A Simple Phone Call by William Hrdina

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SUMMARY: An unusual meeting a bar leads one woman to a hotel room where she waits for a phone call that may never come. NOW AVAILABLE: “Where the Fnords Linger- A Short Story Collection” By William Hrdina- collects 27 of my most popular stories. To order go to A

A Simple Phone Call
William Hrdina


Esme sat and stared at the motel room wall. It was blank except for two long cracks in the thick lead based paint. Esme yawned, the force of it causing her entire body to tremble. Her feet were propped up on an imitation oak coffee table and her arms were slung over the arms of the badly upholstered couch as the currents of time slipped over and passed her body.
She realized if she stared at the cracks in the wall long enough they started to form the outline of Richard Nixon.
With some difficulty she brought herself back to life. She raised her arms over her head, stretched, and then brought them down to rub the crud out of her eyes. She struggled to return to full and normal consciousness, but it wasn't coming. The closest she could get was the strange hyper-reality that accompanies extreme sleep deprivation.
Like a zombie, Esme shuffled to the small hotel kitchenette, took up the pot of coffee that sat there and poured the latest in a long line of extra large cups. The strong aroma of the liquid floated up to her nose and she wished, as she always did, that the coffee would taste half as good as it smelled.
Blowing hesitantly on the rim, Esme took a sip. It was too hot. She pursed her lips together and sucked the top of her scalded mouth, trying to assuage the pain. At least her eyesight was clear and focused now. She set down the coffee to cool and started walking circuits around the room, trying to get her heart rate up a bit.
Esme was waiting.
It was the central activity in her life. The only one. Waiting and not sleeping. It was the fulcrum upon which everything else rested. The thing was- she wasn't really sure what she was waiting for. She knew the phone was supposed to ring. She knew it was worth waiting for; or she thought she did. After 34 hours, Esme was starting to think she'd been wrong. Like Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, she was waiting for something that wasn't every going to happen.
Then the phone rang.
Total silence had engulfed the room for so long the sudden shrill explosion of the phone nearly caused her to fall down. She nearly dropped the coffee mug she had no memory of picking back up in the first place. She literally ran to the pone, her feet skidding to a stop in front of the desk it was sitting on.
She reached it on the third ring and snatched it out of the cradle. She brought the handset up to her ear.
"Hello?" Esme asked, as if unsure the person on the other line was going to speak.
"Is this Esme Brooks?" A voice asked without introduction or greeting.
Somehow the voice managed to be completely gender neutral. She couldn't tell the sex, age, or attitude of the person on the other end. The total lack of personality felt a little creepy.
Nevertheless, she answered, "Yes, this is Esme Brooks." She paused, and added, "How may I help you?"
"It's not how you can help me." Replied the flat voice, "It's how I can help you."
Esme didn't really need any help.

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