The Phone Call
It’s a rainy afternoon in early Summer. Brian is sitting in his apartment reading when the telephone rings.
“No. I’m sorry. I’m not Larry. You must have the wrong number.”
“Oh, no!” There’s the sound of desperation in her voice.
“Wait. Maybe I can help. My name is Brian, what’s yours?”
“He’s my brother.”
“Where does he live?”
“In East Dorado.”
“That’s right near here. Let me get the phone book and find his number.”
“My phone card is about to run out. I don’t have any money. I’m in Florida and I’m In a real bad fix. I need him.”
“Where are you calling from? Your apartment?”
“No. I’m in a phone booth.”
"Where’s the pay phone? Out on the street?”
“It’s in a hotel lobby.”
“Is there a number on the phone?”
“Give it to me. And take down my number. I know you just dialed it but just in case.. Do you have a pen and paper?”
They hang up. Brian dials the number. A very plaintiff voice answers..
.They exchange phone numbers.
“Okay. Cindy, I’m going to call you right back. If the phone doesn’t ring in one minute you call me collect, okay?”
They hang up. He dials.
“It’s Brian. Okay. Good. Let me get the phone book.”
Brian puts the phone down to get the book.
. “Okay, now what’s your brother’s last name?”
“Larry Butler. There are a lot of Butlers here, Cindy. L. Butlers. Larry Butlers, Lawrence Butlers. Where does he live?”
“Oh, I think it’s Pine Street.”
“There’s and L and L Butler on Pine Street, but that sounds like a business.”
“No. That’s it! My sister-in-law’s name is Lucille.”
“Okay, now write down his number.”
“Cindy. I’m going to call him myself, right now, and explain the situation, and give him the phone booth number. Okay?”
They hang up. Brian dials the number for L and L Butler. A woman’s voice answers:
.“Hello. You’ve reached the Butler residence; No one is here right now to take your call. But please leave a message at the tone and we will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.”
“Hello my name is Brian Sims. You don’t know me but your sister Cindy just called me from Florida. She tried to call you but dialed the wrong number. She’s in a pay phone in a hotel lobby. She’s in some sort of trouble and needs your help. Here’s her number and also mine in case you want to call me back.
Brian gives the numbers to the answering machine then dials the phone booth.
There is no answer.
Now Brian is very worried.
“Where is she? What happened to her?”
Brian was ashamed of himself that he didn’t ask Cindy the name of the hotel. He could at least call the desk and see if they knew anything about her. Finally he decided he would call the phone booth and just let it ring. Surely someone would answer eventually. So he dialed again. After a long moment there was a breathless answer.
“Where were you?
“I had to go to the ladies room.”
“Oh. I was very worried.”
“I’m sorry. It was urgent.”
“All right. Phew!. Listen, I called your brother’s home and they’re both out somewhere. I left a message, but maybe I can find him. Where does he work?”
“He sells trucks.”
“New trucks or used ones?”
“Both I think. Do you think you can find him?”
“I will do my best.”
“Oh Brian. Thank you”.
“Do you remember the name of the place where he works?”
“No. But I think he told me he sells four wheel drives also.”
“If I look under trucks and read you the names of the dealers, do you think you would recognize one of them?”
“I don’t know. I’ll try.”
Brian begins to read off the truck rental places starting with the A's. After a few minutes Cindy starts to cry.
“Oh! It’s impossible. I don’t know any of those places.”
. “Don’t cry, Cindy. We’ll find him.”
Brian continues to read the names from the book. There is still no response from Cindy until he gets to Sanford Service.
“Wait! That’s it! I think that’s it.”
“Are you sure?”
“No. But it sounds right.”
“Okay. Let me call them right now. Cindy, are you safe where you are? Is it a sleazy hotel, or a nice one?”
“It’s not too bad. I can see the desk clerk.”
“Is there a place for you to sit where you can hear the phone?”
“Good. Have a seat. This may take a while, but I’ll call you back.”
They hang up. Brian dials the number for Sanford Service. A man answers.
“Hi. Does Larry Butler work there?”
“Not any more he doesn’t.”
“Has he moved to another shop?”
“Yeah. He decided to move up in the world. I’m not good enough for him. Who’s this?”
“My name is Brian. This is not about business. It’s about his sister. She’s in trouble and needs his help. Please tell me where he is.”
