Call Me: Story Sunday

Call Me

Standing at the break room sink, Rachel washed her coffee cup. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tina sitting in the corner, hunched over her phone that was laying on top of the table. Turning off the faucet, Rachel reached for a paper towel. She looked over at Jim who was reading the out-of-date sports magazine that had been in the break room forever.

She nodded in Tina’s direction, whispering, “What’s up with her?”

Jim leaned towards Rachel. “She got a new smart phone.”

Rachel sat down next to him, drying her coffee cup. “Why is that a problem? Usually a new electronic toy makes people happy.”

He leaned in conspiratorially. “The new phone isn’t exactly the problem. Turns out there was something wrong with her backup file. It got corrupted and it won’t restore to her new phone. She lost her contact list. Well, other things too, but mostly her contact list.”

“All of it?” Rachel heard how silly that sounded as soon as she said it, wondering if anyone could lose just part of their contact list. “That really stinks. But she can get some of that info directly from people, right? I mean, post on Facebook, get them to call or email you.”

“Yes, and she did that.” Jim closed the magazine.

They both looked over at Tina. She was using her finger to move her phone a few inches one way, then over some more, as if she were hoping for a message from an Ouija board.

Jim set the magazine on the table. ““Remember when we were young? BSM?”

“BSM?” Rachel asked.

“Before Smart Phones. We knew everyone’s phone number and address. These days we barely know our own. This is one of the signs of a decaying civilization.”

Rachel decided not to engage in that particular argument.

Jim continued, “It’s her brother. She doesn’t know his phone number and he’s not on Facebook. But you know Tina, she doesn’t let small things stop her. She planned to drive up to see him next weekend, surprising him, laugh about her new phone story, spend the weekend, and come back with her contact list updated.”

“I’m guessing something else happened.”

“Yes, it gets worse. Her brother had recently moved to north Dallas. She’d visited him once so she had his address in her car’s navigation system. Then Monday her car’s battery died and she got it replaced. POOF! No more nav system data. All gone, just like her phone’s contact list. Now she has no phone number, no address.”

Tina sighed, deeply and slowly. She put her head down on the top of her phone, turning her face to the wall.

Jim shook his head. “All she can do now is wait for her brother to call.”

Looking at Tina with pity, Rachel considered buying an old fashioned hard copy address book. She’d check on after she got home. And maybe even call her sister, you know, just to say hello.

~~~ The End ~~~

What A Day: Story Sunday

What A Day

The first surprise came that morning while Tina was sitting at a STOP sign, waiting to turn. The vehicle behind did not stop and ran into her. No one was hurt, and the only damage was to her vehicle’s rear bumper. The other vehicle was a large commercial truck and wasn’t even scratched. She and the other driver exchanged information, called their insurance companies, took photos with with their smart phones, wished each other a better rest of the day, and departed. The damage wasn’t serious but there was the trouble of getting it repaired, the upcoming inconvenience. Tina sighed. I’ll just have to make the best of a bad situation.

After picking up some photos, Tina shopped for groceries, and ate lunch at a deli. Getting into her car, she took the time to open the photo envelope only to find photos of people she didn’t know; people she hadn’t photographed.

“Cute kid,” Tina said, “but not what I was expecting.” She returned to the photo shop and explained her situation. Fortunately, the clerk was able to track down the other photography packet and found her photos inside. The clerk apologized.

“No harm done,” Tina replied. “I’m just glad I looked at them before I made it all the way home. And I got lucky that the other people hadn’t picked up their packet yet. See you next time.”

On her way home, Tina saw the flashing lights on an emergency vehicle coming from the opposite direction. She turned on her blinker and pulled over, yielding the right of way. She couldn’t see the emergency vehicle as she was at the bottom of a small hill.

“Uh oh,” Tina cried as she looked in her rear view mirror and saw the car behind her as it also started to pull over. Only it wasn’t slowing down. There’s nothing I can do in time to prevent that car from hitting me. She gripped the steering wheel, bracing for the impact. At the last second, the driver swerved back into traffic, barely missing Tina. The car continued on, picking up speed.

No one else was stopping and no emergency vehicle had reached her yet. That’s odd, Tina thought. It was just over the rise when I pulled over, why hasn’t it appeared on this side yet?

She waited a moment more, then eased back into traffic. She passed the firetruck at the bottom of the far side of the hill where the firefighters were attending to a fire hydrant with water gushing out of it. Well, I pulled over like I was supposed to, Tina told herself. It wasn’t my fault they stopped in a place where I couldn’t see them.

Almost home, she breathed a sigh of relief. Tina drove up to the community mail boxes and picked up her mail. Only it wasn’t hers. Again. It happened every once in a while that the mail carrier put her neighbor’s mail into her box. Tina always returned it to the rightful owner, but wondered if her mail was in someone else’s hands and how much of it went missing forever.

Good thing I pay my bills online, otherwise I might be in a world of hurt. She mentally patted herself on the back for preventing any late payments.

“What a day!” Tina declared as she came through her door, dropping her purse just inside. She plopped down on the couch, took off her shoes, and laid down.

In a few minutes, her kitten, Serenity, positioned herself on Tina’s shoulder, purring, gently kneading her paws, back and forth, back and forth. Tina relaxed, trying to let go of the day’s stress.

Then, as kittens are wont to do, she turned into a raging Tasmanian Devil. She nipped Tina’s shoulder – OUCH! — gathered her hindquarters and leapt off the couch, racing around the living room.

Serenity Now

“Oh, Serenity,” Tina pleaded, “not now. I just need a few moments of peace.” Tina got up, approaching her kitten as it sat on the top of the kitchen counter, switching its tail back and forth, a predatory gleam in her eyes. As fast as the wind she sailed off the counter, zooming past Tina.

Tina thought she had Serenity cornered behind the recliner, but as she reached in, the kitten extended her claws, swiped left to right, slicing Tina’s forearm.

Now Tina was mewling, and bleeding. She ran into the bathroom and put her arm under the faucet, turning it on. Rose colored water circled the basin before it went down the drain.

This isn’t how I thought today was going to go, she thought, wrapping a washcloth around the still bleeding scratch. She returned to the impossible task of corralling the Tasmanian Devil racing through her house, wreaking havoc. I love cats, Tina reminded herself, but just right now – another crash from the dining room – not kittens with shark teeth and raptor claws.

