The June Featured Writer is Timothy Wilkie
Please feel free to email Timothy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE CELL PHONE
My shoulder harness was tightly buckled. My mind was racing. I was late for class again.
My phone buzzed on the seat next to me. Susan’s voice came out loud and clear on the speaker phone, and she was still angry. “What would it matter if you talked to me?” she said. I listened while she waged a very private battle with herself.
It was cold as hell out. I turned the key and the motor sputtered with that choking, wheezing sound that the bitter cold always does to compact cars before they croak. My little civic was more than ten years old.
The heater blew out frigid air, dropping the temperature in the car another ten degrees. A shiver went through my whole body.
“It’s not that you wouldn’t,” she continued on the speaker phone, and since I wasn’t paying attention, I had no idea what she was talking about. Still, I nodded in agreement as if somehow she could see me through the speaker and then bowed my head in silent prayer before I tried the engine again.
I saw the security guard, Max, step out of the main lobby and light up a cigarette. He slowly started walking towards the car as my engine tried again and again to turn over.
I slapped both hands down on the wheel and cried out in exasperation. “Come on!”
Max tapped on my window with one gloved finger. “Doesn’t sound good, Davey,” he said.
“You think?” I told him in annoyance, then turned back to the speaker phone. “Susan, can we talk later?”
She disconnected. I’d have to pay my dues later, but for now all I could think of was getting to class because this would be my third tardy in less than two weeks. Professor Kline would be perfectly within his rights to drop me and I needed his class to graduate.
“You want me to take a look under the hood?” Max asked. I didn’t need this shit. Without answering, I turned the key one more time with vigor and suddenly it turned right over. “Thank God!” I uttered.
“Wow,” Max said, gazing at me with admiration. “That was good, Davey.”
“I gotta go,” I said as I rolled up the window, almost catching his nose in it.
As I drove frantically, my phone on the seat buzzed again and I made a mental note to change the tone because that buzz was just annoying. I picked up the phone without putting it on speaker.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry,” Susan said. “I don’t want you to be mad at me all day.”
I took a deep breath and pulled out of the parking space. My breath hung in the air like a tiny little cloud. “Me either,” I said as I looked both ways and pulled on to Washington Avenue.
I immediately saw a cop pull out from the other side. “I gotta go Susan,” I said again and dropped my phone back down on the seat and held my breath, just waiting for his lights to come on.
He followed me down Washington and on to Pearl Street. He was right behind me and it was making me extremely nervous. My palms were sweating and I kept glancing up in my rearview mirror. He sped up a little so that he was only a few short car lengths behind me.
Suddenly, my phone buzzed. I started to reach for it but caught myself before I did. It buzzed again and again. “Come on Susan, give me a freaking break,” I complained to myself.
It buzzed again and without making any blatant moves I tried to see who was calling but it was listed as “Private Number.” I looked quickly up at the rearview mirror to see that the cop was even closer than before.
The car ahead of me suddenly put its brake lights on at a red light and I slammed to a stop only inches from its bumper. It was definitely close.
I looked back into my rearview mirror, expecting to see lights flashing, but there was nothing. The patrol car just sat behind me its head lights looking like the eyes of some monster that was waiting to devour me.
The light changed and I decided at the last minute to turn on to Third Avenue. I never came this way because the medical center was right there and I didn’t want to get bogged down in the traffic going in and out. However, this time I was hoping that it might get the cop off my ass.
It didn’t. He followed me right around.
Finally when I got to the college parking lot and turned in he went on past me. I searched, trying to find a parking space and finally saw someone pulling out. Getting out of the car, I crossed the parking lot in record time and then shot up the stairs as fast as I could. I realized how out of shape I was about halfway up and came to the sad conclusion that I wasn’t any Rocky.
By the time I got to the top I was winded and all I wanted to do was sit down. As I stood there for a moment, catching my breath, my phone started buzzing in my pocket. I had no time to answer it now. I had to get to class. Still, I took it out of my pocket as I was jogging down the hall and was surprised to see a number I didn’t recognize. I turned it off and shoved it back into my pocket just as I got to my classroom.
Professor Kline eyed me from the chalkboard as I walked in. He shook his head and then continued writing on the board, but later, as everybody was filing out, he asked me to stay. He got to the point. “David, I’m dropping you from the class, no ands, ifs, or buts.”
My heart sank. This would mean another year at school and extensions on my already bloated students loans. I was pretty much tapped out in that department. It was just another way of saying Merry Fucking Christmas, loser.
The minute I pulled out of the parking lot my phone started buzzing. I picked it up and answered it. There was some kind of music playing way in the background, just a tease of a distant melody, like a sultry horn floating through an open window on a warm summer night. I could tell it wasn’t Susan.
“Hello,” I tried. The line went dead. I put the phone back down on the passenger seat and suddenly the cop was back in my rear-view mirror.
He pulled up beside me and I looked over but his windows were tinted just enough so I couldn’t make out anything inside the car. The phone buzzed again as the police car kept pace with me to the next traffic light. I didn’t dare reach for it. I finally turned into the Burger King across from the mall to get away from the cop. I pulled into the drive through and while I was waiting I checked my messages. To my utter surprise there were none.
Everything was so wrong. I felt a little bit of panic bubble up inside me. “Welcome to Burger King,” the girl in the drive-through said, and I knew her day was just an average day, like mine should have been but absolutely wasn’t.
Another police car pulled into the parking lot and spun around right past my car and then pulled back out on to the road again. I snapped my shoulder strap and drove out of the drive-through window area. My phone started buzzing on my seat with a whole new urgency.
I picked it up. A female voice I didn’t recognize whispered, “Davy?”
I threw my phone down on the seat and was startled when I realized I almost hit another car in the Burger King parking lot. The old woman pulled around me and gave me the finger. “Have a heart attack, you old bitch!” I shouted despite the fact that my windows were up and she probably couldn’t hear me.
When I looked up there was another cop right behind me. I was shaking with rage, but I had to get in control of myself before this cop pulled me over. What was going on? How come there were so many cops on this awful day?
I turned right on Post Avenue and the cop went straight. My phone buzzed again but I ignored it.
The clouds darkened and rain began to fall while the traffic moved methodically down Third Avenue.
Suddenly the sky seemed to open up and a mixture of freezing rain and snow started to fall. Everybody in the other cars seemed to freak as the pavement under their tires began to ice up. My phone started buzzing again and I grabbed it in anger and threw it blindly. It hit the windshield and bounced back, hitting me in the face.
I could feel a cut under my eye. A flap of skin peeled back and I felt blood pour down my cheek.
Now my hands were covered with my own blood and the car in front of me slammed on its brakes. I skidded out of control, off the road and into an electric pole. I was jolted back and forth in my seat and the seatbelt cut into my abdomen. I yelped with pain.
I saw flashing blue lights and I knew that this time, there was no avoiding the cop. I was infuriated when suddenly the speaker on my cell phone blasted a burst of static and then what sounded like laughter.
“Who is this?” I screamed at the phone just as the cop yanked me out of the car. A disembodied voice from the speaker phone said, “Have a nice day.”
Timothy Wilkie is a writer/artist living at Roseberry’s Lodge in the Catskill Mountains. He has two grown sons, Justin and Blake. He spends his time helping out in the resort as well as honing his craft.