Family Fiction posted February 13, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
short story

Missed Calls

by estory

I tell you, I don't know how it happened. You know how it is. My boss kept calling me; we had a meeting with a client and the details kept changing. He called in the morning and wanted to know if I had all the points in order. Then he called before lunch and said they moved the meeting to later in the afternoon. In between, the school called with some message about a traffic incident that would delay the opening an hour, and then there was an alert on the weather app; I think it was a severe thunderstorm warning. I checked my messages. My sister in New York called about her divorce; my mother in Florida called about my sister's divorce; my brother in Chicago wanted to know how I was doing, and if I had heard about my sister's divorce, and my father in California called asking if my mother had heard about the divorce. Ed called. Ed's the new guy I've been dating. He had a chance to get tickets to Hamilton and wanted to know if I wanted to go. Then my boss called again. He reminded me that the meeting had been moved and that I should have all the points in order. He said there was a lot on the line. Then Tom called, wanting to know what was going on. Tom's my ex. A real prick. A control freak.

I think there might have been a message from my son, but then there's always a message from my son.

I called Ed and let him know that Tom called me. He wanted to know what Tom said and I told him what Tom said. He told me I should get an order of protection. So when I got off the phone with Ed I called my sister in New York and told her that Ed said I should get an order of protection. She asked me why and I told her that Tom was still calling me and she asked me how many times a day Tom was calling me and I told her at least a couple of times of day. So she told me maybe I should get an order of protection.

My son sent me another message. He said he wasn't feeling well and that he wanted to talk to me. I really didn't think anything of it because he's always wanting to talk to me.

I called my boss and I told him I had a couple of questions about the points in the contract with the client and he told me he didn't understand why I still had questions with the meeting just about to happen. I told him I just wanted too make sure I had everything right. We went over the points and he told me he had a call on another line and that he would call me back. Then the secretary called me and told me my boss didn't have time to call me back and that I should head to the meeting.

So I called a cab.

Then I called Rita to let her know that Tom was still calling and that Ed had said I should get an order of protection. Rita said that I should listen to Ed but that she had customers and that she couldn't talk. She said I should call her after work and that maybe we could go out for a couple of drinks and talk. So I put it down on my 'events' list.

The school sent me a message reminding me of my daughter's soccer game that Saturday.

Then there was another alert from the weather app. It was another warning about severe weather.

The cab driver called and said he was within ten minutes of my location and asked me to confirm the reservation. That's when I remembered the dentist's appointment and I sent a confirmation on the app. And then I checked the event planner list and looked over the yoga class schedule and the school soccer schedule and the scheduled meetings for work and the dates with Ed and then I remembered the Hamilton show and called Ed to ask him if he got the tickets and he told me he was still working on it. He would call me back later.

Then I got another message from my son. It was a really weird message. It was like 'NEED TO TALK NEED TO TALK' and he sent an imogi with an angry face on it. So I sent him a text message explaining that I was really busy, I had an important meeting and I couldn't take any calls. I said I would talk to him after the meeting.

The cab came and I got in and started going to the meeting. I had a little trouble with the app and the driver helped me with it. I got the destination entered and then Ed called and said he got the tickets. So I pulled up the event planner and put 'Hamilton' on the events list.

My boss called and asked me if I was on my way and I told him I was on my way.

Then I got another message from my son. It was another really weird message. He said he was sick and tired of being ignored. He said I never had time for him. He said he was sick and tired of trying to get my attention. He was sick and tired of the whole fucking world. So I was going to send him a text back reminding him that I made breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, I did his laundry, I paid the bills. I was going to tell him I gave him all the extra time I had. I had problems of my own. I had a life of my own. I had problems with Tom and I had just met someone. I was going to tell him to try to understand.

But then we got to the meeting and I never got a chance to send the message.

While I was at the meeting the phone kept vibrating. I had to turn off the ring tone. My boss would have freaked out if the phone rang. But I set it to vibrate and I know there were at least three calls. I could see all the messages were from William, my son. But what was I going to do? I couldn't just walk out of the meeting. My boss would have killed me.

Needless to say, he shot me a couple of dirty looks as it was. Well, I got out of the meeting and tried calling my son but there was no answer.

Then my daughter called to remind me to take her to soccer practice. So I called another cab and went back to the train station. On my way to the train station, my boss called and asked me what had been my problem at the meeting. See what I mean?

When I got to the train station I called Rita to let her know that I couldn't make it for drinks because I had to take my daughter to soccer practice. Then I think I tried to call my son again but there was still no answer.

I was on the train home when Rita called me. She asked me if I had heard the news. I asked her what news. She told me she couldn't tell me. She just couldn't tell me. Just go to a news app, she said.

So I went to the news app and there was a story about a shooting. A boy had just shot seven people in a college parking lot. It was my son's college. Three people were dead, four had been taken to a hospital. Two were in critical condition. The gunman had shot himself.

I called William but there was still no answer. That's when I started getting nervous.

Then the police called and told me William had been the shooter. I couldn't believe it. I told them I didn't think William had a gun. He would never do anything like that. He couldn't do anything like that. I started freaking out.

So then I checked the last message he had sent me. He sent me a message that said: 'NOW YOU CAN'T IGNORE ME. NOBODY CAN IGNORE ME. BET YOU WISH YOU HAD CALLED ME.'

This story is in a very different style; I wanted a density, an intensity to the language, but also a sense of the isolation of the narrator, relating the events whirling around her. This modern day stream of consciousness kind of thing was somewhat inspired by Roy Kessey's story in the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories; Wait. It's roots are probably in the stream of consciousness writing of James Joyce in his novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan's Wake. But this story is a story of the maddening intrusion of life into our lives through cell phones, our immersion in this technological phenomenon, and the separation from real life and real life relationships, even with our immediate family, that beg for our attention. Ours is a world of figures competing for our attention, from long distance, through cell phones and text messages, pulling us impossibly into divergent directions until it is literally beyond our control. And the whirlwind of events spins into a maelstrom, a catastrophe. estory
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