A country song about a broken-hearted wino failing to stay sober broke the peace of a deep slumber. Eyes, not yet rested, looked at the dancing phone while the mind that many considered intellectual, wondered again why he had wasted money on a ring tone and why he had picked that song. It was her doing.
Phone calls at 3 a.m. rarely portend good news; the doctor sat motionless as the Nashville wannabe finished his verse of greater temptations and the phone went silent. He carefully slid his arm out from beneath his wife's young body and patted the curve of her hips with a satisfaction that can only be achieved by a 20 year age difference. He kissed the top of her head, turned and dropped his feet into the moccasins he used as house slippers.
The initial attempt to stand was met with angry resistance from the knee that had ended the weekends of tennis at the club, but a second, more determined effort, steadied his frame over the weakened and painful joint. The path to the toilet was well known from frequent nighttime visits; the bedroom was devoid of all light save the blinking LED of the unattended phone. Using the soft blue beacon as a guide, he reached too hastily and knocked his glasses into the crevice between the mattress and nightstand. This meant another agonal encounter with his ACL before the call could be checked or the pressure in the bladder abated.
The bathroom door closed silently with a slow deliberate release of the lever; only in this seclusion did he risk light. His new bride insisted on total darkness in the bedroom, even to the exclusion of an illuminated alarm clock. The flood of light stabbed at his retinas as he attempted to pee with his eyelids nearly closed. He would ordinarily address the urges brought on by his enlarged prostate without turning the lights on; this of course risked Tonya's wrath incited by even the smallest droplets gone askew; in the harsh florescent light he realized how poor his aim really had become. Using a throw rug, he foot-mopped the floor.
Pausing to examine his aging torso in the mirror, he thought again of his youthful trophy asleep in the next room. He slid open the phone and as he checked the number from the missed call; the drunken troubadour began to sing again; it was from the same number, and from an old Vancouver area code.
"Doctor Martin, this is Constable Ewen from Vancouver."
An odd dread washed over him as he thought of his last visit to the Wet Coast: the trip when his first wife died.
"Constable Ewen, yes, I remember you from before. What can I do for you?"
"I am sorry for calling so late, but I thought you would like to know as soon as possible. We've found Patty; she is alive and well. She asked me to tell you that she wants to come home."
In a collage of images, he saw his depression, his drinking, the pretty teaching assistant that began to help in the classes, their first kiss, the courtship, the pomp of the wedding, the three months of publicly envied passion, and the realization that sometimes a replacement is nothing more than a cheap substitute. He opened the bathroom door and chased the darkness from the bedroom.