The Telephone Call

Life offers two types of pain, one physical and one mental. Man still hasn’t found a tougher prison than the one he encages his mind in. There is no greater pain than the mental anguish we inflict on ourselves and there is no tougher warden than the person we see in the mirror. For some there is no midnight reprieve, the governor doesn’t offer clemency. There is only one way out and no two people can share the path.

I didn’t see him approach. I didn’t notice anything about him including his presence until he was standing in front of us, waving a gun and shouting for our wallets. I have a bad habit of giggling when I am nervous. I don’t like being the center of attention and now was certainly a bad time to laugh, but laugh I did.

5’8 or so and about a buck twenty sopping wet with a bad haircut and a Judas Priest shirt, that is all he was, oh and he had a big gun and an even bigger attitude. He grabbed my collar and asked me what was so funny. Before I could answer he had grabbed you.

You screamed as he pulled you in front of him and asked me if I thought that this was funny. I choked back a snigger and told him that it wasn’t. He told me that if I so much as smiled he would kill you. I wiped the smile off of my face.

It was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know it. The jackass cuffed me in the side of the head and laughed. It infuriated me, brought back memories of years of being teased and tortured by someone who had been like an older brother to me. So I just reacted. I kicked him in the balls and smacked him in the head.

“What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt”
Hurt– Nine Inch Nails

It feels like a million years ago but I remember it vividly. You and I were so very in love but that night the love was buried beneath anger. Maybe if we would have had some more life experience we might have recognized that fear and uncertainty was what caused that fight between us.

Maybe if I hadn’t beaten a man to death in front of you I wouldn’t have felt the need to walk away. Maybe if I hadn’t been arrested and frog walked to a squad car I wouldn’t have been so ashamed. Maybe if I had accepted that it wasn’t entirely my fault I would have been able to look you in the eyes.

That is an awful lot of ‘maybes’ and there is no saying now what could have happened. Would have, could have should have aren’t things that I can let myself think about. It is too painful.

So I stopped taking your calls and started walking, maybe not literally but in this case figurative works. I got lost in myself and I couldn’t talk to you. I didn’t know how. I barely knew how to talk to myself.

Time passed and I started to think about calling you but I couldn’t figure out what to say so I stayed silent. Can’t remember how I heard that you were married but if there was a thought in my mind about calling you that killed it.

Couldn’t imagine you introducing me to your family, what would you say.

“I used to love this guy until he killed the guy who tried to mug us and went crazy.”

Actually I didn’t go crazy- it just took a while to process it.

And now more than twenty years later I am lying in the dark holding the phone in my hand listening to your voice- wondering how you found my number and why you called.

My heart is pounding and my mouth is dry. I feel like my tongue is stuck to the top of my roof.

“I am in trouble and I need your help. They’re back.”

And then the other memories hit me like a torrent of water and I remember why I had to walk away from the woman I planned to marry.

This is based on the following prompt from The Red Dress Club:
“In the middle of the night, you get an urgent call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Something terrible has happened. What is it and why is he/she calling you?”

here are links to past Red Dress Club Posts:

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  1. Cheryl April 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I liked this, the idea of a single reactionary act changing the course of someone’s life. I don’t think you needed that first graph. It didn’t move the story forward.

    Editing-wise, don’t start a sentence with a number: Five-foot-eight it shoulda been.

    Loved the ending. Definitely made me want to hear more.

    • Jack April 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Damn AP style guide rules bite me in the butt again. 😉 The beginning and the end often are trickier for me than anything else. It is that trick of capturing the reader and then ending things in a way that leave them wanting more that I wish I was better at.

      I definitely think that sometimes one event changes everything in a person’s life.

  2. The Drama Mama April 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I actually like the first paragraph. It seemed like a great starter to me. The voice was the same throughout, and I think it set your character very well. I had a good idea what kind of man he was just based on those few sentences in the beginning. I like that you compared life to prison. It’s a nice metaphor. I have heard it before, but you put it so eloquently.

    torrent of water…frog walked…buck twenty sopping wet…I loved these images. They make the story vivid and it comes alive.

    I’m really hoping for more. I too am wondering who “they” are and what the memories are that really caused him to separate from the love of his life.

    • Jack April 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      I think that the guy I write about is pretty consistent throughout all of my Fragments of Fiction and TRDC pieces, or at least that is my goal.

      If you really like this I encourage you to read through Fragments of Fiction- there is a lot there that is tied into this.

  3. Carina April 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    You always have powerful emotions behind all actions. They’re perfect in that flawed, human way and almost too believable.

    I want to know who is back and why she’d call him. You’ve got me hooked.

  4. Mommylebron April 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Wow, your ability to weave heartbreak and action is breath taking. I always find your stories to moving. I can relate to the nervous laughter and I love the song lyrics.

  5. ayala April 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Those expierances are ones that in the end make us stronger . Good write, Jack.

  6. Renee April 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Who’s back?
    Good story. And I want to know more.

    The first paragraph was a bit wordy, but after that the flow picked up and I went along for the ride.

  7. Jennifer April 15, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I agree with Sara about the beginning, and going back to read it I felt that the story really started with the second paragraph. I really loved that someone that he didn’t even notice so dramatically changed the course of his life and thought that the imagery of being frog walked to the cop car was really nice. I found it really interesting that the fact that he killed him, beat him to death almost seemed incidental compared to losing his lady love.

    I too wanted to know what she meant by “They are back,” largely because their had been no previous introduction to other attackers during the initial incident.

    I thought that the internal monologue and the construction of his loss was really strong in this piece.

  8. Sara April 15, 2011 at 8:07 am

    This story started a bit slow, but definitely picked momentum with the bank and beating of the man. I could see how this kind of terrible and terrifying situation could be harm a relationship. Killing a person would definitely spin your head. It made sense that he needed space and time to process.

    I was a bit taken back by the ending. I didn’t expect where it went. You really left me wondering and I wish you would finish this one. I want to know what she meant by “they’re back.”

    A good story and an interesting take on the prompt. Thanks for sharing this.

    p.s. Due to construction at my site (posts disappear without warning), I have moved my story to a friend’s site. If you want to read my story, go here I would love your thoughts about the story.

    • Jack April 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      I sort of wrestled a bit with this one. I took some pieces of other stories and wove them into it. I think that given more words I could have done better. Although it is also reasonable to say that I could have pulled the recycled material out.

      That twist at the end made me smile- I have a plan for it but can’t reveal it yet. 😉

  9. Frelle April 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

    wow. awesome. what a convoluted tale you wove in such a short time!!

  10. Teresa Kander April 15, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Oh wow…so many of these are leaving me wanting to know more! Great job!!

  11. Lisa April 15, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Very interesting piece. I like the detail of the Judas Priest shirt, and the song lyrics.

  12. Dan Cristo April 15, 2011 at 3:34 am

    That story sparked a bit of emotion in me while reading it. Quite believeable for such an extreme scenario. Great writing there.

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