Sunday, July 2, 2017


…exercise from the Jackson Hole Writers Conference…

During a workshop at the recently attended Jackson Hole Writer Conference, the presenter gave us five minutes to work on this story-starter opening line.  Ironically, my mother had called just the day before I’d hit the road.

Here (with some minor revisions) is what I came up with…

My mother called this morning to complain that her phone must be on the fritz.  “Nobody’s called,” she said, “in weeks.”

I know I’d talked to her just a day or two before.  “Is the orange light lit?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I can’t see it.”

Within a bank of buttons on Mom’s phone is one that, when pushed, illuminates in orange indicating the telephone will answer calls.  When pushed a second time, the illumination goes away and the answering function is quashed.  Although a rotary dial might be more in her league, I suspected there was nothing wrong with the phone.

I said, “Well, if that light isn’t lit, people can’t you leave a message and you’ll think no one called.”

“I can’t see the light.  I can barely see the phone!”

Macular degeneration steals one’s vision a few darkening retinal rods at a time.  The process is agonizing and gradual.  Victims know what’s going to happen, knowing also that there’s not a damned thing they can do about giving up the sighted world, all the while hoping the sighted world doesn’t give up on them.

“But Mom, how were you able to get a hold of me just now?”

She paused for a moment, perhaps prearranging words for her son: the one who never seems to catch on. “I felt around for the keypad and punched in your number from the pattern I remember.  Once I get past the area code, all your numbers are in the same row.”

“Well, at least you know your phone works,” I said.

“Not so well.  First time I tried to dial you, I got the dry cleaners.”

I laughed.

“It’s not funny!  I don’t have anything at the dry cleaners.”  There was a pause in which I could hear her exhale a gust of frustration.  Then she said, “Do you think I need a new phone?”

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

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