Dial M for my Mom

I’ve never been all that keen on answering calls from the unknown on home phones – and only home phones. Put in front of an office line, no worries – I’ll pick it up and chat with strangers to the point of making them wish they hadn’t phoned me in the first place. But something about a home phone ring-a-ling-a-ling gives me the willies. Having been without a home phone for many years had temporarily squashed that feeling for the better part of a decade. But, the other day, while staying with my in-laws, their home phone belted out a familiarly haunting tone late in the evening, and I felt just a hint of that ol’ home-phone-terror-tinge. Got me to thinking about reasons and rationale for such a thing.

Growing up on a cul-de-sac in a Leave it to Beaver suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth didn’t really come with many obvious horrors. There were few hooligans, pervs, con-men, and only one ‘boogie-man’ known as ‘the goat man.’ That said, during my youth, my father did a lot of travelling for his job. He’d leave my mom, brother, and me home to fend for ourselves three or four days a week at least once a month, usually more. And without fail, every single time, on the very first night of his absence, our home phone would ring – usually just a touch after midnight. My mom would pick it up, only to find – each and every time – a dark grumbling voice, insistent on detailing all the disturbing things he’d like to do to her – more specifically, her body and its parts. We referred to him as ‘that sick-o.”

This went on for years, and in the early going, when i was just a wee-lad, the call always lead to the following: my mom would come grab my brother and me from our slumber, put us into her bedroom with her, behind a locked door, and on occasion a medium-sized dresser infront of that door. There we’d make it to another morning trying to go back to sleep, while watching some 60s re-run to quell our nerves. We survived all of those witching-hour visits from our creepy phone friend, whose disturbing commitment to always calling on the very first night my father was gone seems admirable now. Well played cretin, well played.

Sometimes we re-tell the story of ‘that sick-o’ amongst ourselves or to new family and friends, and offer our ideas on who it might have been making that timely ring-a-ling-a-ling. Due to the precise placement of everyone of his calls, I usually deduce it to be one of the following people: a co-worker, a neighbor, or possibly my old man himself. We had a weird neighbor or two, and certainly they seem the more probable culprit – but I won’t be terribly shocked if my dad makes a deathbed confession owning up to the action – because that’s just how my brain rolls.

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