I know it seems strange that I'm calling—I'm thinking that's really what you mean—what you meant—when you just asked me how I got your number, because even though you moved across town, the number is, after all, in the phonebook, so it wasn't hard to get—except, that it was, since I never knew that your parents' first names were Zed and Betty—I know now, of course—and wish I had then, because I would have started at the other end of the listings instead of going through every last Johnson—did you know, by the way, that a lot of Johnson's are black? I didn't know that; I thought that they were mostly white——anyhow, there are a lot of Johnson's, even in a town this size—I started calling from the beginning of the list at 8:00 pm, so I would get through them all before ten, when I think it would become rude to call—rude even for me, who you may believe has no sense of decency at all, but I'll assure you you're wrong—but now see here I've gone and answered your question, how I got your number, when really I'm quite sure, as I was trying to say before, that that was not the question on your mind, then or now. The real question is—and stop me if I am wrong—the question is, what the hell am I calling you for, for even though we did grow up together as girls and played with each other all the time in that field across from your house that is no longer there, even though we were best of friends through elementary school, and we slept at each others' houses—which may be something, I understand, you don't want to think about now—it's also true we drifted apart and haven't talked for a few years, certainly not since I went away and then came back, you know, as a boy, and even though I see myself as a boy and you, you are most definitely a girl, a pretty girl at that, I understand—really I do, more than you can imagine—that you don't remember me as a boy, or see me as a boy, and probably, under normal circumstances, wouldn't want me asking you out, or want to be my friend, or even be seen talking to me, or even talk to me whether you are seen or not, yet there is something I have to tell you, or rather ask you—and here's where I get to my point, say what I need to say, and let you respond, so I won't bother you much longer, that is if I can, see, get it out, for—well, do you know about what today is? I mean about the astrological anomaly, or the glitch in calendar time, how there's an extra minute today and how that happens only once every millennium? Yeah, I thought you might—I mean it was in the paper, and I know that seems not to have anything to do with me or with you, as we certainly never mentioned this before, and of course, never lived through one of these days before, but see, it all ties in with—well, do you know who Billy Tipton is? The pianist? No, you don't know him? Well, he was this piano player some time back, and he had a wife and kids, though they were technically his wife's kids from a former marriage, but the point is is that they were a happy family, and his wife loved him and his kids loved him, and it was only after he died that—are you sure you don't know who he is, because he was a well known piano player and made a couple of albums, though maybe it's more likely your mother knows of him, but don't go asking her now about him, because I'm coming to my point now, which is to say, that when he died (after he died really), they discovered that he was not really a he but a she, though his wife and kids, who had been very happy to live with him, hadn't ever known—now, I don't want you to freak out or anything, but see, today, with the extra minute and all, just so happens to be Billy Tipton Day, and so maybe you can understand why I was calling, because—yeah, yeah, it's Billy Tipton Day—you know, like Sadie Hawkins Day—right, that Sadie Hawkins—so you've heard of that and you know what that's about, where every leap year girls get to ask boys out, right? —well, this is the same thing, only it's for boys who used to be girls—or maybe it's for girls who are now boys—either way, it's their one day, see, in the millennium where they can ask any girl out they want, if they happen to be alive when it happens, which takes some luck, or some skill, or a bit of both, and I'm happy to say I've had a bit of both, because somehow I'm still alive, despite those guys in town who suspect I might not always have been a boy, or even the way you used to look at me in the street if I glanced over at you, which was enough to kill me, too—but I'm not dead, as me talking on and on to you right now surely must prove, and I have, miraculously, survived to be alive on Billy Tipton Day, to this very minute, and here it is, and here I am, see, calling you, because you are, of course, the girl I want to ask out, who I've liked ever since we were both little girls, and we picked flowers for each other in the field and slept over at each other's houses, and told one another what we thought were our darkest secrets as we lay beside each other under the covers of your bed.
Nathan Long's work has appeared in several journals including Tin House, Indiana Review, Story Quarterly, and the Sun, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and other awards. He teaches creative writing at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.