persona, he spoke to public relations officers, a member of the de-
velopment team, even the head docent. Nobody could specifically recall
a Shirley Kappelschnitzer, but thousands of people left bequests to the
gardens each year. “Some of them are deeply involved in horticulture,”
explained the head docent. “But others, they just like plants. Maybe they
visit once with their husbands and they’re smitten forever with the or-
chids or the scent of the cananga trees.”
Kappelschnitzer already understood that he’d glean nothing from
Beth Or, but a natural instinct for thoroughness drove him to phone