Robby sat on his mother’s couch, not really watching the basketball game he had put on television. He munched on some Cheez-Its, not necessarily because he was hungry, but because it gave him something to do. His homework was still in his backpack, untouched. He would work on it later, when his mom came home from work. Robby would be able to concentrate then; right now he found it almost impossible just to think. He hated being alone, there was always the possibility that the phone would ring, and it would be his...
And just as he thought of it, it did. He let it ring twice before slowly getting up from the couch and walking toward the kitchen. It was somebody else, Robby thought to himself. Probably a telemarketer or maybe even his uncle, the one who lived in Florida. It would be great to talk to either one; he would gladly pick up the phone, relieved that it wasn’t...
Checking the caller ID, he knew that it was. The display was lit up, but there was no telephone number. That in itself told him who was calling.
Robby put his hand on the phone, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves. He didn’t want to answer it; he dreaded every time he had to talk to the person on the other end. But, somehow, he was even more afraid of what would happen if he refused to pick up. The phone rang one last time before he pressed down on the talk button and put it to his ear. Gulping, he said, “Hello, Grand mom.”
“Hi sweetie, how’s my Grandson?”
“I’m fine, how are you?” he asked. It always took a while for her to respond back, as if she needed time to understand what he had said, or the message was being carried across a great distance.
“Grand mom’s ok, just a little lonely, I guess. How is school going?”
“It’s great,” he reported. Robby tried not to say too much, he found out that the less he talked, the sooner it would be until the conversation ended. But she was calling him a lot more now. Only two months ago, he could expect the phone to ring about once every two weeks. Lately, it seemed to happen every three days.
And always when he was alone.
“That’s very nice to hear,” she finally commented, “is your mother still at work?”
“Yeah, but she’ll be home real soon,” he quickly answered. Robby could hear a noise in the background, almost as if somebody were gargling. Or being choked. He shivered as a chill traveled down his spine.
“All right then, Grand mom will let you get back to doing whatever.”
“Thank you, it was nice talking to you again,” Robby lied. More gargling, and the faintest sound of a low moan.
“You too, dear. Tell me, when are you going to come visit Grand mom? I miss you so much.”
Robby sighed. He hadn’t been to the cemetery since the first time she had called him nearly four months ago. He was afraid that if he went, he would never be allowed to leave. When the dead were able to make house calls, it wasn’t very hard to imagine what else they could do. “I know,” he said, “I’ll try to do it next week.”
Robby closed his eyes, and crossed his fingers. “I promise, Grand mom.”
“That’s good. You know you were always my favorite. I’ll see you soon. Bye sweetie.”
“Bye, Grand mom,” he whispered, hanging up.
Robby shuffled back to the couch, staring at the television screen with a listless expression on his face. A single tear streaked down his cheek as his lip began to quiver. He put his head down into his hands, unable to stop himself from crying. He was scared, and the worst part of it was that nobody could help him. Because nobody believed him. Robby found it hard to believe himself, despite all the phone calls and the nightmares.
He wiped his eyes and looked at the clock. It was close to four-thirty; his mom would be home in about another half an hour. Robby picked up the box of Cheez-Its, cramming a few of them into his mouth.