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I take the call. The landline. No one wants to talk. Hell, I don’t want to talk.

I’ve taken it, accepted it.

I look at the dumb screen. The small, dull screen on the landline phone. The plastic, crappy, cheap phone that sounds hollow and fake. Toy-like except for that little electrified screen with the number. The caller’s number. My friend’s number. Right there, revealing his name and some type of reasoning for us to have called it ID. His reason to call me, because he reasoned with himself to call me. What’s he going to say?

“Hell-o.”

“Why didn’t you call me back?”

“What’s the difference? You’re calling me back right now.”

“I called you last.”

“I haven’t had the chance.”

“Your home. You’ve been home for a week.”

“How do you know? Oh, never mind.”

“I saw the images. She posted about the trip.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“I have to know. I need an answer. It’s a deadline. You’ve been on vacation. I waited until you got back. I left you a rushed message on your answering machine. I don’t know why you don’t just get a cellphone already.”

“I’m not going to.”

“We have a deadline.”

“I was on vacation.”

“You wouldn’t have had to answer your cell if I called it.”

“Then, why have it?”

“If there was an emergency.”

“I’m so tired of that excuse. An emergency is something that doesn’t happen all the time. Why do I need a cellphone for stuff, emergencies, that hardly happen?”

“For when they do.”

“Well, I don’t have a cellphone. And I didn’t call you back but was planning on it.”

“I left you a message on your answering machine, like an old man, like you asked me to.”

“I haven’t listened to them.”

“Why have an answering machine?”

“I haven’t gotten to it. And what’s the emergency?”

“The deadline.”

“Which is … tomorrow?”

“No, but coming up. This Friday.”

“So it hasn’t passed.”

“You thought it did?”

“No, I knew it didn’t. I knew it wasn’t yet here. I knew it wasn’t going to pass while I was on vacation nor five days after I got back. I knew your call wasn’t an emergency.”

“Alright, but you didn’t know that. If it was an emergency. I could have been dead.”

“And calling me?”

“Someone could have been calling to inform you.”

“Is that an emergency?”

“It’s not? If I were dead?”

“If you were dying, yeah. But I wouldn’t have gotten the call in time to do anything. And I wouldn’t have understood why you would’ve called, knowing I was gone, if you needed help. Help to save your life? I was out of town.”

“I wouldn’t call you. I’d call someone with a cell phone.”

“They wouldn’t answer. Or there wouldn’t be room for me.”

“Room for you?”

“The phone’s mailbox would be full. Or, if you left a message, they wouldn’t listen to it. And if they missed your call, because people miss so many, they wouldn’t return it.”

“Those are all excuses.”

“Nope. Reasons why I don’t want a phone.”

“You don’t have to answer the home phone either, you know. Why have a phone at all?”

“I don’t want one. She won’t let me get rid of it.”

“So you don’t want to talk to anyone?”

“Now that things have gotten so complicated? With phones? No. I’d rather not. Phones were the in-between or the way to make plans to see each other. Or long distance communication.”

“What do you think cell phones are? Even if one is only five miles from another person, they can chat. Send a funny image. Comment on their story.”

“That’s more than ridiculous. Comment on someone’s story? I don’t like when people comment on my stories in person and don’t feel the need to comment on theirs’. Why is there a need to comment post-event? Why post something post-now? Who really gives a holy hell?”

“A lot of people. You just don’t … give a holy hell. And you’re alone because of it.”

“I don’t care. I like being alone. I get lonely sometimes, but then get around people, and feel worse. No one cares about others. Or if they do, they’re only going to care if you keep in touch, nonstop, with a hell phone. That’s what’s changed. All of these people keeping up with the phones.”

“Do you screen your landline?”

“You mean, read the name on the phone? Because that’s a confusing sentence.”

“Yeah. Do you screen your calls from your old-man phone?”

“I do only because of sales calls. Otherwise, I wouldn’t. I stopped screening, not caring if they were sales calls or not, but then realized they call more often when I pick up because they don’t get zapped off my line when I pick it up. So I have to let the little machine thing zap. I have to screen.”

“Yeah, I don’t answer my cell phone if it’s a number I don’t recognize. Which is all day.”

“Sales calls?”

“Some. Hell, who knows.”

“What if I was dying and called your cell and you didn’t pick up because I was calling from a store?”

“You’d die. But if you left a message, I’d call you back.”

“I’d be dead. And, no you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t listen to it. Or you’d get it too late.”

“Should I stop calling?”

“I think so. I’m going to get rid of my landline.”

It’s gone too far for too long. Living like this. There’s no longer privacy in this pit.

 

[NOTE: I found this. A forgotten file from over a year ago. The first 4 of 12 pages. The beginning of a novel, apparently. It works on its own … for now.]
Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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