“Try Carter Chevy.”
The man hangs up.
Brian looks through the phone book until he finds Carter Chevrolet and dials the number.
“Carter Chevrolet, how can I help you?”
“Hello. Is Larry Butler working there?”
“I’m sorry, sir. Larry just left for the day.”
“I see. Do you happen to know where he went?”
“I think he said he was going to meet his wife for a drink.”
“Do you have any idea where that would be?”
Brian hears voices in the background.
“Mac, where did Larry say he was going? Where? The Rooster? The Rawst? What? Oh, The Roustabout.”
The man returns to the phone.
“He’s at the Roustabout.”
“Would you happen to have3 a phone number for it?”
“Maybe. Wait a minute.”
Brian is drumming his fingers on the table.
“Here. Roustabout Bar and Grill.”
Brian writes down the number.
“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”
He hangs up and dials the number for The Roustabout.
“I’m trying to reach one of your customers. Larry Butler.”
Brian is stunned for a moment then he says.
“Do you know where he went?”
“Some friends came in; they said they were going bowling. What’s this about? Are you a friend of theirs?”
“I’m a friend of his sister, Cindy.”
“Sweet kid, Cindy. Where’d you meet her?
“We actually just met over the telephone. She’s in a bit of trouble and needs her brother. Would you happen to know where they would be bowling?”
“There’s only one bowling alley in town.”
“What’s it called?”
“Hell. I’m not a bowler, I don’t know. It’s just down the street from here. You can’t miss it.”
“I’m in another town. If I had the name of it, I could look it up.”
“Well, I think it’s Fair something, Fair View, Fair Skies, something like that.
“Thanks. That gives me something to go on.”
Brian searches the yellow pages under Bowling until he finds Farelanes Amusements. He dials.
“Hello. I’m trying to reach someone who’s bowling there.”
“No. No private phone calls.”.
“I’m sure that’s a good idea but this is an emergency.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
He hangs up.
Brian dials the number again. "Fairlanes."
"Please, sir, it's very important."
“I don’t care. You can’t use this phone for a private conversation. No.”
He hangs up. Now Brian uncharacteristically slams his hand down on the table. He wants to break Mr. Farelanes’ nose. He takes a few moments to calm down and dials again.
“Please, sir, it’s very important that I talk with Larry Butler for one brief moment.”
“I don’t get you, Bud.. What part of “no” don’t you understand?”
“I understand that if you don’t let me speak with Mr. Butler for a second or two, I will call the police and have them come over there and locate him.”
There’s a pause.
“The man’s sister is in trouble and she desperately needs him. Just let me talk to him for a minute, less than a minute. I just need to give him one vital piece of information, that’s all. His name is Larry Butler.”
Brian could hear the sounds of the bowling alley in the background, the sound of wood on wood, the cheers and laughter, and after a moment a man’s voice on the phone.
“Hello, Larry Butler?”
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“You don’t know me. My name is Brian Sims. Your sister Cindy called me tonight by accident from a phone booth in Florida hoping to reach you.”
“Yes. She’s in a bad fix.”
“She needs you. I left her number on your answering machine and also mine just in case.”
“Okay. We’ll go right home.”
. “How long will that take?”
“I’ll call her back and tell her when to expect your call.”
“About ten minutes.”
They hang up. He dials the phone. There’s a busy signal. Now Brian is puzzled. Who could she be calling, he wonders. She said her phone card was out of time. Maybe Larry called her from the bowling alley. Not likely. No private calls nasty Mr. Farelanes said. Brian gets up and puts the kettle on for the cup of tea he wanted a half hour ago. He takes a mug from the shelf, tucks a bag of Earl Grey into it and sets it aside. He’s very perplexed about getting a busy signal. After all the time spent it would be a shame if everything fell through for Cindy. Very frustrated he decides to try the phone booth once again. He dials.
A distressed voice answers.
“Hi Cindy, it’s Brian.”
“Oh God, I got so worried. I thought you forgot me. I’ve been waiting so long.”
“Well, it took some doing but I just finished talking to your brother.”
“Oh, Lord, thank you.”
“I finally found them at a bowling alley. He said they would go right home where they’ll find your number on their answering machine, and also my number. So sit tight, he should be calling you in ten to fifteen minutes. Are you okay?”
