“Oh, it’s literal all right. Diabetes claimed first one, then bofe my kidneys. For two years I’ve been on a dialysis machine four hours every other day, watching my life ebb away before my eyes. Solution number one is off the table, because I’m not about to ask anyone in the family for their kidney, given how much they dislike my guts, which I assure you is mutual. But solution number two is surprisingly doable: I’ve been researching the Internet from under the blankets, and it turns out China does more kidney transplants than any other nation. And I won’t have to wait on a list seven to 10 more years for a cadaver kidney, as my overcautious American doctors are telling me to — we could get a live one fairly quickly, if we make the right connections.”
“Larry, hold on — what do you mean ‘we’?”
“You’re an old China hand, Dan. You used to do that travel column in Esquire — ”
“Larry, I haven’t been to China in 25 years! I don’t have any more contacts there than you do.”
“At least you know your way around. I’ve hardly ever been out of the States, except for luxury cruises to the Caribbean, which I could maybe fix you up on sometime, because college girls do things on a cruise ship they’d never dream of doing on shore, believe me, you could pass yourself off as a professor — ”
The line goes dead.
* * *
The chairlift is still stalled in the middle of the Rockies, giving me a chance to take in the scenery: azure peaks crosshatched by bicycle spokes. My wife’s provisionally pacified the boys with an emergency Milky Way.
“Larry, I can’t promise we won’t get cut off again. The wind’s kicking up, and we’re swaying like a —”
“This must be eating up your airtime, Dan. I apologize. No, I’ll do better. Send me the bill, you know I’m good for it — in fact, let me buy you a coupla new cell phones, those new ones that work at any altitude? I don’t want to put you out any more than I have to.”