The Telephone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Would you, if you could?

The Telephone

 

Alice Howe passed away on a Sunday afternoon in her mobile home in La Jolla, California.

She had beaten cancer fifteen years earlier, but what took her in the end was a simple case of bronchitis. She kept thinking it would pass and didn’t get the antibiotics she needed. By the time she finally broke down and got them, it was too late.

Her death hit Tim Howe very hard. Even though a continent lay between him and his mother, they had been able to get together several times over the years, and in between, come rain or shine, hell or high water, Tim had called her every Saturday at noon Pacific time, 3:00 p.m. in his home state of Virginia.

His sister, Ella, handled all the arrangements. Cremation, utilities, personal property, Ella took care of everything. They agreed that, at some point in the future, they would meet on their brother’s farm in north Alabama to scatter Alice’s ashes, as they had done for their father many years earlier.

The first Saturday after her death, Tim picked up his cell at 3:00 p.m. on the dot and dialed his mother’s number. He didn’t know what he expected. Maybe Ella would answer, still sorting through Alice’s things, or maybe she had already discontinued the account.

“Hello?”

Tim froze, unable to speak. He knew that voice.

“Hello?”, the voice repeated.

“M-m-mom?”, he finally managed.

“Hi, Timmy”, Alice said. “I’ve been waiting for your call”.

“Mom”, Tim whispered, barely able to breathe.

“Who else would it be?”, Alice asked. “How are you, son?”.

“I’m fine, Mom”, Tim said, “…but you -- you’re dead!”, he blurted.

“Am I, dear”, Alice asked. “I don’t feel like it”.

As Tim tried to decide what to say next, the phone line began to crackle, then erupted into static, quickly following by a beeping disconnect signal.

He immediately redialed, but a staccato recording told him that the number was no longer in service.

During the following week, Tim tried to call his mother countless times, but after each attempt, he got the same recorded message.

Then, at precisely 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, his call was answered.

He wasted no time in providing Alice with tidbits about his health, his work, and his home, as he had done a thousand times before. At the first sign that the line was breaking up, he shouted, “Mom, I love you!”.

“I lov…”, Alice said, then she was gone.

The next Friday, Tim flew to La Jolla. He spent the night in a nearby motel, slept late, and had lunch at a restaurant around the corner.

That afternoon, a taxi dropped him off in front of Alice’s mobile home. His watch was still set to Eastern time, so at exactly 3:00 p.m., he dialed her number.

“Hello?”, Alice answered.

“Mom”, Tim said, “I’m right outside your living room window. I have to see you one more time. Meet me there”.

“Oh, son, I don’t think that’s a good idea”, Alice cautioned, but he was already on his way.

Tim reached the window, thrust his face against the glass, and came nose to nose with a heavily mustachioed Jorge Ortega, the new owner of Alice’s former home.

They both screamed.

Tim turned tail and ran, at least as best he could at his age.

Alice never answered the telephone again.

 


Submitted: September 04, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Jim Shipp. All rights reserved.

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