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What I learned Today

by Wayne Scheer
 



Wayne has locked himself in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. To keep from going back to work, he's published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems and has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.


My wife is away and I'm enjoying quiet time at my computer when the telephone makes that shrill, ear piercing ring demanding I pay it attention. I recall reading that whenever a phone rang, Dorothy Parker would say, “And what fresh new hell is this?”

I let it ring, as I often do, to give callers a chance to change their mind. I check the i.d. and see it's my wife's sister. My first inclination is to let it go to voice mail, but then I'd have to explain to Bonnie why I didn't answer. I could lie and say I was out or in the shower, but lying has never been my strong suit, which is why I enjoy writing fiction—I think of lying as a skill I need to learn. So, on the fourth ring, I pick up the phone and say, “Hi, Linda.”

She immediately begins talking. She and her sister are the types who jump first and check to see if there's water in the pool after. “You won't believe what Warren just said. I'm so angry I could spit.” .

After a mind-numbing rant in a steadily increasing decibel level, she pauses for breath and I ask, “Who's Warren?”

“Oh, hi Wayne. I thought Bonnie was on the phone.”

I wait a second to see if she might appreciate the humor of the moment. No recognition. Just an exasperated sigh. I tell her Bonnie isn't home and, foolishly, ask if there's a message.

“A message? Haven't you been listening? Warren is such a shit.

“Uhh...”

“Maybe it's good that I got you on the phone. I need a man's opinion about what I should do.”

I know the only sentence worse than that is twenty to life, but she's already talking. I don't understand much of what she's saying and I care less, but every once in a while I interject an, “Uh-huh.” A good ten minutes later, I tell her she should do what she thinks is right. I pull that one out of the Cliches 'R' Us catalog.

She thanks me for my advice and finally hangs up. I know she'll immediately call her sister's cellphone to repeat the story and I'll be chastised for encouraging her to say something she shouldn't to Warren.

I'm far too exhausted to get back to work, but I learned three important lessons:
Never answer the phone when Bonnie isn't home
Therapists have a sucky job
I have to hone my lying skills

I never did find out who Warren is.


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