Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: Too late
By Jack Taylor
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“I hate you,” Jessie screeched as he hurled his new cell phone off Spencer’s Bridge and into the Bay below. His first call and his world was already ending.
All through his environmental engineering degree he’d resisted the urge to join the fad of bouncing his conversations off of towers or satellites. He hated sitting invisible in a car where all the passengers were passionately connecting with voices in other places. In the parks, on the streets, even in church his dialogues were rudely interrupted as others ducked out in response to a myriad of annoying ring tones.
Last Tuesday he’d worked up the courage to approach Lizzy Dawson about accompanying him to the grad dinner. Everything on the menu was organic so he knew she wouldn’t have that as an excuse. Still fate had been unkind. They’d been interrupted by her cell before he got anything significant out of his mouth. She’d written down her cell phone number and given the “call me” sign before walking off.
That was all it took. He’d walked a mile off campus to find a store and endured the patronizing lecture of a high schooler explaining the options available. Text messaging, video, camera, downloading, e mailing… “All I need is a phone!” Jessie had finally announced.
He snatched the first one held out to him and was flummoxed when he found out he had to choose from a plethora of plans to actually use the thing. He decided to take the cheapest plan which demanded a card available at another location a few blocks away. It was that decision which cost him all his dreams.
He could still recall the nightmare. “Lizzy, it’s Jessie.” “Yeah, red shirt, dark hair.” “Yeah, just before lunch by the library. You gave me your number and told me to call.” “Just a minute, I’m having trouble hearing you.” “No, I’m out on the bridge.” “Actually, I brought an umbrella so only my feet are soaked.” “Yeah, it is a little tricky trying to talk on the phone and hold onto the umbrella while the wind is this bad.” “Actually, I couldn’t wait to get home to phone you so I thought I’d call you on my cell.” “Yeah, I was wandering if you were doing anything Saturday for the grad dinner.” “Oh, he already asked you.” “Just an hour ago.” “No problem.” “Another time.” “Sure, no worries.” “See you there.” “Bye.” Aaaaaaugh.
Jessie was reliving the family curse all over again. From the moment it was invented the telephone was the cause of friction. Alexander Graham Bell submitted his patent just hours before Jessie’s great-great-great-great grandfather Elisha Gray submitted his patent caveat and those few ticks of the clock meant that Bell also won the legal battle that followed. It might have been Valentine’s Day in 1876 that US patent 174,465 was given but there was no love shared between the Scottish-Canadian and American inventors.
Elisha Gray’s Quaker heritage tested every character trait he’d learned growing up on that farm in Ohio. He’d receive over seventy patents in his lifetime but none of them would have the impact as the one when he was beaten by Bell. Jessie wondered if his family was always doomed to come out second. Bell had uttered those first famous words to his assistant, "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you." Jessie wished those last words had come his way from Lizzy. But no, those words had been uttered to someone else.
Jessie’s reactions to Lizzy’s rejection only escalated his isolation. When he reached his campus apartment he erased his voice messages without checking. Thus, he missed Wendy’s inquiry about his plans for Saturday’s grad dinner. He ripped out the phone jack and deposited the phone in the trash. Thus, he missed the message from Harvard asking him to respond by the weekend if he was interested in a new program they were launching for exceptional students like him.
While Jessie nursed a cold in bed Saturday night during the grad dinner he missed his dance with Lizzy who spent the evening looking for her shy admirer. On Sunday, he missed his weekly spiritual feast with Pastor Bowker as others heard “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
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