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 She looked over at Jim who was reading the out-of-date sports magazine that had been in the break room forever.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 Amazon.com 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.
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With thanks and apologies to L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900.

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.

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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).

Dreams and Traditions: Story Sunday

This week’s prompt from StoryADay is to write a story using these words: die, ago, seat, time, imagining, even, making, league, sacrifices, rose. Here’s my version.
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Dreams and Traditions

Sammy was in the on-deck circle, swinging his bat to warm up. His batting helmet was a little too big and it continued to swing around even after Sammy brought the bat back to his shoulder. He looked over at his father in the stands.

Logan gave his son the thumbs-up sign, then brought his finger up to his own eye. It was a signal for Sammy to keep his eye on the ball.

Stewart was in the batter’s box. His father, Ben, was sitting next to Logan. There was no mistaking his communication method.

Ben yelled, “Don’t strike out! Don’t lean too far forward! Don’t forget to shift your weight when you swing!” He rose out of his seat with each exclamation point, as if to command his instructions to penetrate the batting helmet, settling inside Stewart’s skull just in time for the next pitch.

Stewart struck out. “Stewart, why didn’t you listen!” Ben held back none of his disappointment. Hunched over, Stewart made his way back to the dugout, sitting at the farthest point of the bench.

Logan leaned over, “Stewart is making progress. With practice, he’ll figure it out over time. It’s just Little League.”

Ben glared at Logan. “That may be good enough for your son, but not for mine. If Stewart doesn’t learn to listen, he’ll never amount to anything. I’m not having my son think he can get away with failure.”

Logan turned his attention back to the field as Sammy stepped into the batter’s box. Sammy let the first pitch go by.

“Strike One!”

Sammy adjusted his stance, held the bat up over his right shoulder. The pitcher leaned forward and hurled the baseball over home plate.

“Strike Two!”

“Atta boy, Sammy! Focus!” Logan hoped he wasn’t distracting his son. Logan clapped for support, along with Sammy’s teammates and the other parents.

Sammy swung at the next pitch, just managing to nick it, sending it up and over the catcher’s and umpire’s heads.

“Ball One!”

The umpire called time and brushed off the dirt from home plate. Sammy returned to the batter’s box, imagining the bat meeting the ball, hoping for a successful run to first base. The next pitch was just a blur to Sammy.

“Strike Three!”

And the game was over, with Sammy being the last out. Logan waited for Sammy at the dugout opening.

“Dad, I struck out twice. Let’s just go home.”

Logan looked at his son. He knew he couldn’t let his son’s dreams die here on a Little League baseball field.

“Yes, you did. But did you see how high that foul ball went? I mean, the Jolly Green Giant couldn’t have caught that one. You struck out today, but you kept your eye on the ball and I’m so proud of you!”

“Really?” Sammy looked up, hearing the positive note in his father’s voice. “This week I’ll practice really hard and in the next game, maybe I won’t strike out at all!”

“Sounds like a plan! Now, how about some ice cream. After all, a good baseball player follows his traditions, right?”

“Right!” Sammy smiled. Logan tossed the car keys up into the air and Sammy caught them in his glove. Sammy ran to the car ahead of his dad, opening up the trunk to put in his gear. Another one of their small traditions.

Logan noticed Ben and Stewart walking towards their car. He couldn’t make out exactly what Ben was saying, but from the tone of his voice and Ben’s hunched shoulders, he knew it wasn’t pleasant. It wouldn’t be hard to guess why Stewart’s outlook might be bleak, Logan thought.

Logan decided he’d call Ben in a few days to volunteer to pick up Stewart for practice. They lived in a different neighborhood, but Logan thought he could make a few small sacrifices in time and effort to give Stewart a break from Ben always breathing down his back.

“C’mon, Dad! Let’s go!” Sammy was in the car, his seat belt already on.

“You got it, slugger.” Logan slid into the driver’s seat. “So, what’s the ice cream flavor of the day today?”

“Chocolate with sprinkles. Or maybe butterscotch.”

Logan smiled. He wondered where the time had gone, how his chubby little baby boy had grown up enough to be sitting next to him, all decked out in a baseball uniform, dirt clods stuck in his cleats. It wasn’t that long ago that Sammy was just learning how to walk. At least that’s how it seemed to Logan.

“Dad, when will I be eligible for the draft?”

“Well, let me think. If you study hard and graduate from high school, that would make it in 2028. But it would be better if you went to college before starting a professional baseball career.”

“2028?! I can’t even imagine that. It’ll take forever to get here.”

Logan started the car. Let’s hope so, he prayed silently, knowing full well that no matter how long it seemed to Sammy, it would arrive before Logan was ready.

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