This week’s TBP Online Writer’s Guild starts off, as in recent weeks, with a snapshot of a story, followed by 3 prompts. The story is an implicit invitation to add to it. Or, you can write a new story inspired by one or all three prompts. This week I decided to build on the story with two of the three prompts, 1) Is this thing working?, 2) Bill, Petey, and Baby Joe, 3) Can I have one? I brazenly broke the 25-minute rule, but honestly did make an effort to keep time as short as possible. I choose “5” for next week.
I’ll lead into my addition with the end of the story by tnkerr (to read all of it, go to the prompt from the link above).
There followed a series of sounds, primarily made up of whirs and clicks. Then the lady computer said, “Go ahead caller.”
“Rog? That you?” a quiet voice asked.
“Hey Jenny,” I said, “It’s been a while. What kind of trouble did you get yourself into this time?”
“I’m Angela now,” she said. The temerity that had been in her voice mere seconds ago was now replaced by the hard edge of defiance or rebellion; or maybe both. She was itching for a fight.
I had been through too many of these calls with her to take the bait. As I sat there waiting for her to drop her bomb on me, I wondered why the name Angela.
“Hello?” she said. “Is this thing working?” Her voice suddenly distant.
“I’m here, Jenny? Hello?”
“I didn’t think this thing was working. Or you hung up, or something.”
“No. Just waiting. So. Why the call?”
“I got arrested.”
“What for?” I wasn’t surprised.
I let that sink in a moment. I suppose that wasn’t surprising either. “The recording said you’re in Billings”
“I was just passing through.”
“Home. I was trying to come home.”
I let out a sigh. “You been there a while?”
“No. I was arrested yesterday.”
“I meant Billings. You talked to an attorney yet?” I quickly changed the subject. I didn’t actually care how long she’d been there, or why she was there. Or anywhere, for that matter.
“I asked for one, but I don’t know when I get to talk to anybody.”
“They set bail, for, ah, solicitation, I think.”
“Yeah. That’s why I’m calling.”
A commercial on TV showed a teenage girl backing a car into a tree. The shot switched to a man who saw the whole thing. We expect an angry father from the way the girl shrinks behind the wheel of the car. But a broad smile crosses the man’s face. The girl shrugs and giggles. The logo of an insurance company drops in as father and daughter hug.
“Rog? They only give you a couple minutes to talk.”
I remained silent, staring at the TV. The evening program started. A line of pretty young women, all made up and dressed in gowns, each holding a single red rose, stood smiling at someone off camera.
“OK, I’m sorry…I won’t call you that. Whatever.”
I waited for her to go on. I just wanted the call to end.
“Who’s Angela Mercer?” I snapped. “You stole someone’s identity or something?”
“Fuck you, OK? Why’s it always got to be I did something bad? I changed my name, OK?”
I didn’t believe for a second it was that simple. Not where my daughter was concerned.
“Geneva Evelyn Angstrom, we had a deal. You keep being a fuck up, you can’t come home. You can’t call saying you’re in trouble, asking for money, because you just go back out there and keep fucking up, and then we don’t hear from you for months until the next time you’re in a jam. We had a deal, remember? Next time you call asking for help we get you real help and put you in rehab. Now, I haven’t a fucking clue who Angela Mercer is, or, knowing you, who she was. Some poor woman who showed you a little kindness and, you being you, probably paid her back by stealing her name and half her money. Or she’s some junkie friend of yours who died.”
I heard her crying on the other end. The phone beeped and the computerized voice politely stated there was one minute left on the call.
“Fuck you! I know the fucking deal! That’s why I’m calling! I want to come home! Fuck you. Just fuck you!”
I was not deterred by her crocodile tears. “I mean it, kiddo. I bail you out, you get just this one chance. Just this once. You fuck this up and you never get to call again, and I don’t care what name you pull out of your ass, you hear me? I am done trying to help you. After this, that is it! You hear me?”
The computer voice interrupted again with a 30 second warning.
“Yeah, Daddy, I hear you.” She was bawling and gasping for breath. “I want to talk to Mom. Is she there?”
My throat tightened. “Mom’s…not here. Jenny, Mom died.”
“Wha…? Oh, my God how? Oh my God…”
The computer announced 15 seconds left on the call.
“Heart attack. Just after Christmas. She was sick for a while after, but doing OK, but then she had another. Massive. She died in April.”
“…Oh…my God, I … is Eric th…”
The call cut off.