The phone vibrates twenty-seven times between Beowulf and lunch. I snap each time. Students always know. They look at me carefully, compassionately. I dial the number. Wait. “What, Mom?” Labored intake: “Took you long enough.” She says the chicken’s spicy. She says she’s always alone. She says no one cares if she lives. She is my dying mother. I listen, stare at the wall, wait for the tears to subside. Beowulf. He had it easy. Monsters and a dragon? Any day.