Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Missed Opportunity

My name is Karen. I work as a reporter on The Courier. Just like everyone else on the news staff, I slave over my articles and sink into a deep sleep when the chance arises.

It had been ghastly cold in my apartment when I went to bed; my nose and feet felt like they'd been packed in ice like the silvery-grey catfish in the supermarket around the corner.

The call found me huddled under a pile of blankets with my head beneath a pillow. The phone rang shrilly several times before it pierced my coma-like state. When I finally identified its origin, my hand shot out from under the covers like a bullet. I groped blindly toward the phone and lifted the receiver gingerly to my ear.

"Karen Wilson?" asked the voice at the other end.

"Yes," I replied, disoriented, "what is it?" I studied the large, green, luminous numbers on my alarm clock, and the time registered on my brain in indignant, shock-like waves. "Do you know it's one a.m.?" My head took a beating when I sat up abruptly and hit the ceiling. More like a closet than a room, my bedroom slanted in a serious angle in the only place my bed would fit.

"Karen, listen up and listen good."

Despite my befuddled state, my journalistic ears perked up. Rubbing the sore spot on the top of my head, I strained to hear the nasal male voice. "Okay, shoot. I'm all ears."

"You don't know me. I picked out your by-line from The Courier. I liked your article on rabies."

"Gee, thanks," I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster at that indecent hour. "Did you have to call me in the middle of the night to compliment my work?"

"No. Shut up and listen. You've been chosen."

"Chosen? Chosen for what? Miss Prank Call Recipient of 2011?"  As I was about to slam down the phone, a single word jumped out at me.

"Murder."  The two syllables hung in the air like the single thread of a spider's web.

I gasped as if Bruce Lee had kicked me in the stomach. "What did you say?" I held tightly to the phone and jumped out of bed to check the lock on my door.

"You don't sound too good. Are you all right?" The disembodied voice spoke into my ear, filling me with fright.

I crawled back in bed and pulled the covers to my chin. My eyes darted to the window. I was glad the cold weather forced me to keep it shut and locked. "Yeah, sure. I'm just a little shocked. It's not every day that someone threatens me," I replied.

"So who's threatening you?"

"Didn't you say 'murder'?" I asked him, now fully awake. My heart beat wildly about like a large, black crow in a small gilded cage.

"Naw. You misunderstood me. People always tell me to get the marbles outta my mouth. That was Myrtle, my dog."

"Your dog?" I asked dumbly.

"Yeah, yeah. I said, 'Down, Myrtle!' She was after my samwich. You musta thought I said murder."

"Oh, yeah," I replied. My heart calmed down to its usual steady thumpety-thump. "Is there a point to this conversation?"

"Sure, sure. Don't get your pantyhose in a bunch. Like I said, you've been chosen."

"Chosen for what?" I felt a keen sense of déjà vu.

He took a deep breath and blurted, "We'll take fifty percent off your rates for six months if you'll switch to us for your long-distance phone carrier."

"You'll what?" I shouted into the phone.

"Yeah," he said proudly. "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

I sputtered into the phone. "You . . . you idiot!"

"No need to insult me, lady." He sounded hurt. "Just doing my job."

I took the receiver away from my ear and stared at it in open-mouthed wonder. Slamming it down, I derived a certain pleasure from the resounding bang it must have made on the other end.

Huddling once more under the covers, head and all, I tried to make myself comfortable for further sleep. Just when I was about to drift off, a thought sprang unbidden to my mind: fifty percent was quite a deal. My eyelids popped up like a testy window shade.

Maybe I’d been too hasty!

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