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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

By Deborah Cooke



“Operator.” The voice responded to the first few turns of the handle.

“I’d like to make a long distance call please.” Elspeth replied, stretching forward on her toes and grasping the mouth piece in her left hand as she held the earpiece close to her right ear.

One of the challenges of marrying a very tall man, when you are just five feet tall, is arranging the household furniture in a position to suit both. The phone on the lobby wall was just such a compromise for both Elspeth and Dan; Elspeth had to stand on tip toe and Dan had to stoop to use the thing.

“Where too?” the operator queried.

“Scotland, please; Gleninness 759.” Elspeth answered.

“Calling home, Elspeth, is everything alright?” The operator added.

“Yes fine thanks Elsie. I’d like to book 3 minutes please.”

“That should come through by 8pm today; we’ll see how we go.” Elsie concluded.

Just after 8pm, the awaited ringing of the phone roused Elspeth from the chair closest to the lobby.

“I have your call for you. It’s a nice clear line, good luck.” Elspeth heard the click of the operator closing her connection.

“Hello, Elspeth?” She heard her mother’s voice over the light crackling.

“Hello, Mater how’re you doing?” Elspeth answered.

“I’m fine darlin’ girl. Is everything alright?” There was something life giving about hearing her mother’s voice. Tears sprang to her eyes and she wished she didn’t have to stand on her toes to respond each time.

“It’s better than alright Mater,” she almost interrupted. “We have such good news for you. I’m pregnant! We had it confirmed yesterday and I couldn’t wait to tell you. You are going to be a grandmother.” Now her tears flowed freely.

The phone was quiet for a while.

“Are you still there?”

“Surely.” Her mother snuffled. “What a joy, my darlin’. I miss you so much.”

Neither had words to say, but neither wanted to waste the precious minutes of communication.

“I am very well and Dan is just beaming. He looks like the cat that swallowed the canary.” Elspeth could hear her mother at the other end of the line; there was a sense of closeness, almost physical, but an awareness of the vast distance between them.

The three minutes had disappeared and a little buzzer sounded. “I’ll ring again.” Elspeth promised as the lines closed.


A small table with a matching stool was chosen to display the new phone. The shiny black phone displayed its numbers inside the silver circle. Elspeth could hardly contain her delight as she ran her fingers across the hand set which was both earpiece and mouthpiece.

They had been fortunate enough to be one of the first areas to be linked in to dial up. She could now dial the international operator and book any calls to her mother directly. She could hold on line and listen while they connected her directly.

“Hello, Mater.” She waited

“Elspeth? Where are you? You sound so clear! You could be in the next room!” Her mother was as excited as Elspeth.

“We’ve got the new phone. I can call you more often now and we can talk for longer as well. The children will be able to talk to you too.” It was true, she sounded as though she was in the next room. She could hear her mother’s very breath.

After she hung up the phone Elspeth twirled her happy way through the house. How amazingly good was life?


The sound of the ringing penetrated her sleep.

Elspeth grabbed the phone from its crook.

“Hello?” There was almost no sound and Elspeth was about to hang up. Then she heard it. A soft sob, barely audible.

“Elspeth, its Cecily.”

“It’s Mater, Elspeth; I’m so sorry.” Her sister’s voice struggled to control the words. “She’s gone El. It was so sudden. I called to see her yesterday and she was fine. Her friend found her out in the garden.”

Her words hung in the air. Cecily felt a million miles away, her voice was as clear as though she was in the next room, but she could have been on another planet for the difference it made.


Elspeth heard the peep-peep in her pocket. She pulled out the tiny flat object and read,

‘Hi Gran,
Home from Scotland
Gr8 trip – 22 hrs.
C u in 5.
Lots of photos
Put kettle on.
Luv u Lisa.’

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This article has been read 528 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Grigg07/25/08
What an outstanding story. I've got tears rolling down my face, and yet this wasn't a soppy, sickly sweet tale. It read as a real-life snapshot of a person's life, the time marked by the advance of technology & the changing family dynamics. Beautiful. The best story I've read yet on this site!
Sunny Loomis 07/27/08
Unique story. I like the progression to the modern phone and the generational view. Very nicely done. Thank you.
Dolores Stohler07/27/08
Congratulations for writing an absorbing, original tale on the history of the telephone. Considering word count restrictions, I don't know how you managed to tell so much in so little time but it's all in there. And Elspeth is just as real as she can be. Awesome!
Deborah Engle 07/29/08
This was outstanding! How soon we forget the strides technology makes, and the way that affects our lives.