The phone went ping bong. We have a phone that goes ping bong rather than a ringer because they are more settling to the nerves. Sometimes I have trouble with the phone, because the doorbell also goes ping bong, but this time I know that it was [quoteright'/>the phone because I had just opened the front door and was staring rather vacantly out upon our front yard when it went ping bong again.
Ann answered. "Hello? Hello?"
Then she called me. I went to the kitchen, where the phone is. She handed it to me without a word. I took the phone and put it to my ear.
Nothing. I listened a little more closely and was able to detect signs of breathing on the other end.
"Well, I'll be damned," said I, "an obscene phone caller." Because there seemed to be no answer forthcoming and because there seemed to be little else to do, I hung up.
After I hung up, I began to think about what had just transpired. Could my caller actually be classified as an obscene caller? After all, whoever it was who had called hadn't actually said anything. Since I didn't know if the person who had called me was a he or a she, we decided to name our caller "It".
About a month later, almost to the day, our phone rang. It was a little after midnight. Since I was closer, I answered.
It had struck again.
"Listen, if you absolutely have to call, I can understand, but how about calling a little earlier in the evening? I have to go to work tomorrow. 'bye, now." With that, I hung up.
Ping bong went the phone.
"Alright, It, now you've done it. I'm going to leave the phone off of the hook." And I did.
Again, almost exactly one month later, the phone rang, but earlier in the evening this time. Again, I happened to be closer, so I answered.
"Oh, hi It. How have you been? Say, I really appreciate you calling earlier this time. Hold on for a minute, will you?" I called to Ann. "Honey, it's It. Do you want to listen to it breathe?
"I can't right now, I'm right in the middle of sewing. Ask It if it can call back a little later."
"Well, how about it, It? Can you call back a little later? Say, before ten o'clock?"
The phone went click. I didn't know if that meant yes or no, so for lack of information I decided to just wait and see what would happen. For almost two months, nothing happened. I began to think that maybe It was mad at us because Ann wouldn't take time to come to the phone and listen to it breathe. Finally, just when we were beginning to fear that we were never to hear from It again, the phone rang and it was It!
"My God, It, where have you been? We've been worried sick! If you weren't going to call, the least you could have done was drop us a post card. We were afraid that you were hurt, or maybe even dead! Honey, it's It! Listen It, don't do this again, OK? If you're not going to call, let us know. Otherwise we just worry."
Click went the phone.
It never called again. The reason may have been that It just couldn't face up to the responsibility of calling every month on the month, but I think it was because we got one of those tape recorders that answers the phone. Can you imagine the sheer frustration of calling someone up, having a machine tell you to leave a message when you hear the tone, and having absolutely nothing to say?
We haven't given up hope though. Maybe It will buy its own machine, and program it to breathe into our machine's ear.
BILL HARVEY used to submit his material to us with increasingly exorbitant demands for payment. One dollar, five dollars -- who knows where it would have ended? He is now satisfied with mere fame.
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