Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHONE (11/10/16)
TITLE: Some Old Lady
By Jan Ackerson
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Once home, she plugs the stranger’s phone into her charger and wonders if it would be too nosy to look at the array of apps. That seems oddly personal, but whoever owns the phone hasn’t set a password; everything there is available for Teri to see. While she’s debating opening one of the little icons, a text message comes in:
Teri’s heart thumps—she feels weirdly as if she’s been caught at something—but she starts to type out a reply, detailing where she found the phone and asking if the texter can connect her with its owner. Before she’s finished, though, a second message appears:
get over here now
This concerns Teri—is someone in trouble?—so she backspaces over her half-finished text and responds:
This isn’t who you think. I found this phone.
She waits. There’s no response, and Teri starts to worry, imagining all sorts of scenarios. After several minutes, she sends another text.
I found this phone at the Southfield Mall. I’d like to return it to its owner.
No response. But several hours later, the phone rings. Teri jumps at the unfamiliar ringtone, then answers, “Hello?”
A young woman’s voice. “Who’s this?”
“My name’s Teri. I found this phone. Are you the owner?”
“You find it at the mall? Leopard print case?”
“Yes, in the parking lot outside Penney’s. I’ll bring it to you, if you tell me your name and where you live.”
There’s a moment of hesitation, then the young woman says, “My name’s Sammie. You don’t hafta bring it where I live. Bring it to the mall.”
Teri agrees, but before hanging up, she says, “Oh, I forgot. You got a text. Someone wanted to see you right away, but I suppose it’s too late. I’m so sorry.”
“Who’s it from?”
“Oh! Let me see…” Teri has to remind herself how to check the name on the text while keeping her conversation with Sammie active. She touches a few icons, then: “It was someone named PJ.”
Sammie swears. “What’d you tell him?”
“Just that I’d found this phone.”
“You tell him where to get it? Where you live?”
Teri takes a deep breath. This conversation is falling entirely outside of her realm of experience. “No.”
“If he text you again, don’t say you talked to me. Don’t say nothin’.”
“I certainly will not. Shall we meet in, say, fifteen minutes?” Teri can hear Sammie talking to someone else: be right back…watch the baby…PJ…some old lady… The voices are muffled, but Teri thinks there’s probably an argument going on. Sammie comes back to the phone, though.
“Meet me at Penney’s. Don’t answer no texts.” She hangs up.
Teri thinks for a minute, mildly annoyed at realizing she’s some old lady. But she collects a few items in a canvas shopping bag before heading out to the mall.
Sammie is waiting for her in an old car, with a sleeping baby in the back seat. She opens her car door and says, “You Teri? You got my phone?”
Teri nods, passes it over. “Are you…safe? Can I help you?” She holds out the canvas bag. “This is just…a few things. I thought maybe you could use them.”
Sammie looks at Teri, eyes narrowed. She reaches for the bag, then looks inside. It’s a ridiculous assortment, Teri realizes: a can of soup, some cookies, a half-used package of diapers from her grandson’s last visit. A pretty notecard with Teri’s phone number and address. Twenty dollars.
Sammie laughs without humor and shakes her head, then gets back into her car. She spends the twenty on formula and a candy bar. She almost throws the notecard away, but the purple flowers are very pretty; she rests it against the couch, where the baby will see it from her porta-crib. Maybe she’ll call that old lady someday.
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