The Telephone a short story by Sponsoring Member author and artist Stephen Halpert #Humor

The Telephone a short story by Sponsoring Member author and artist Stephen Halpert #Humor

The Telephone by Stephen Halpert

Karen and Pete loved the old Cape. The price was right, and they jumped at it.
Pete loved the stone fireplace, high hearth, and wide pine floorboards. Karen fell in love with the slope of the roof, the original fluted glass windowpanes, and especially the antique crank telephone built into the wall of the kitchen. She lifted the receiver, heard only silence, laughed, and hung up.
“Just for looks,” she said. “Unless you want to install a land line in it.”
But Pete shook his head. “We couldn’t do that. Historic relics must be preserved. It’s a part of the house. Besides we’ve got our cell phones.”
During the next two weeks the Cape was totally refurbished and brought into the 21st century. They moved in a month later. Though married for close to five years living in the Cape prompted them to feel like newlyweds.
“Ours,” Pete said feeling manly and responsible. He wandered from room to room with a newfound swagger.
“Ours,” Karen agreed with a smile, knowing that here was where she would raise her family.
Just then the phone in the kitchen rang.
It was a different sort of ring, more the sound of a bicycle bell than a phone. She was making pancakes. What kind of a joke is this? She thought, picking it up.
The silence gave way to garbled sounds. Karen held the earpiece away from her and stared at it. Then an elderly female voice said. “Karen. Is that you? This is Aunt Mae.”
Karen’s stomach lurched, her face reddened, and she almost dropped the receiver. “But you’re gone, Aunt Mae. For a long time now.” The voice sounded shaky and small.
“What are you saying dear?”
‘”That you’re dead,” she sputtered. Tears filled her eyes.
“Of course not,” Aunt Mae said. “Women who cook never die. We just go to a bigger kitchen.”
The line went dead.
She hung it up and rushed into the den. Pete was at his computer, contemplating e-trades on the net.
She told him.
He stood up, hugged her, and gently patted her shoulders. “Sounds like there’s more stress in moving than either of us realized.”
“I’m not stressed,” she said firmly.
“Of course not.” He stroked her hair. “Maybe your imagination got the better of you. You know, one of those waking dreams.”
“I wasn’t dreaming!” Her voice rose. Then she clamped her lips, turned, and opened the ‘fridge.
They had supper, or he did. She had lost her appetite and decided to turn in early.
Pete kissed her. “I’ll clean up in here,” he smiled. “Oh, what a wonderful home we have!” Then he kissed her again and she went to bed.
Several minutes later the bicycle bell ring sounded. Pete frowned, looked at the phone and reluctantly picked up the receiver.
“Pete? That you?”
He gulped. “Uncle Joe? It’s you?”
He heard a familiar laugh. Then the smell of his uncle’s cigar filled the kitchen. “I’ve only a moment. Tomorrow before noon pick up twenty-five thousand shares of Amalgamated Concrete. You can afford it! You’ve got that much in savings.”
Pete wondered what was going on. He knew the stock. It was a loser.
“I don’t think so, Uncle Joe.” His hands trembled. Was he speaking with a ghost? His uncle had been dead for how long? He’d lost count of the years.
“Listen to me,” Joe said sternly. “You make that buy tomorrow before noontime. Don’t disappoint me.” The line went dead.
Pete felt dizzy. His body began to shake; his teeth chattered. He poured himself a drink. Then he went to his computer and looked up Amalgamated Concrete. The stock listed for a dollar a share.
Karen was sleeping when he came in. Still shivering, he climbed out of his clothes and into bed beside her. This was just too strange.
The following morning Pete told several of his buddies at work about his stock tip. They laughed. Despite this and feeling like a fool, at eleven thirty he emptied their savings account and bought twenty-five thousand shares of Amalgamated. Uncle Joe had made thousands with shrewd investments. He crossed his fingers and thought positive thoughts.
At noon, the acquisition was announced. A Saudi Prince thought Amalgamated was the way to go. The stock split at six to one.
Pete called Karen and shared the good news. “Make a reservation at Thai Palace,” he said. He left work early, bounced into the cottage and swept Karen up in his arms. Then he presented her with the bouquet of American beauty roses. “What’s up?” He asked. “You’re not smiling.”
She hugged him and started to cry. “I think I’m losing my mind. That phone rang again. It was Aunt Mae. She said now that we’re rich it was a good idea to put on a deck.”
“Maybe after we get back from that vacation you’ve always wanted,” Pete said. “Now let’s go have dinner.”
From time to time, at special occasions like the birth of a child, the old telephone would ring and a familiar family voice would share something helpful. Pete and Karen cherished these moments and grew to look forward to their rare occurrence. One day after they had had several children, they realized they had outgrown the Cape and with their burgeoning family, reluctantly moved to a bigger, more spacious Colonial.
They had to leave the old telephone behind. Karen often wondered if it ever rang for the newly married couple who had bought their former home.

The End…

About the author…

A graduate of Emerson College, Stephen Halpert has been a published author since the 1970s. Most recently, his weekly column “American Scene,” which ran in The Grafton News from 1989 to 2022, featured humorous vignettes of his life with his wife, Tasha, and serial fiction. In 2018, Halpert published his first collection of fictional tales, Abracadabra Moonshine and Other Stories, available on Amazon. His next writing venture is titled “Mona Lisa’s Eyebrows and other stories.” Contact Stephen to learn more.

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