The sudden ringing penetrated his daydream, and he slowly opened his eyes. What was that? Ah, it was the telephone. With a heaving sigh, he got up from his chair and walked over to the small console by the front door, dragging his feet. Once his trusted friend, the blasted thing has of late become the bearer of bad news. When Celia was alive, the grandkids used to call every week. But in recent years, the only people who stopped by the cottage were social workers and concerned neighbors.
Just as he laid his hand on the telephone, the sound stopped. He waited. Important matters warranted more than one call, he always thought. But the thing stayed silent. He picked up the receiver and put it to his ear; the force of habit. The dial tone was shrill enough to pierce his eardrum, and he scrunched up his face in disgust.
Shirley was seven when the twins were born. He could still remember her curious green eyes peering over the edge of the bassinet at the two wrapped up motionless bundles. Sometimes he would peer at them as well, his heart skipping a beat until he noticed the smallest sign of life: a jerking toe, a curling lip. Celia would make fun of him, but he knew she understood. Her mischievous smile, despite her twinkling eyes, was full of compassion as that of a nun.
When the boys went off to war, he gave each one a stiff hug and a firm handshake. That was the custom back then. Celia fawned over them, pushing snacks and sandwiches into their overstuffed duffel bags. Her rose-colored lipstick left stains on their cheeks, streaked here and there by their covert, fearful tears. As if they knew.
Celia looked radiant as mother of the bride. Her powder-blue suit matched her eyes, which still had that twinkle, now only seldom displayed. When she waved goodbye to her daughter and son-in-law in their newlyweds' car, she clenched his arm so tightly that he was afraid she might faint. He looked down at her and instinctively put his hand onto hers. He need not have said anything; she knew he understood.
He made his way back to his chair by the window and sat back down. Shirley would come just in time for the memorial service in two months. Maybe this year, the grandkids would join her, he thought for a moment, surprising himself. But he knew better than to expect them. He hadn't seen Megan since she was ten, and she was starting high school soon.
Suddenly, the telephone rang again. He waited for a few seconds, but the ringing persisted. He held his breath, then slowly let it out. He would just let it ring.
Irit Caspi, Telephone
Israeli, b. 1972, playing from Ramat Gan, Israel
Dreamer, crafter, aspiring writer. I have been an English <-> Hebrew translator for about 15 years, and I have always loved to write, especially in English, even though Hebrew is actually my native tongue. Photography is also a favorite hobby of mine, and I love to find hidden corners and street art gems in the various places I visit.
My Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/irit
Thoughts on the Telephone process
It was a very interesting process, to say the least. I found it a bit difficult to connect emotionally with the series of drawings I was sent. But I stared at it for a while, looking at it this way and that, and an image popped into my head. An old man sitting on a chair. And this image developed into the short story I ended up writing. I can't be certain that I deciphered the original message correctly, but I know that, for me, the message was the right one.