The Joshua trees stretched out their sword-like limbs toward the solitary phone booth, as if to point the way. Lizards sunned themselves on nearby rocks, and long-legged desert insects skittered across the sand, darting around the booth. The traffic noise was buried fifteen miles in the distance.
A rude jangling sound cut through the peaceful desert, signaling another curious caller’s attempt to reach someone, anyone, who might be near the booth.
Surprisingly, someone did answer. “Hello?”
“Hello. Is this the phone in the middle of nowhere?”
“Yes, it is. How may I help you?”
“I don’t know. I just wanted to call. Why is that phone out there?”
“It was originally put here about 1960. Some say it was for the miners, but some people say they really don’t know exactly why it’s here. The folks at Pacific Bell that put it here in the first place are long gone now.”
There was a pause on the line. The caller cleared his throat. “It’s been there that long, huh?”
“Yes sir. There is an excellent reason why it is still here, though.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What is it?”
The man leaned back against the bullet riddled phone booth and crossed one ankle over the other. He took a deep breath. “It’s here so I can answer it. God has sent me to this phone booth to tell people about Jesus.”
“You don’t say. Well, listen, it’s been nice talking to you.” A click on the other end of the line signaled the end of the conversation.
Rick Karr left the phone booth and sat down in the folding lawn chair by his Jeep. He twisted open the cap of his bottled water and chugged until it was gone. With a flip of his wrist, the bottle landed inside the Jeep. Then he laid his head back in the chair, adjusted his sunglasses, and closed his eyes against the pounding desert sun.
He had just dozed off when the hum of a motor woke him. A white pick up truck bounced to a stop next to his Jeep, and a young couple got out.
The man, dressed in torn jeans, and his long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, approached Rick. “Hey man. This must be the famous phone booth.”
“We’re on our way to the coast and wanted to see it. You been here long?”
“A couple of days.”
‘No kiddin’. Any calls?”
“Yes, a few. All curiosity seekers, of course.”
“How long are you going to stay?”
“As long as God tells me I should.”
The man looked down at the ground, then at the woman standing beside him.
Rick spoke again. “Do you know Jesus?”
The young lady answered. “I used to go to church when I was little.
“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have any water would you?”
Rick rose from his chair and walked the few steps to his vehicle. The woman spoke just under her breath. “Great. We would run into a Jesus freak in the middle of the desert.”
All attention was on the phone booth again when the phone began to ring. The pony-tailed man answered it. Rick caught snatches of the brief conversation. “Yep, it’s really here. Okay, man.”
When the man emerged from the booth, Rick handed a bottle of water to him and his traveling companion.
“Thanks. We’ve got to go. Cool phone booth, huh?”
“Yes. Very cool. Jesus loves you.”
He nodded a goodbye. “Whatever, man. Thanks again for the water.”
Rick watched the truck disappear in the direction of the freeway. He turned his attention back to the ringing telephone. “Hello?”
The voice on the other end was feminine. “Somebody answered. I finally got an answer.”
“You certainly did. Have you called many times?”
“Yes, but not for a while. I used to call all the time.” Her voice broke. “You don’t know what it means to finally get an answer. I really need a friend right now.”
“You’ve called the right place, then. I’d like to introduce you to the best friend you’ll ever have.” Rick looked heavenward and spoke. “Do you know Jesus Christ?”
Author’s Note: This is based on a true story. A phone booth with a working telephone, located in the Mojave Desert 15 miles from the freeway, became a famous novelty. It was the subject of news reports and a movie. A man named Rick Karr felt led there to share the gospel to callers. The phone booth was removed in the year 2000 and replaced with a headstone. The headstone has since been removed as well.
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