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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

Call and Response

When her cell phone rang, Suzanne was lost in a reverie, trying to figure out what to do about her most productive and problematic software developer. The ringtone was the Big Band-era favorite, "I Want a Cape to Call My Own," thus...

"Hi, Ira," she said, her hand wandering to pick up the stressball with her company's logo on it. "What's up?"

"Suzy! He's awake!"

Suzanne's eyes widened and she clenched the stressball hard. "Ira, what do you mean?"

"He's awake and talking to me! Right now--- oh, well, he's gone back to sleep, but he was talking to me! He recognized me! He remembers his mother! He warned me about the Mind Marauders -- that's who he's been fighting all this time!"

"What do you mean, he's gone back to sleep?"

"He's... well, his eyes are closed. Hey, son, wake up. Don't you want to talk to Suzy?"

Suzanne let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "Ira... Ira, this isn't like last time, is it?"

"No, Suzy, he talked to me! Come on, boy, she's not going to believe me if you don't talk..."

She carefully set the stressball down and ran her hand through her hair. "Ira, look, can you call the visiting nurse, please? Ask her to come out and have a look at him? I have a meeting I need to get to."

"Suzy, really, he spoke..." Ira's voice faded.

"I believe you, Ira. I really do. Please call the visiting nurse. If he's waking up, she needs to check him out. Okay?"

"... Okay."

"Thank you, Ira. You eat something, okay? I have to go."

She gently closed her phone and took slow, deep breaths.

"Hey, Suzanne, want to go to --" Sheila stopped and stared. "Oh, god, are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost!"

"I'm... fine," Suzanne said, forcing a smile. "Just... talking to my father-in-law is hard, sometimes."

"Poor kid," Sheila said, laying a hand on Suzanne's shoulder. "They're so hard to deal with when they get old, aren't they? It's like dealing with a little kid."

Suzanne gripped her friend's hand and smiled up at her. "Yeah, a really imaginative kid. Where're we going for lunch?"

"There's a special on at Great Scot," Sheila said. "Two-for-one coffees. They've just started with soup and sandwiches, and Jen says the food's great."

"Sounds good," Suzanne said. "Sounds like just the thing I need."

She left her cell phone on the desk when they left.

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