(Not So) Smooth Signal

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“Is this Mrs. Greaves?”

“It’s Ms.”

“My apologies. How are you today?”

“What do you want?”

“Oh, um, I’m calling to discuss your recent—”

“Diagnosis? Surgery? Familial dispute? I’ve had a bunch o’ ‘recents’, kid.”

“…”

“Don’t quit on me now. This is the most exciting thing to happen in a while.”

“Ma’am, I’m calling from Garden Funhouse because you’ve been a loyal customer for a long time, but we noticed you hadn’t been to your local store in a while.”

“You wanna know where I’ve been? 5608 Ahoskie Drive, Apartment D.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Five. Six. Zero. Eight. Ahoskie Drive. Apartment D. Need me to spell it for you?”

“No, ma’am. If you’re not busy, would you mind taking a few minutes—”

“Christ, the script hasn’t changed in thirty years. You people can’t come up with another way to bother us innocent bystanders who are unlucky enough to pick up the phone even when we see the 1-800 number?”

“I apologize for interrupting your afternoon. I’m just hoping we can—”

“Hoping we can what? Talk about our days? About the heartbreaks and the shitty news and the way the planet’s pretty much screwed and how my great-grandkids probably won’t make it to my age?”

“Um…”

“That’s what I thought. You got sucked into the system just as much as I did, kid, and now you think you don’t have a way out.”

“No, I’m actually trying to—”

“Pay off a hundred grand in student debt? Buy a house? In this economy? Don’t get your hopes up, sweetheart.”

“If we could get back to—”

“Get back to what? Whatever product you’re trying to shove in my face? Back to the days when there was actually a glimpse of hope for humanity? No, wait, I got it. Get back to when you thought a woman my age wouldn’t have her wits about her enough to see though the bullshit you’re trying to shovel her way?”

“My God, I just wanna—”

“Spit it out already, kid, we’re burning daylight here.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

The call clicked, and Nancy stared wide-eyed at her great-grandmother.

“What is wrong with you, Nana?” she asked.

“I need a nap. I was bored. They interrupted General Hospital. Pick one, darling,” Mary said, her lips twitching as she dropped the phone into its cradle.

Nancy rolled her eyes and slumped back into the recliner. This was what she got for volunteering as caretaker for a woman who’d lived through two Depressions, a host of recessions, and more natural disasters than she could count.

Next time the phone rang, though? She’d record it. For posterity and whatnot.

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