Short Story: Dialtone

A PHONE CALL TO “Samantha Bishop” HAS BEEN PLACED FROM THE BLUERIDGE COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY FROM INMATE #673 “Ethan Hill”. TO ACCEPT THIS CALL, PLEASE PRESS “1”. Sammi grimaced; she’d forgotten it was the first Monday of the month. Pulling her squad car into a vacant side road, she pressed 1 and tried not to scream.

It was quiet for a moment. Atlas, her K-9 Unit partner, panted in the back seat. He could sense her change in mood. The other line crackled to life.

“Hello?” came a low voice over the speaker.

“Hey. What’s up?” Sammi asked, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Oh, uh, you know, the usual stuff one does in jail. Sleep, eat, try not to go crazy, repeat.” He laughed feebly.

“I think that joke passed its expiration date about two years ago, the first time you used it.”

“Worth a shot…”

Sammi sighed. “What do you want, Ethan? I’m on patrol.”

“You know, just checking in. Seeing how things are going… How’s the mut?”

“Apparently he’s trying not to go crazy in jail,” she deadpanned.

“Ha. You should try stand up.”

She smirked, watching a few pedestrians jog to cross the street before the light changed. The silence grew between them.

“Listen, um, Sammi–”

She sighed.

“What’s your problem?” Ethan snapped.

“It’s always something with you, isn’t it? You never write, never even try to get in touch with Mom. You only ever call me when you need something. Do you ever think about how hard this is on her?”

“Hard on her? Who’s the one in prison, Sammi? Last I checked she was living a pretty cushy life on the North End with you and your doting, dittzy husband.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re really trying to bring Matt into this? Just spit it out, Ethan. How can I help you this time?”

She could hear him grinding his teeth on the other end of the line. A blue pickup truck covered in mud rumbled down the street. The smell offreshlyh baked bread drifted through the air from the bakery at the end of the block. “Well, uh, you see, I have my parole hearing coming up on the 21st, and I was hoping you’d show up and put in a good word for me.”

Sammi couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you kidding me? Aside from the fact that they’d think I was being completely biased and that your sentence still has three years left, why should I help you? You did this to yourself; you have to live with the consequences.”

“Oh get off your high horse, princess. First off, I sold drugs one time to try to make ends meet. Second, if you hadn’t been so busy being the perfect daughter and wife to your airhead hubby, maybe you would’ve noticed what was going on, and, I don’t know, maybe, helped me! I cannot believe you’d be this selfish. I’m your brother!”

“Yeah, and I’m the sister who’s always stuck picking up your messes!” She was screaming into the phone now, her hands shaking with rage. “You tore our family apart! You didn’t even stop to think about what the rest of us were going through and how it would affect us once you got caught selling drugs like the idiot screw-up you are! And you have the audacity to call me selfish? I worked to get where I am today. It wasn’t always fun and it sure wasn’t easy, but I made it. It’s a complete and total cop-out that you think this is somehow my fault. I’ve sacrificed everything and done nothing but try to help you! So who the hell do you think you are to be calling me selfish, Ethan!” Her chest heaved as she waited for a response. A high pitched dial tone sounded.

I’M SORRY BUT YOUR CALL TIME HAS EXPIRED. TO REQUEST ANOTHER CALL, PRESS “1”, TO FILE A COMPLAINT, PRESS “2”,  TO SCHEDULE A VISIT, PRESS–

Sammi mashed the “END” button and threw her phone across the seat. She rested her head on the steering wheel, taking deep breaths. He’s right, said the quiet voice in the back of her head. I should’ve seen it… After a few moments, Atlas whined in the backseat. “You’re right, buddy,” she said, sitting up and straightening her braid. She blinked a tear from her eye so quickly it was as if had never existed. “Time to get back to work.”

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