The Ringing Phone by @ruinedpicnic


I wake up, standing in front of the television. The hiss of static crackles in my ears and the gnashing teeth of black and white that glow from the screen chomp at my eyes. I’m holding a half-empty bottle of Old Horse, my favourite whisky, but I don’t know if I’m drunk or just tired. I can’t remember the last time I lay down to sleep. Through the door to my left with its peeling white paint sits my bed, untouched for days now, weeks perhaps, and who knows what it’s learned in the time since last we met. I sleep in restaurants, drift off in my car, or pass out in the street, only the cracked concrete and the occasional bloated, dead dog to fall on. My other hand is bandaged, dark red and sticky with blood. There are bright flares of pain shooting up and down my body, crushing my heart and piercing my head. I go to scream, but a handful of cigarette butts fall out of my mouth and land at my feet. Desperate to get rid of the taste of ash, I take a drink from the bottle, only to find that somebody has spiked my alcohol with cocaine; that somebody was me.

Now I remember. On the train ride home, using the birth certificate of my disfigured twin brother Gino, I poured an entire zip lock bag of white dynamite, taken from the evidence room at the station, into my third bottle of Old Horse that day, whilst kicking back the gun salesmen and the nuns who crowded around me. I remember thinking at the time, ‘life is pain’, and even after removing the huntsman’s combat knife from the back of my knee, this remained true in an emotional sense.

The phone rings. Startled, I turn around, dislocating my hip again, my eyes leaping around the room as I try to remember where I keep the damn phone. There it is, in the refrigerator. I leap backwards, recklessly, and manage to land awkwardly in a broken wheelchair of unknown origin. Dropping the bottle, I grasp the wheels like the throat of my childhood dog, except this time I’m turning, not squeezing, and I race across the room like a desert biker on six different kinds of crazy. I knock over a grandfather clock on my way to the screaming phone, and it falls onto the skeleton of the apartment’s previous tenant, destroying it with the force of an atom bomb. Finally, I’ve made the great pilgrimage to the refrigerator, and my oily hands grasp at the receiver as though I am a baby seeing delicious wasps for the first time. I yell a greeting into the device, loud, so they know I have principles.

‘H…ah…heh..ooh, wow!’ stutters a voice. ‘Sorry I’ve just bit into a big slice of lemon after I dialled.’

I remain calm on the surface, but inside this has thrown me into a frenzy. Calmly, I respond: Why would you dial a number, and then bite into a big slice of lemon? It’s the question on everyone’s lips.

‘Yeah I don’t know why I did that to be honest’ giggles the voice, a mockery of all I hold dear. ‘Anyway, my name is Stephen, and I was wondering if you’re happy with your cable provider (he paused) at the moment?’

Let me check, I tell him. Now, here’s the tricky part. On the wall, I can see them. Cables of all shapes and sizes. One is thick and black like a giant piece of liquorice, another ropey and weathered. The cable that the vagabond used to hang himself is blue, if my eyes see right, as he swings back and forth in the middle of the room, a sorrow piñata. Then I see it, draped over the back of the massage chair softly weeping in the corner of the room; my favourite cable of all. Once, it served its purpose as the wire that kept my precious telephone tethered to the wall, but now it lay tattered and ashamed of itself, a disowned, sparking umbilical cord that not even the rats in the ceiling would adopt. But there’s a problem. Try as I might, I have no inkling of who provided these cables. Cable provider? I consider telling the caller the truth; that an angel with a hook hand comes to me every five hundred days, and either gifts me a cable, or removes one of my memories, depending on his mood at the time, but something about this conversation isn’t right. Who are you, I bark, staring at my tiny thumb tattoo of my own corpse.

‘Oooh I’ve just had another bit of lemon’ squeals my a cappella nemesis.

I end the call by shooting myself in the side of the head. My body falls like a useless potato into a hole in the floor, and this is the last my pathetic apartment ever sees of me.

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