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

TITLE: Toll Free
By Larry Elliott
07/24/08


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”What’s Maggie doing now?”

“She’s pretending to talk to her grandson, Tommy, on that toy telephone. The story is she bought him one last year for his seventh birthday. Yesterday Tommy brought her that plastic toy so they can ‘keep in touch’ with each other. Her daughter, Tommy’s mother, took a new job a few weeks ago and they moved a couple of hours away which means they won’t be able to visit as often as they have been.”

The two women peered into the dark, somber room as they continued preparing for their various duties.

“Crazy old woman. Last week I walked in on her talking to the static on a blank TV channel. She claimed she could see people on the screen and they were watching her. It was just reflections of her and anyone else in the room, but she was convinced this isn’t a real nursing home, her room is bugged and everyone is out to kill her. Now this.”

“Oh, it gets better. Last night I was leaving my shift and I overheard her ‘talking’ to her husband on that thing. He’s been dead over seven years.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Creepy.” Betty shivered as a chill frolicked up her spine. She poured more disinfectant into the spray bottle.

“Shh, listen.”

Both women leaned closer to the open doorway.

“When? Oh, I’ll be ready. You just don’t be late. Oh my, yes.” Maggie giggled again.

“Looney tunes.” Natalie whispered as she crossed her eyes and made circles in the air around her ear with her index finger.

“Just wait until you’re seventy. You’ll be in this place talking to Brad Pitt through your bed pan.” Betty teased.

“Let’s go in.”

“Why?”

“Just for fun. Come on.” Natalie pulled her less-than-willing co-worker through the door, “Who were you talking to, Maggie? Were you and Charlie planning a hot date?” Natalie elbowed Betty in the ribs and winked.

“Oh no, that wasn’t Charles. It was Jesus my redeemer.”

The attendants grinned at each other.

“Do you know him?” Maggie asked.

“Uh, yeah sure, who doesn’t? He’s on channel seventy-seven every Sunday night at seven thirty. Right? Wouldn’t miss it.” Natalie mocked the older woman and turned toward Betty fake gagging on a finger.

“I… went to church, when I was a kid, I mean.” Betty said. She felt strangely uncomfortable at Natalie’s scoffing.

“He’s coming to take me out of this place.”

“Oh, really?” Natalie feigned an interest.

“Yes. Tonight.”

“Wow. I hope he’s big enough to get you past Marcus, the security guard.”

Maggie gave no response.

“Well, I hope he does and I hope you two have a great time.” Betty tucked the sheets in around the elderly woman’s feet.

“So you know Jesus?” Maggie asked Betty.

“Well, no, not really. I mean I’ve heard the name and all, but…”

“Sit,” Maggie patted the edge of the bed, “Let me tell about him. He’s wonderful.” She beamed.

“Uh,” she glanced at Natalie who was now standing just outside the doorway motioning for Betty to get out of there, “I have rounds to make. Maybe later.”

“Maybe later?” Natalie chuckled as she and Betty headed down separate hallways.

The next morning there was a more than usual graveness to the atmosphere in the nursing home.

“What’s going on?” Betty asked in a whisper.

“Maggie died last night.” Natalie hummed the theme to the Twilight Zone show.

Betty suddenly felt unusually queasy in her stomach.

Hesitantly she agreed to pack up the few remaining items of Maggie’s pale existence. As she place items in the cardboard box her eyes were strangely and repeatedly drawn toward the yellow plastic toy phone on the bedside table. Hesitantly she reached for it and withdrew as though it were a dozing wart infested toad that would pounce on her face if she dared disturb it.

She made sure no one else was in sight, especially Natalie, and feeling rather foolish she reluctantly placed the small receiver to her ear.

“Hello, Betty.” A gentle masculine voice that she had known but did not recognize called her by name, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you. You’ve had me on hold for a long time.”


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This article has been read 471 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 07/24/08
Sooooo good, it gave me goosebumps at the end.
Joanne Sher 07/26/08
Absolutely excellent characterization for all three characters (SO hard to do in just 750 words!) and a great story with a PERFECT ending. Wonderful.
Connie Allen07/26/08
I loved this piece. I wish all of us knew Jesus this way. Our time will come. p.s. I do know HIM this way personally, I trust you do too.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/29/08
I agree that this is soooo good and made me have goose bumps at the end. It's just a wonderful story.