Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: Missed Call
By Nancy Jo Wilson
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"Take a sabbatical, figure things out," his best friend, Martin, had said.
"Figure things out," John thought. "What's left to figure out? My wife left me for my music minister and my church is in shambles. I can't be a pastor now, if I ever was one. I mean how can I counsel couples when I couldn't see what was happening in my own family? How can I lead a flock when I couldn't manage my own staff?"
Traffic came to a standstill and John listened as the rain beat on the roof. It sounded like God's commentary on his whole life. "Did you really call me to be a pastor or did I imagine it?" he prayed.
Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto" erupted from the seat beside him. John jumped, taking his foot off the brake pedal for a moment and inching forward. He fumbled for his cell phone with one hand as he reapplied the brake. The resulting lurch caused the phone to leap from his grasp and onto the floor. He cursed. Realizing what he'd said, he uttered it again. The music played on.
The rain stopped as abruptly as it began and the cell phone silenced with it. John quickly accelerated and zoomed past the slower cars. When he reached his apartment complex, he grabbed the phone and flipped it open to see the missed call. "I don't know that number," he thought. "Well, they didn't leave a message. If they want me, they'll have to call back."
In the apartment, John stepped over blankets, a pillow and several empty chip bags to get to the couch. Then flopped onto it, opening his fast food. "Time for Dr. Phil," he said reaching for the remote. He ate, burger balanced on his chest, and watched the show.
"Here's a guy who's making a difference. Okay it's a little over the top, but he affects people. What good am I ever going to do?" John prayed during the commercial.
The strains of "Brandenburg" erupted again. He looked from the T.V. to the phone and back again. "Ehh, if they want me, they'll leave a message."
Two shows later, John rolled off the couch. He picked up his phone and noticed the same number as before. This time the voice mail icon was showing. "I guess I better see who it is," he thought as he pressed the 'listen' key.
"Greg, where are you? It's Violet. You said I could call anytime, but you're not there. I really need to talk to you. Everything is so confusing and I keep thinking I need to do something, like cut myself. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes I feel like if I did all of the bad stuff will just ooze out. Then I'd feel better. Please call me."
John fingers flew to the call log and accessed her number. The phone rang and rang, but there was no answer and no voice mail. He hung up, checked the number and tried again with the same result. He sank to the couch, phone clutched in his shaking hands. "How long since that first call?" he wondered. "Oh God, please let her be okay. I'm sorry that I didn't answer when she called. Please guard her and protect her. Please don't let her hurt herself."
He waited, but the phone didn't ring. He sat a moment, then jumped up and prowled around the living room. Absently, he grabbed up the blankets, folded them and put them away. He tossed the pillows in a chair and threw out the remains of his lunch. He punctuated every action with heartfelt intercession and long gazes at the silent phone.
"It's been fifteen minutes, I'll try again." There was no answer. "Father, please give me another chance."
He went to put it down when the music started again. He flipped it open and a high, meek voice said, "Greg?"
"I'm sorry, Greg's not at this number," he began. "My name is John, I'm a Pastor. I heard your message and I'd be happy to talk with you."
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