Roland reclosed a partially emptied moving box, slumping against a wall, too exhausted to finish unpacking.
He’d just hooked up his new telephone. Hopefully, no one knew where he was, except for the employment agency.
At least his bed was assembled. Collapsing on a bare mattress, without undressing, he fell asleep.
A sharp blast of the telephone jolted him out of bed.
He panicked. Who could that be? Thought I had an unlisted number…It’s late, but maybe…. just maybe…. it’s a job offer?
“Hello?” He answered, hoping for good news.
“Grandpa! It’s me, Jacob.”
“Uh…I’m afraid you have the wrong number, son.”
But the little boy, who didn’t sound any older than eight, continued to jabber…
“Grandpa, I gotta talk to you. Mommy left me with another creepy sitter. She told me there were monsters under my bed. What’s that you always tell us in church about not being afraid? Grandpa, I’m scared!”
“I’m sorry, son. But I don’t know you.”
“I learned a new song at Vacation Bible School today, Mister….Wanna hear me sing?”
“Look kid, there ain’t no monsters under your bed and I’m not your grandpa!”
He slammed down the receiver, feeling bad he’d yelled at a child.
At least it was just a scared little kid and not creditors. He shook his head, thinking about all the time and money he’d wasted as an alcoholic.
Just as his young caller, 52-year-old Roland was scared, too. It had been more than a month since he’d plugged into an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting He hadn’t taken a drink in years, but couldn’t stop the voices inside. He was growing anxious with still no job offers. He unfolded the piece of paper given to him by his old parole officer. He stared at the list of AA meetings in his new community. Yet, somehow, he just couldn’t reach out and make a call.
Don’t need AA…Not an alcoholic anymore…Don’t need nobody….
Roland had recently completed his parole, after being released from prison, where he’d served five years for dodging multiple DUIs. While incarcerated, he’d lost his wife, grown children, and a granddaughter, about the same age as his young caller. At AA meetings, he was Roland, the alcoholic. He didn’t need to be reminded he was an alcoholic---a loser. He just wanted to start over in a new town where no one knew him, where no one knew the pedestrian he’d injured from his last DUI.
He’d grown accustomed to being a loner. Even at the required AA meetings in prison, he rarely shared his thoughts.
He tried to go back to sleep, but spent most of the night tossing and turning. He fought the demons inside, which lured, Just one little glass of wine won’t hurt you. You have your drinking under control now.
He thought of his own 8-year-old grandchild. He hadn’t seen her in six years and probably would never see her again, as his daughter had disowned him.
A couple of days later, the phone rang again.
“Reverend?” The voice of an old woman crackled on the other end.
“No reverend here,” he shot back. “Wrong number…”
“Wait, isn’t this 551-7892?”
“551-789 THREE,” he exploded.
“Sorry to bother you, sir. Musta misdialed the last digit.”
So the kid’s grandpa is a reverend with a telephone number almost identical to my unlisted one? Of all the numbers, I’m stuck with this one. One lousy misdialed digit is drivin’ me to drink, again. And, still no job….
The demon voices inside grew stronger. Later while grocery shopping, he flung a bottle of wine into his basket.
At least once a week he heard various church members continue to a beg a Reverend Dooley to “please pick up the phone”.
Although he’d told the first few callers they’d misdialed, others still called—-at all hours.
“Enough!” Roland barked at the telephone. “Time to get a new unlisted number.”
Just when he was ready to yank the phone off the hook, it rang again.
“Rev, if you’re there, please pick up. I need help…I’ve hit bottom---on the streets, again. Think I’m ready to give AA another try….What’s the number?”
Roland stared at the unopened bottle he’d left sitting on the counter for weeks. He grabbed the phone, unscrewing the bottle. Emptying the wine out, he ignored the demons inside.
His body trembling, he hesitated, and then finally answered.
“Hello, my name is Roland and I’m an alcoholic.”
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