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Answering machine

27 December 2004

So here we are in the dog-days between Xmas and New Year, where itís always hard to find focused things to do; generally I think ĎI can use this time to give the house a thorough clean, preparatory to my birthday partyí and then suddenly find other more urgent alternatives. One of which is a little computer-housecleaning, such as for example clearing out my inbox; no one actually needs two and a half thousand messages cluttering up their inbox. So I file most of íem, delete those few I can bear to live without and start the new year with a refreshing emptiness.

This year, my answering machine is equally cluttered, so I thought Iíd start with that. And Iím halfway through - playing messages, writing down useful phone numbers and then deleting the message - and suddenly one of them is from my father.

Itís nothing, heís just asking if Iím interested in a book heís reading, because if I am heíll send me a copy; and I wasnít, particularly, so I didnít call him back, because he was always hard to say no to. And then the next time I spoke to him he was in hospital and the world had changed.

And now heís dead and I donít know what to do. I canít delete the message, I simply cannot; itís the only record I have of his voice. And I canít put a fresh tape in and keep this one, because itís not on tape, itís a memory chip. I suppose I could buy a new answering machine, but that seems extreme. I guess Iíll just leave the message sitting there, permanent until something changes; the phrase Ďthe ghost in the machineí keeps rising inexorably to mind.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.