12.22.2014 Journal Prompt

Image from The Wrestler
Image from The Wrestler

December 22, 2014: He promised he’d call.

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4 thoughts on “12.22.2014 Journal Prompt

  1. I know I said I’d call. I said it. And she’ll be waiting by the phone. I fucking know that too. Chrissakes, I know that. ‘Just to say when you’ll be home,’ she said. ‘Just to let me know.’ It ain’t fair not to phone. I get that. And I want to do the right thing. I fucking do, really. Only, I can’t right now figure out what’s right and what’s wrong.

    Sure, I been drinking. Ain’t no crime in that. Since ‘bout five or there’bouts. And maybe that’s it. Maybe my thoughts is all scrambled like drink can do. That happens. Shit happens. Get fucking used to it or sue me. I check my pockets for loose change and I got me enough to make the call.

    ‘There’s a payphone out front,’ the barman says. ‘Just a step or two up the street.’

    The clock above the bar says seven and I ask if it’s telling it right. ‘It’s seven some place, the barman says,’ and he winks to show he’s making fun. ‘Might as well be seven here as anywhere.’ And he winks at me again and he puts another drink down on the bar and one for the lady beside me.

    ‘Course there’s a fucking lady and maybe she’s the reason I ain’t calling, so shoot me. Her name’s Kitty. It’s short for Katherine. Spelled with a ‘k’ like the Hepburn actress. She told me that. She’s pretty, Kitty is, real pretty. The sort of pretty that makes you take a second look and a third. The sort of pretty that gets you licking your lips and smiling for no reason. Shit, and if I’m honest, I don’t really know why she’s with me at the bar. We’re both a little drunk maybe. Me, I reckon I’m a lot drunk.

    ‘I’ve gotta make a call,’ I say out loud, saying it to no one and for no reason.

    ‘Call me,’ says Kitty, and she makes the shape of a phone with her smallest finger and her thumb, and she holds it to her ear, and she gestures for me to do the same. I make that call and not the one I should make. I call Kitty and on the pretend phone I tell her I think she’s knock-out pretty and I ask her if I can take her out some time. She just laughs and she says, ‘Sure,’ and she says, ‘Why not?’ Then she leans across to me and kisses me, slow and slippy and not like a phone kiss at all. ‘But wouldn’t it be better to just take me home?’ she says into her pretend phone, and she just lives around the corner, she says.

    And maybe it’s the drink and I ain’t thinking straight. That’s all the excuse I got; or maybe it’s Kitty and her kisses tasting of liquor and I swear she’s so fucking pretty that she shouldn’t be with me, not ever. And she makes a show of hanging up her phone, a whole slow and sexy show of it, and she says for me to hang up now, too. I do as she says, like it’s a real phone.

    I settle the bill at the bar and I buy us a bottle of something to take away. We leave together, me and Kitty. She holds my hand and she leads the way. She’s laughing and she’s saying, ‘Good call, soldier,’ and I know I ain’t no fuckwit soldier but for tonight I ain’t exactly me neither, and I don’t think Kitty is exactly Kitty, or Katherine with a ‘k’ like the Hepburn actress.

  2. David

    Tough story. NIcely written. Like the reality in the bar scene description, and the decision to not call. Open ended ending: what happens next.

  3. David

    Making deliveries in the city is always tough. Especially during the holidays. Elijah knew that when he hired on to deliver packages. He went to the warehouse early and got his van all loaded up, and could see that it would be a long day. After all it was Christmas Eve and everyone wanted their package delivered by nightfall.

    Elijah wore a Santa hat while driving and thought at least that was fun; might as well get a laugh out of it. His beat up old van was going to have to make it through one more day at least so he could make these deliveries–keeping the customers happy, keeping the kids from disappointment.

    Elijah knew about disappointment. He was one of many for whom Christmas does not bring happy memories. He just remembered his parents arguing all the time. At Christmas it was just more arguing, about who got what, whose turn it was, whether someone in the family would deserve something or not. Christmas was just another day of arguing for Elijah and his sister growing up. Dad was always promising, always disappointing, and Mom was always making excuses.

    Now here Elijah got this job where he was to make sure that kids were not disappointed. That grownups would have a smile on their faces as they went to sleep Christmas Eve. That kids didn’t have to listen to arguments when they woke up Christmas Day. No disappointments on his route. Like Santa Claus, I guess, he thought and daydreaming almost ran a light. Like Santa Claus. His pager went off again. No time to read it–keep going.