“Yes. A man came and used the phone. I told him I was waiting for an important call. He said he wouldn’t be long but he talked for quite a while. I was afraid you called and found it busy and gave up.”
“Aw, Cindy, I would have called back. Now if for any reason you don’t hear from Larry in the next half hour call me back, you hear?”
They hang up. Brian makes himself a cup of Earl Grey and tries to calm down. It’s been quite a night. After about a half an hour he dials the Butler’s number. A woman answers.
“Hello. This is Brian Sims.”
“Yes? Oh, yes, Mr. Sims. Hold on. Thank you for what you’ve done for Cindy. Here’s Larry.”
“Hi. I’m just calling to find out what’s happened about Cindy.”
“Well, I spoke to her and, your right, she’s in quite a fix. She lost her job at the shop because they downsized and let a bunch of people go. And the sublet she had fell through because the original tenant came back unexpectedly. She moved into a room, but spent all her money trying to find another job.
“What a mess.”
“Yes, indeed, poor kid.”
“So now what’s happening?”
“I called the hotel desk and got her a room for the night, so she can sleep. And she can get some food from room service. Lucille and I are booked on a flight to Orlando first thing in the morning. We’ll find Cindy and bring her back.”
“Great. I’m very glad to hear that.”
“You certainly have been a knight in shining armor over this whole thing. Why didn’t you just hang up when you realized she had the wrong number?”
“There was a sound of real desperation in her voice.”
“How did you think to call us at the bowling alley?”
“Well, when you weren’t home I asked Cindy where you worked. She wasn’t sure but she seemed to remember the name Sanford, so I called Sanford Service. He wasn’t too pleased but he suggested Carter Chevrolet. There they told me you had gone for the day and someone thought you were going to the Roustabout. At the Roustabout they said you went bowling There, the guy didn’t want to let you talk to me. He kept hanging up on me until I threatened to call the cops.”
“Yeah, when he handed me the phone he said I had thirty seconds. Well, I’m grateful to you for sticking with it, a total stranger. What made you do it?”
“I think that if you can bring a little happiness into someone’s life you’re making the world a better place. Maybe the world doesn’t notice. But, so what. And Cindy really sounded like I was her last hope. I’m glad she’s okay.”
“I asked her to call me when she got settled and was ready for bed" said Larry. "So we’d better get off the phone so she can.”
“Okay. I wouldn’t mind it a bit if she called me too. I’d like to know that she’s settled so that I can go to sleep.”
“Right. I’ll tell her. Good night.”
They hang up. About a half hour goes by and Brian’s phone rings.
“Hi Brian, it’s Cindy.”
“Hi Cindy, how’re you doing?”
“I’m fine. I’m in a hotel room, I’ve had a snack and I’m getting ready for bed. Larry and Lucille are coming down tomorrow to get me.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Brian. Thank you. I don’t know what to say except thank you a gazillion times.”
“Once is enough and you’ve already said it. I’m just very glad that things are working out. Sleep well.”
“I will. Good night Cindy.”
“Good night Brian.”
They hang up.
One week later Brian was sitting on the front steps of his apartment building reading a book when three nice looking people approached, a young man and two young women. The man spoke.
“Excuse me but does Brian Sims live here, would you happen to know?”
“Yes he does.”
The three started up the stairs toward the door.
“But he’s not in his apartment.”
“Oh, that’s a shame” said the older of the two women.
“Why. What do you want with him?”
“We wanted to introduce ourselves to him and thank him for a very great favor he did for us. Do you happen to know where he is?
“Yes. He’s sitting on the front steps of his building reading a book”
Brian held up the book and smiled. The three of them gasped and broke out in big smiles.
“You’re Brian?” said the man. “Well, I’m Larry Butler, this is my wife Lucile, and that” he pointed at the young one, “is Cindy.”
“You look different than what I expected.”
“You do too. You look very nice.”
“So do you.” They smile.
“Well, what a surprise.”
“You found me,” said Larry, “it was the least I could do to find you. And now, to show our gratitude, we’d like to take you to dinner.”
“Well, now I just might accept that invitation. Thank you.”
So Brian spent a terrific evening with Larry and Lucile Butler, and Cindy.
Cindy and Brian saw each other again. And again.