The short story that’s out there, in the world, called “Rocket” was peeled off the backstory of what I’m working on, now.
It’s still pretty roghshod, but it’s starting to look like something.
Here’s a piece that will change a dozen times before I’m done.
The call that comes in the middle of the night, do I answer it?
I thought I was going to sleep, but I was restless – too much coffee in the afternoon. The phone rang and it was the long, slow hours after midnight. I didn’t know what to do. At first, I tried to ignore it. Maybe it would go away on its own. It didn’t. Then, I imagined who it could be calling me so late. Was it the sysadmin? Did the server melt at work, and it’s all hands on deck? But why would he call me about it? I was HelpDesk Support – practically entry level with no one under me. Was it a woman, drunk and calling me from some bar, looking for a ride home in a fake emergency – some cheap, disgusting seduction that I did not want and it had been so long that I couldn’t imagine what woman it might be.
The phone kept ringing. I was wide awake, staring at the ceiling. I should have answered it right away. It was a wrong number. I would answer it and then it would stop, and it would no longer ring.
I didn’t answer it, yet.
I don’t know anybody well enough to warrant an emergency call. My friends were all coworkers. I log-off the computer in the home office after work, and that’s it. I rarely leave the apartment, anymore. It was kind of sad when I thought about it like that, but this wasn’t the hour of the night when anyone’s allowed to lie to themself. I don’t have any real friends that call like this since my mother died. Honestly, I don’t want the call. I don’t want to be the one who receives the call so late at night – the emergency call – and the fact that I don’t want that responsibility is why I don’t have close friends like that. I’m staring at the ceiling, waiting for the voicemail to take the call.
Let it go to voicemail.
I’d ignore it until morning.
People shouldn’t call me like that, so late.
It’s almost at voicemail. If I was going to answer it, I was running out of time.
At least I should check the Caller ID. But, if I do that, I might as well answer the phone, because it will already be in my hands, and it’s probably important, if it isn’t a wrong number.
Let the voicemail take it. The voicemail never sleeps, and never lies awake late into the night because of too much afternoon coffee.
The phone is in my hands before it can get to voicemail. The Caller ID is an unknown number, somewhere from Manhattan. Wrong number, most likely. I answer it. My voice sounds like sandpaper.
-I think you have the wrong number.
-Marty is that you?
-Marty, you have to come. They’re going to kill me.
-Dad, are you drunk?
-Marty, listen. I don’t want to die, Marty. You have to come up here and talk some sense into these assholes.
-Dad, it’s, like, 3 AM.
-They’re going to kill me, Marty! They’ve all decided! I need help! Goddamit, Marty, I don’t know what to do! I’ve never asked for anything from you before, and I’m shit scared!
-Dad, try to calm down. It’s late. Call me tomorrow.
-You’re hanging me out to dry! You’re just as bad as them and you’re my own flesh and blood!
He slammed the phone receiver down on something three or four times, like he wanted to slap me through it.
-Dad! Dad, stop shouting!
He hung up on me.