    There was one thing on his mind that he had to keep in focus no matter how busy he became: He had promised to make a phone call at the end of his day. No matter what I do today, no matter how tired I am, I gotta make that call. I promised.

    He had been working the city streets all day, getting pages that someone else wanted their package delivery, or the address had changed, or someone wouldn’t be home to sign for it. His pager went off constantly as he moved up and down the city. Everyone in a hurry, people shouting and yelling at him as he tried to make the lights, get the turns when the traffic cleared. Gotta get this next delivery. Once in awhile he would have to stop to use a pay phone to check in with the office.

    Today’s technical world has decided that Santa Claus is a myth, and since you can’t see or taste a myth, it’s not important. Where children in small villages everywhere used to wait for Kris Kringle, or Pere Noel, or Papa Noel, or Santa, today’s world has moved on to look at ads and last minute deals and lists. Lists of kids and what they want, list of what to get the office staff, lists of what to bring or what to wear. But then there are people like Elijah. Trying to keep up with promises made, make the delivery on time, give others hope in a world of arguments.

    Elijah was now half way through his day. He brought a lunch which he took down at the traffic light pauses. Slugged it through with coffee laced with cream and sugar. His pager kept going off with more messages, he tried to stay focused on one delivery at a time. One delivery at a time. People paging their hopes, pleading, yelling, threatening–everything that life had taught them would get them what they wanted. Get the delivery here now. Please.

    He thought about the phone call he promised. He had a girl friend a few years back. Jessica. They didn’t always get along. Sometimes they got into arguments that seemed really important at the time. But then they seemed dumb now that he was gone. He left several years ago. Never wanted to go back. When he left he had told her “If you ever need help you can always page me.” Not thinking it would ever happen. But then yesterday he got the page: “Call me. Jesse. Important.”

    There is something magical about the end of the year, the beginning of the new. It follows the winter solstice, close to the time when the earth begins to move in its orbit and lengthen the days we feel. It is not by accident the early Christians placed their sacred holiday near the time that the days started to get longer once again for Spring. Also time for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. In Buddhism there is the ringing of the bell at New Year’s. All in anticipation, all looking back saying what did we do last year and what could be do better next? What magical things will take place this season that will change our lives? What can we hope for? And so on go the anxiety and adrenaline and demands. Calling the delivery guy, wanting it now, hoping no one will be disappointed.

    Many times Elijah would drop off a package at the door, knock and leave: “No signature required,” it would say. Those were easy. Three in ten minutes if they were close to each other. Then there was always the guy who would be at home and wanted to tell his life story while signing for the package. Or the lady who would give him a flirtatious look and ask him what he thought about something. All slowing him down for their own damn needs. These were the things that made the days grow long. But once in awhile, ever so often, there would be a small child at the door. Looking up with wide eyes as a parent signed. “What’s in it?” they would cry in excitement. The parent would look relieved and say “thank you for getting this to us on time.” Those were the stops that made the day go quickly. Keeping the promise for a small child.

    And then his mind would return to the page from yesterday. What was it about? What could she have needed? Finally he got to the pay phone at the end of his route. Put in a quarter. Thank God the phone worked. On the second ring Jesse picked up.
    “Jesse?”
    “Eli?”
    “What’s going on? Are you ok?”
    “Eli I don’t know who else to call. I know we argued a lot and it’s probably all my fault. But I don’t know what to do.”
    “Jesse just say it. What is it?”
    “Eli shortly after you left I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want to tell anyone. Just have the baby and live on my own. Live on welfare and try to get back to school.”
    “What the hell? You never said anything.”
    “I know I know. I was just too proud. I’m trying to make it but can’t make ends meet. The baby boy is now two and we need help.”
    So there he is hanging by a pay phone on a cold winter night with his van motor running. His mind flashed back to his dad and his broken promises, to his mom and her excuses.
    “Well I guess we have to give this another try Jesse.” Eli felt his mouth suddenly very dry. Not knowing how it was going to work out, not sure of where this was going. Eli hung up the phone and headed over to Jesse’s place.

  4. I like the set up here. I like the character of the delivery guy and his trying to do good. But what I don’t get and what this story needs is a reason for why he didn’t return the call immediately, why he waited until the end of the next day. After all, Jesse said it was important. Just a small niggle. Thanks for sharing this and for commenting on my wee thing, too.

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