~~~ The End ~~~

Out for the Count: Story Sunday

Out for the Count

A.J. decided to get a tattoo so she and Lena were looking at the pictures and drawings on the design wall at the tattoo parlor. A.J. wondered how many colors it would take for what she had in mind and how long it would take.

She moved down the wall. The pictures were mostly of men’s arms and chests: lots of knives, skulls, flames, and hearts; not what she was looking for.

A.J. turned around to ask Lena if she had found anything interesting and, much to her surprise, looked down to see a pair of red high top tennis shoes protruding from the doorway, facing up. She just stood there, looking at them, not making sense of what she saw. She was reminded of the Wicked Witch of the East’s shoes, after the house dropped on her in Oz. Only A.J. knew they weren’t in Oz and she knew those were Lena’s shoes.

She couldn’t hear Lena making any sounds and she wasn’t moving. Was it serious? A.J. thought she should do something, but she wasn’t sure what. Why was Lena on the floor? There hadn’t been any commotion. That yellow tile floor couldn’t have been a soft landing. Was Lena bleeding? A.J. had lots of questions but no answers.

Striped socks reached out of the top of the red high tops, just like the Wicked Witch’s leggings. What was Lena thinking this morning when she got dressed? A.J. watched for singing Munchkins and flying monkeys out of her peripheral vision.

She heard someone tsk-tsk-ing, “Got another one down, Vic. I’ll get the footrest and the ice.” A woman came in a moment later, put a footrest under the high tops and went through the doorway with the ice pack. She had platinum blonde hair, teased really high, with a little flip at the ends, just above her shoulders. She was wearing a rhinestone headband and her blouse had lots of sequins; she sparkled as she passed by.

Sparkles wasn’t panicky. “Are you with her?” she asked, peering back through the doorway, motioning towards the red shoes.

“I think so”, A.J. replied.

“You need to stay near her. Don’t let her get up until she totally comes to. Hand her the ice pack if her she has a headache. Keep her feet elevated to get the blood flowing back to her head.”

“Okay,” A.J. agreed. She finally went over to the doorway. Lena was definitely out for the count, looking very much like she was asleep, sort of like Sleeping Beauty.

Then A.J. saw what Lena had seen: a man in the process of getting a tattoo, with blood oozing from the needle’s insertion points. It wasn’t a lot of blood and the tattooist was wiping it away, but A.J. guessed it must have been enough to cause Lena to faint. She wondered if this had happened to Lena before.

Sparkles approached the tattoo station and pulled a curtain across, blocking the tattoo-in-progress from view. “Don’t pay any attention to them, hon. We just don’t want your friend getting another fright and passing out again.”

Lena came to in a few minutes, definitely groggy. They helped her to her feet and put her in a chair. A.J. drove her pick up around to the front of the shop. She and Sparkles got Lena situated, buckling her seat belt. Closing the door, A.J. thanked the woman again for her help, saying she’d be back next weekend, alone.

The woman handed her a business card and waved goodbye. A.J. stuck the card in her back pocket and didn’t look at it until later, after she took Lena home and made sure she was feeling okay. Turns out the Wizard Tattoo Shoppe was owned by Victor and Glenda Fleming. She did remind me of Glinda the Good Witch of the South, A.J. thought. Maybe the shop was in Oz.

With thanks and apologies to L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900.

Word of the Day: Story Sunday

Word of the Day

Melanie was just packing up her books when her cellphone rang. Her mother was waiting for her in front of Annie’s house.

