A Rotary Phone

It would take forever to dial a number. The dial clicked, slowly clicked, clicked, clicked. One number after the other as it made its leisurely way back to stillness. After waiting forever to find the party line finally free, it took another eternity to place the call.

I was sitting at the kitchen table. The phone was a wall model ad I had to sit very close since the cord was so short. It was Saturday morning and I was calling to see if my best friend, Cathy, wanted to go shopping. We did that nearly every Saturday. We’d cruise through the few downtown clothing stores and then stop on the way home at McCarthy’s drug store for a cherry coke.

But this time, the week had been busy at school and we hadn’t firmed up anything. When she answered, her voice sounded strange. Kind of muffled. It took a while for her to answer my question. No, she said. Her brother, Bob had been in a car accident last night.

It didn’t really register at first. I thought maybe he was in the hospital or home in bed after the emergency room, sleeping the experience off. Or sleeping off his hangover. He was pretty wild and I knew from Cathy how her parents worried about him.

To me, he was so cute. He dressed flashy with his leather jacket and slicked back hair. A real cool dude, as we said in those days. I guess I had a crush on him though I knew he was out of my league and I’d never have admitted that to anyone. Especially Cathy.

Back to her response, I was confused. I didn’t get it. What did his accident have to do with whether or not we could go shopping? I might have even said something about how Bob was always up to something and how we never let his shenanigans get in our way. She had to actually say it. He’d died at the scene, she cried.

That was unreal to me. He always seemed so alive. Nothing could touch him. I’d just seen him the other day. I don’t remember what I said to Cathy; we just hung up. I think I just went on with my day as though nothing had happened. I don’t remember the funeral or talking to her parents or anything.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t get it. I don’t think I said the right things.  Or said much of anything. I don’t think I was sensitive or comforting. I could plead naiveté or immaturity but there is no excuse. I still feel bad.



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