A week after his wife, Leah Frost ran over a dog- which was actually a euphemism between husband and wife for ‘the woman you hit with your car and dragged for almost a mile down a gravel road’ Sal Frost was nearly driven to running over and dragging his wife down a gravel road when Leah started to hear the ringing phone.
Sometimes the phone- which she said had one of those old fashioned ringtones- and not one of the new ones that you could download on your cellphone that sounded like chickens or maniacal clown laughter or something by Mozart- rang while she was in the bathroom washing her hair, or when she was reaching for a carton of cranberry juice out of the cooler at the grocery store and sometimes it seemed to come from right beneath her feet when she was in the kitchen pouring herself another glass of wine ( which she did a lot of since she ran over ‘the dog’)
On these occasions, if he was around she would grab his arm and whisper frantically ” can you hear it Sal? Can you hear that phone ringing?
After the millionth, it could have been the billionth time for all he knew at this point, Sal looked at her with a look that shouted, “if I hear about that phone one more time…just one more time Leah I’m going to put you in the same ditch with that “dog”…do we understand each other? Are we clear on that?
They did understand each other. Perfectly. So instead of saying anything about a ringing phone Leah’s eye would twitch like crazy and on some occasions the entire left side of her face would twitch and Sal would glare at her and she would not say a word.
He didn’t care if that drugged out dingbat he was married to went into a grand mal seizure as long as she shut the hell up about that ringing phone.
“Really Sal? “He would ask himself as he would watch his wife standing by the mail box or smoking one of her several packs of cigarettes a day.
Did you really sign up for this?
And when he considered his wife’s talent for scoring a smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals on a monthly basis from one of her several Doctors that had in all probability led her to running over ‘the dog’ and he wondered…
What the hell was life going to be like when she hit 70 in a few years? Would hitting the big seven-oh slow her down? He thought not. In Leah’s universe there was still plenty of time left to run over ‘dogs’ or overdose on whatever the hell she was taking that week and would she do it in the privacy of their home?
She’d probably do it at the Opera like last time, or at the art museum like the time before or the three or four times it happened at poetry readings. For God Sakes. Who the Hell OD’s at poetry readings?
His wife. That’s who.
Sal looked up and wished he had the nerve to walk into her bathroom and start opening bottles in her medicine cabinet and start throwing the contents back into his throat until what was left of his life was burned out of his bones once and for all.
After one such thought- and there were several like that around the Frost household now days Sal was outside when he heard…faintly from the back yard a phone ringing.
Not one of those new ringtone that sounded like robots or singing birds or cats meowing.
It was an old-fashioned ringtone it was deep and rich and trilled as it ended, briefly before starting back up again.
He walked slowly to the back of his house and he could hear it- it was louder but not by much. He walked all the way to the fence line and there…it was louder here.
It was coming from the house next door.
The old abandoned house next door with among the other messages and spray can artwork on the walls was something written on the ceiling. It said,
” We’re so cold here.”
But he could hear it ringing now, it was non-stop and it was so loud.
So he walked into the house through a side door that led into a kitchen with a sink and a wooden chair in the center of the room and one the window ledge there was of course…
And it was ringing.
The wires were neatly coiled next tot the phone and the receiver was off the cradle and yet…it was ringing Sal noted with wonder.
Sal walked over to the phone lifted the receiver to his ear and a calm, cool women’s voice asked hin if he would accept the charges.
” Person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Mrs Leah Frost, will you accept the charges?”
” Who is this? “
” Sir. I have a person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Leah Frost. Will you accept the charges?”
Sal looked around the kitchen, could see the writing on the ceiling in the next room and the phone, the dead phone sitting on the window ledge in front of him. ” My, my wife isn’t here. This isn’t our house. I…I…”
” Sir. I have…”
” Fine I heard you. But how can a house be calling my wife person to person?” It occurred to Sal nobody should be able to call into a dead line and nobody should be able to answer it. But at this point Sal wasn’t tracking those little details.
” Sir I have a person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Leah Frost. Will you accept the charges.”
Sal nodded. ” I mean yes sure. I’ll accept the charges.”
” Thank you sir. Riversleigh you may proceed with you call.”
Sal never saw the face of the person who rammed their fist through his back and into his ribcage. Never felt the hand yank his heart out and let it fall to the dusty floor.
And Sal was way beyond seeing anything anymore when a small foot, a woman’s booted foot stepped on it.
” I’m sorry Riversleigh.” The Operator said over the dead receiver. The party you are trying to reach is no longer on the line. Shall I try again?”
And then a voice, neither male or female, cool and dry whispered over the line.” No. No that’s fine. I’ll try again later. Only next time I do believe I’ll call direct. “