“Hello, Michael? Hey, these guys here don’t believe I know you. Tell them I know you, Michael. Tell them how I know you. We go so far back. Like centuries back. Remember that time I beat you in a race. That was crazy, Michael. We were doggy-paddling to that inflatable raft and I beat you. I beat Michael Phelps. We were the best in that class. No one was better at swimming with the giant noodles than me and you. Everyone else was like a guppy, but me and you, we were like sharks. Sharks, Michael. Sharks. Michael—are you there? Mike?

“This is Papa John’s. How can I help you?”

“Help me? No, no, Michael, I want to help you. I remember your mom telling my mom that you were really bummed out when I quit training. I got bronchitis, then I missed a few weeks, then I just stopped coming, then I took up clarinet. I don’t know if my heart was in it back then—but it is now. I’m ready to get back in the pool and get training again. I think you should move here, and me and you can train at the YMCA by my apartment. It’ll be great. The Chinese better watch out in 2009, ‘cause we’re gonna bring it, me and you, breaking record after record. I can see it now. Our relay team will be the best. Maybe we can go out for pizza after, like back in the day. Remember how my dad would drive us to get pizza after training? That was fun.

“Yes—pizza … What kind would you like?”

“You used to blow soda out your nose. That was funny, man. You gotta come to my birthday next week. Like, I insist. I’m turning the big two-four. You probably want my address. It’s 510 Dockery Street, fifth floor, apartment 12B. Just go to the fifth floor and look for the door with balloons on it. Those balloons are for you. Like, everyone else knows where my apartment is, but I’m putting up those balloons for you, man. I’m gonna get, like, an inflatable pool, and you can race my friends and put on demos or something. Do you want to come, Michael? Do you?”

“My name isn’t Michael, it’s Greg. But, yes, I’d love to come. No one’s ever invited me to anything before. They think just because I answer the phones at Papa John’s I’m some kind of worthless middleman, but I like hanging out, too. I’m a real—”

“Yeah, Michael, you’re real. You’re the real deal. You’re the realest deal. How many medals did you win, like 30? Watch your back in ’09—I might take some of those away.”

“What time should I come over?”


“Should I bring anything?”

“Yeah, Michael, we’re gonna bring it in ‘09. Can you wear flippers in the pool? If you can, I don’t get why the other swimmers don’t. I can swim sooo fast with my flippers. Maybe I’ll wear one of those shark fins, like in the movies, and everyone will be freaking out. But it could make them swim faster, unless they think I’m a dolphin and want to come over and pet me and ride me and stuff. Do dolphins have fins? Where do you buy those fins? Target? I have an idea. Let’s go halfsies on a place downtown, our bachelor pad. Some of those chicks on your team are hot. We should invite them over. Do you know LeBron James? I always wanted to meet him. You probably know him. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, I think you should invite him to our housewarming. OK, it’s late, and I’m gonna go check out some places downtown. Scout out the area. I’ll call you tomorrow. I hope these guys believe me now. Remember that time I beat you in a race. Oh, man, we had some great times. Someone should make a movie about our friendship. I want you to be the best man at my wedding. Remember, birthday next week—piñata, inflatable pool, chocolate cake. USA! USA! USA! I love you, man!”

“I love you, too. Also, I hope there aren’t any peanuts in the cake, because I’m allergic. Most people don’t realize that some chocolate contains traces of peanuts.”

“For you, Michael, I’d put chlorine in the cake. I’d dress it in a Speedo. I’d cover it in gold. Just come to my bar mitzvah.”