Monday, January 19, 2015

The Prank Caller

It was 2:00 a.m. Late-night/early morning calls always frighten me, since the news is usually not good, unless the birth of a child was imminent. And this time there was no new grandchild on the horizon. I stumbled through the dark house to answer.


A voice on the other end responded, "Hi."

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Who is this?" The voice sounded young, the voice of a young boy, I thought, or perhaps a girl, but it was hard to tell. It was not a voice I recognized.

I replied, "No, you were the one who called. Who are you trying to reach?"

"I don't know. Who am I talking to?"

"This is Granny."

"Hi Granny."

"Who are you, and who are you calling?"

"I'm calling you. How are ya, Granny?"

"I'm fine, but I'm sleepy and need to go back to bed. Goodbye."

"Wait! Did I wake you up? I'm sorry, Granny."

The apologetic tone paused my hand. "It's okay, but why are you up so late? Don't your parents make you go to bed earlier than this?"

"They don't care."

"I'm sure they do. It's a school night--you should be sleeping."

"I don't live with my parents."

"Really. Who do you live with, then?"

"Oh, some people.They don't care if I stay up late or if I go to school or not." I was stunned into silence for a moment.

"Well, I'm old, I need my sleep, so I am going back to bed. And you should go to school."

"You don't sound old, and I sure wish you would just talk to me." I hesitated again. He sounded plaintive, and young, and he didn't live with his parents. Who was this child?

"About what?"

"Well, what did you do today?"

"I told stories at a school."

"You told stories? That's cool.What kind of stories?"

And so we talked for a little while, and then I finally said good night and went back to bed. But the voice stayed in my mind. I wondered who this young person was, where they lived, and who allowed him to stay up on school nights. I imagined him in a mobile home out some dirt road in the country, lying on a bunk bed in a small crowded bedroom, looking out the window at the night. Or maybe in some rundown house in a small rural town, and the people he lived with were drinking beer and playing cards in the kitchen. Maybe I was all wrong and his family was well-to-do and he was just making things up. I drifted off to sleep finally, but his voice was in my dreams.

He called again a few weeks later, not as late this time, and not talking as quietly. I could hear people talking in the background, and a TV commercial.

"Hey Granny."

"Well hello! Did you dial me by accident again?"

"No, I just called you. What are you doing tonight?"

"I'm writing," I said. "And talking to you. What are you doing?"

"Nothing. That's pretty much all I do. Nowhere to go, nothing to do except watch TV. And talk to you. Tell me a story."

So I told him a story,a short, funny dog story. Then we said good bye, and I hung up the phone.

He called again twice after that, and each time I told him a story. I never knew his name or much of anything else about him, but I liked that child for whatever reason. The calls stopped coming finally. Maybe he got bored with the game, or maybe he moved to another living arrangement. I wish I knew.

It's been at least 5 years I last heard that husky voice. I wish I knew if he went to school, graduated and moved on with his life. He will be one of those little mysteries life hands us from time to time, a person who touches us briefly and moves on.

Wherever he is, I wish him well, and I hope he knows that this Granny still thinks of him from time to time, especially when the phone rings late at night.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Celia said...

Oh my, you were so gentle and kind with him. So many lonely kids out there.

Granny Sue said...

I have worried about him, Celia. I hope he ended up okay. It sounded like a less-than-ideal home environment, but maybe it was better than I feared. I hope so.

storytellermary said...

Beautiful story, and a reminder that, even if we can't solve all the problems, we can at least be kind and hope that it helps. I love the story. (Don't think the title quite fits, though. More of a mystery caller ;-)

Jenny said...

Oh my Susanna - who knows, maybe he'll call again someday. You know the quote 'grandparents always have time for you when everyone else is too busy'. I'm sure he'll remember that in your case. It's too bad you didn't have caller ID to figure out where the # came from.

Nance said...

this brought goose bumps up and down my arms and back. Don't you wish you could embrace and make better every lonely child in your world.

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