Reply to a Dead Man by Walter Mosley Summary

The story starts off with an informal introduction of the protagonist, Roger and the recent events that have occurred in his family. Having lost his Job, then his brother and his inability to even attend the funeral sets off the story with a sort of depressed tone, foreshadowing even worse things to come. Roger’s brother, Seth, was buried by his fourth wife. Roger, who was going through a hard time financially could not afford to pay for his brother’s funeral. In fact, he was in the middle of a financial crisis which lead to a crisis in his social life- he could not miss even a single day of work, he could not afford the gas money or to pay for food and drinks at his favorite restaurants which lead him to distance himself from his friends. He did not know any of his neighbors except one old lady whom he had only met once over his years of living there.

As he was writing a letter to his sister six months after his brother’s death, a stranger showed up at his door. Roger assumed it must be Rose, his neighbor, for he had no friends and knew none of the other neighbors. He was quite surprised to find a well dressed man standing behind the door. The man introduced himself as an employee of FRC- Final Requests Co- whom Seth had hired to deliver a message six months after his death. Roger, skeptical of this mysterious turn of events and surprised by how much this strange man knew about him and his family, tried to stall him from delivering the message. However, the man soon handed him an ivory envelope containing the message and left the house.

Roger, suspicious of the timing and the very existence of the message, called his sister. But, he soon found out that his sister already knew about it although she denied it. She urged him to destroy the letter and pay it no heed. Roger, ignoring her requests, read the letter and found a bitter truth his brother had been hiding from him for years- a daughter he didn’t know he had. Seth left the address and apologized for keeping it from him. Roger realized for years he had been a parent but with no one of the responsibility. And he was completely oblivious to his daughter’s very existence.

Roger over the next few days indulged in alcohol and cigarettes, stopped going to work and had multiple breakdowns. His neighbor, Rose, hearing him crash a chair against the floor came to his house to check on him only to find him in a miserable state. She invited him over to her house to talk to him and suggested he take a good shower and to go see his daughter. He went over to the address and found his daughter who had also received a similar letter from the same man identifying Roger as her real father. Both of them went out for a cup of coffee, instantly bonding, each one happy that they had found the other.

After a couple of days he found another job from the temp agency. Even though it did not pay as much, it was still enough for gas and rent. As days went by there was another knock at the door. It was Lance Harding from FRC and he was back with another letter. After delivering he did not leave right away- he was waiting for a reply. Roger was confused by the demand for a reply to a dead man. He read the letter and found himself once again surprised. Seth had spent his last few days saving money for Sovie and asked Roger to either accept the money and help Sovie or give all the money to Sovie so she can figure out how to use it herself. Roger enquired with Harding if FRC was currently hiring trainees and he replied in the affirmative. Roger gave his reply- he asked Harding to give the money to Sovie and to hand him an application so he could apply for the job. In the end, things definitely seemed to work out Roger.

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