Oscar heard the payphone ringing as soon as he got out of his car. Huh. I didn’t even realize that antique still worked. Never seen anyone using it. It was still ringing as he strolled past it, and he snatched up the receiver on impulse. The dead silence that met his “Hello” was devoid of any normal background hums or clicks, and he was about to hang up when he heard, “Oscar.”
Oscar nearly dropped the phone. The voice had an eerie quality, reminiscent of 2001’s Hal.
“Oscar, you haven’t called your mother lately.”
“Huh? Who is this?”
“The last time was Mother’s Day. She’d really appreciate a call from her son.”
“How do you know…”
“Oscar, give her a ring. Here, it’s on me.”
The voice was gone, replaced by the incessant drone of a dial tone. Oscar furtively glanced left and right, then hung up. That was weird. I should call mom, though. I’ll do it this afternoon. Yeah, that’ll be better. I’ll have more time then. After a troubled look at the payphone and another scan of the wind-swept parking lot, Oscar hurried on.
“Dave, was it necessary to speak to Mrs. Jamison in that manner last night?”
“Excuse me?” Dave actually took the receiver from the side of his head and looked at it before putting it back to his ear.
“I think you heard me.”
“Look, I don’t know who this is, or where you got your information, but I said nothing out of place to that … woman.” Dave was tempted to hang up, but his curiosity wouldn’t let him. There was something about the voice on the other end. It didn’t sound quite…human.
“Maybe not, Dave, but the way you said it was less than kind. She only wanted a ride this morning. Is that the type of ministry the church can expect if you become a deacon?”
He didn’t know what to say. Thanks to his wife, it was no secret he coveted the position, but no one could have overheard his conversation with that batty old woman last night.
“Dave? You still have time to go pick her up. Why don’t you call her – I’ll even dial for you.”
Immediately a dial tone hummed in Dave’s ear, followed by the digital beeps of a number being dialed.
Dave slammed the payphone receiver back into its cradle when the connection was made and a phone started ringing on the other end. He stormed off muttering. “Must be someone’s idea of a sick joke. Don’t know why I answered that thing anyway. Someone probably took my seat while I was out here wasting my time.”
Gloria was running late. Nothing had gone right this morning, and now to top it off she had to park at the far end of the lot. I really wish I’d worn flats instead of heels. Oh, well, at least I’ll look good as I walk all the way to the front row. Of course, my luck today I’ll fall. She about jumped out of her skin when the payphone shrilled just as she approached it. Years of working as a receptionist left her unable to let it ring, so she answered it out of habit.
She wheeled around to check behind her before realizing it was the phone. “Um. Yes?”
“Why did you lie to your boss yesterday?” The calm, clear voice was kind even as it rebuked.
“I didn’t! I would never!” Gloria sputtered protests.
“And now here you are lying to me. Tsk. You weren’t really sick yesterday.”
Gloria was stunned. How could anyone know she only wanted to read her new book instead of working on her day off?
Reverend Nielson watched from the church steps as his flock fled the morning worship service. It seemed more than a few were going out of their way to avoid the old payphone at the edge of the parking lot. That’s strange; I watched those same people try to use that phone before church. Now they won’t even look at it. When the crowd had cleared, he made his way over to check out the object of his curiosity. Lifting the receiver, he noted that it was indeed dead. As he tapped his temple with his fingertip, he noticed a piece of paper on the ground. He picked it up, and on the reverse side read, “Condemned”. Strange. Usually they just say “Out of order”.
Suddenly, the phone began to ring.
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