I've Got Your Number by Ian Smith


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"What makes it jazz then Ray?"

"Jazz is things that shouldn't work but do. Chords... dissonance..."

"So just anything goes?"

"No, no, not at all. It's very cultured. There's a tradition..."

"Man why you fillin' that kid's head with all that intellectual bullshit Ray?"

"I'm trying to explain jazz to this young brother, Philip. I would appreciate if you would..."

"Man he ain't need to know that shit."

A gentle spasm in my DNI.

"Hello?" I thought.

"Ray, we're outside." Came the response.

I excused myself. My nephew went back to fiddling with the standup bass he just got. A smart kid. He's getting into 20th century music, much to the amusement of his father.

I hunched tweed-jacket shoulders in the entrance of my brother's café and squinted at the street. A rainy night. Neon puddles. Streetlights sprayed amber on studded black slickness. A car across the street: headlights and wipers on. Two blurry figures inside. Peter got out.

"Ray! Over here."

Peter is getting on in years. It has been forever since I played with his two sons in the classical jazz ensemble at Rutgers, and he seemed pretty old to me then. I got into the back seat.

A young lady in her 20s sat holding a bundle of baby in the passenger seat. His wife.

"Ray, this is Julia."

"Good to meet you Ray. I'd shake your hand but..." she laughed with feigned nervousness, a classical pantomime of feminine deference.

"And this is my son..."

The baby was hideous.

Premature by several months at least and easily the smallest baby I had ever seen. What jarred me so much about it were its eyes: they had an intense awareness not appropriate to the pink bobble-headed creature out of which they radiated.

My DNI was suddenly going off.

"Hello?" I thought.

"Hello. I see you."

"Who is this?"

"I can see you."

"...Who is this?"

"Father sees your brown face and nothing else. Everyone does. Even the other ones like you. Even the other white ones that like you treat you like a child."

"...what? Who are you?"

It couldn't be...

I looked at the baby. He was staring directly into my eyes. He was a psi. Peter and Julia were smiling and looking at the baby with pride welling in their eyes. They knew he was speaking to me, but he obviously wasn't broadcasting to them.

"How did you...?"

"Yes I am psi. I am tk too. When I was in the womb I heard them saying I was going to die. I told them to deliver me and put me in an incubator. I told them I would keep this body from dying."

"I never heard of a psi awakening in the womb before..."

"It was kept secret."

He paused for a moment before reporting, matter-of-fact, "The people you associate with do not respect you. Father feels guilty for not being able to see you as human. He is seeking a reconciliation within himself with what he believes to be right. That is why he helped you at the university."

"Why are you telling me this?"

He blinked, "It is a danger, to you and to him. I do not wish harm on the Self."

"Father is old. He has had many procedures to retain youth, but he is invested in images he received during the early childhood phase. Father's parents hated the brown faces, even though they tried to help them. They tried all their lives to stop hating the brown faces, but they couldn't. They felt bad."

"Father hates you less than they did, but he hates you. It is a danger. It would be good if you went far away from here. Mother hates the brown faces too."

"Do not fear me. I cannot hate. I see all minds."

What happened next is what made me silently cross the street, back towards my brother's café, despite confused protestations, muted by the closed door of the car, and the spatter of a newborn drizzle. It wasn't what the baby said, though I knew it was true. I had always known it. I just wanted to be away from that baby. Maybe I'll call Peter and give him some explanation later, maybe not. Probably not.

It wasn't what the baby said, but what he did.

The baby smiled.