“Gotta go, Annie,” Melanie swung her backpack up onto her shoulder, “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” Annie and Melanie were studying for their entrance exams, wanting to get good scores so they could both get into the same university.

After Melanie got in, Janice pulled away from the curb, throwing her soda can out the window. Frowning, Melanie buckled her seat belt. “Mom, that’s littering. Why do you do that? And please put on her your seat belt. You know it’s for your own safety.”

“Oh, sweetheart, it rubs my neck raw. I always look like I have a hickey. It’s so unsightly.”

Melanie sighed. Sometimes she wondered how hard her mother worked at making up these excuses for not doing the right thing.

“Did you give Rosie the DVDs I made for her?” Rosie was Annie’s mother.

“Yes, Mom, of course I did. But you know copying DVDs is illegal, right?”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s not really wrong, is it?” Janice looked over at her daughter and smiled. “I mean, Rosie just had foot surgery and can barely afford her medicine. I’m just helping out a friend, right? What’s wrong with that?”

“Well someone thinks it’s wrong or else there wouldn’t be an FBI warning at the start of each DVD. You know, the one where it mentions the possible $250,000 fine and five years in federal prison.” Melanie repeated herself, speaking slowly for emphasis. “FED-ER-AL PRI-SON.”

“You worry too much. I do it all the time and it’s no big deal. Let’s talk about something else. Did you and Annie study vocabulary today? What was your word of the day?”

Excoriate. Our word of the day was excoriate.” Melanie wondered yet again what, if anything, could be done to get her mother to stop her little legal indiscretions. “It means to criticize severely, to denounce.”

Janice had never heard the word before. “I know what it means, Melanie.” She pulled into their driveway. “You go on and get settled and I’ll start dinner.”

They had just sat down to eat when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it.” Melanie put her napkin on the table and got up. She came back followed by two men in suits and sunglasses.

“Mom, the FBI wants to talk to you.”

“Excuse me?” Janice put down her fork, perplexed.

“Janice James? I’m Special Agent Tony Brand and this is Special Agent Bruce Talbot. We’re here about the illegal DVD copies you’ve been making.”

“Oh, officers,” Janice began, “I can explain . . . “

“Ma’am, we’re not police officers. And you’ll have to come with us.”

“No really, Mr. – I mean Agent, uh, sir, there must be some mistake.”

“There’s no mistake. This way, please.” Each agent took one of Janice’s arms and led her to their black SUV with heavily tinted windows.

Janice raised her voice, as if an elevated decibel level would make the FBI agents change their minds. “This can’t be happening. Really, I . . . I can’t go to prison. I’m not a criminal! I floss everyday. I write poetry for Pete’s sake!”

They put her in the back seat, closed the door, and drove off. Standing in the doorway, Melanie wondered if the judge would excoriate her mother at her hearing.

Until Further Notice: Story Sunday

Until Further Notice

Katie arrived early at the office, as usual. She liked the quiet time at her desk before all the others came in. Everyone else also liked this arrangement, as they knew how irritable Katie was first thing in the morning. It hadn’t taken long at all for people to call her Cranky Katie, sometimes even to her face.

She hadn’t convinced herself that she had an attitude problem, but she did notice feeling let down after the holiday season. She was all smiles from Halloween through Valentine’s and then – POOF! Smiling Katie disappeared and Cranky Katie took her place.

“Morning, Katie,” Joe ventured a tentative greeting as he came into the office.

“Sure,” Katie replied, not looking up from her notebook.

Joe lingered at her cubicle opening, standing there quietly.

“Yes?” she asked, somewhat curtly.

He extended his arm, offering her a small, white bag. “I brought you some breakfast tacos.”

She turned to look at him. “Thanks. What’s the occasion?” Taking the bag, she could feel that the tacos were still warm.

Joe sat down in the one extra chair crammed into the cubicle corner. “Nothing particularly special. But really,” he said, opening up his own bag, “do we need to wait for some specific square on a calendar to appreciate what we already have?”

“Oh, so now you’re a philosopher?” Katie opened the foil on her taco, adding some salsa.

“Not exactly. I’m just following some advice my grandmother Celeste gave me a long time ago.”

Katie paused, wondering what a little grey-haired old lady could have said to a young man so many years ago that led to him bringing in breakfast tacos today. She looked at Joe, waiting.

“She said, ‘Until further notice, celebrate everything.’ “

“Hmm,” Katie responded as she finished off the first taco. “Interesting concept. And you’ve gone along with that ever since?”

“Not as often as I’d like, but as often as I can.”

Smiling, Katie reached for another taco, deciding to give Cranky Katie the day off.


Background: A few years ago, I was making plans to visit my friend Celeste in North Carolina when she died unexpectedly. A short time before her death, she mailed a card to me and it said, “Until further notice, celebrate everything.” Like Joe in the story, I don’t do that as often as I’d like, but I try to do it as often as I can.

And breakfast tacos are a culinary staple in the southwest (and possibly other areas, as well).