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The Telephone Museum (short story excerpt)


Get up.  Walk back from morning.  Orange juice.  Not yours but the little officer in the window.  Freezing.  Sipping.  Freezing and sipping on orange juice in a heated room where the sidewalk door opens so often the cold biting outside air enters and keeps things more cold.

            A photo I saw.

            Afternoon.  Propaganda on the walls.  My feet silent as I shift around the kitchen area contemplating whether or not to put on clothes and go shopping for slippers.  Something about slippers makes me feel as though it’s my wedding day.  I’m not married but I’ve been given roses by a girl before and I thought that was odd, since they were on a “thank you” card, but I smiled and held onto the photo of the girl holding a rose and listened to the sentiment expressed by my heart. 

Hearts can be sentimental.  Right?

            If I purchased slippers I’d have to purchase a robe.  Would they need to match?  Like people in hotels in the movies?  Like in The Whole Shebang?  Would they need some kind of urgent knocking at the door?  And we have to hide the body or the money or the hooker?  Would there be a land phone?  Would it ring at some moment when we were brushing our teeth or in the shower or napping with the TV playing some 1980s movie (which would be ironic, as we’d be in the movie, with the slippers and the robe and the passed out nun), action happening not only in the main story but also on the small story moving across grainy TV footage from decaying print film. 

            I’m working on me. 

            Thought I lost money the other day.  Last year.  It was very windy and I had to throw on actual pants and shoes and a jacket to make my rounds at the cleaners, the store, the other store, and the store downstairs, and wouldn’t you know but I didn’t have any money for the last store, so I walked to my local bakery and asked them for an almond croissant and two heavy tablespoons of raw honey, which they gladly provided.  We talked about the economy for a moment.  It was boring but passed the time.  I couldn’t speak well with moments.  I wanted to interrupt the cashier/baker as a result of the raw honey swirling around my mouth and sticking between my gums and the inside of my lips.  I caught my reflection in a strategically placed mirror and thought I resembled a jackass of humanity.  I wanted to spit the honey out but remembered it was free so I violently licked the entire inside of my mouth until it was gone. 

            “What’s going on?” asked the cashier/baker.

            “It feelth like ten million bumblebeeth juth took a dump in my mouf,” I said, immediately regretting it after speaking.  Not the first time.

            The cashier/baker was dismayed.  If she were a human slot machine I could turn one of her basset hound ears and watch her eyeballs roll until they both landed on “flabbergasted.” 

            Then her mouth would pop open, her tongue would roll out, and I’d receive a tiny scroll regarding the location of my next adventure.


A phone rang.  I checked the caller ID but it was an “Unknown Caller,” which if I was an elderly person meant I wouldn’t answer it unless I was lonely and if I was a young child I would answer it since I didn’t know any better.  No.  I was right in the middle of those two extremes and completely understood the repercussions of answering uncertainty.  I waited.  Ringing.  Ringing.  Listening.  Blinking.  Ringing.  I thought of fruit.  Blinking.  How I had very little at home.  Ringing.  I thought if you put a row of different fruit in front of me, an orange, apple, banana, grapefruit, a healthy blinking handful of fat green grapes, a ringing pint of strawberries, ringing melon and blinking blueberries, I wondered which one I would go for first.

            The phone stopped.  I simply walked away.  I passed through an unmarked door and entered a dark and narrow hallway with many different framed photographs on the wall.  I was inside the museum again in a place somewhat familiar but not enough I felt I needed to stop and take a photo of my surroundings.  The air was not unpleasant but too muggy to remain, and the light outside was so bright I had to move toward it while putting on my uncle’s motorcycle sunglasses and finding fresh air, street sounds, the sun waving hello, a friendly stranger walking their dog as I sidestepped and waited for foot traffic to pass, the smell of a memory prevalent enough to carry my attention to the next corner, re-tying my left shoe, stretching my arms as I contemplated which way to go.

            Strawberry.  I’d go for the strawberry.

            Ahead.  I popped in a t-shirt shop where they put anything you want on a t-shirt and charge you about thirty bucks.  I looked around and heard the t-shirt guy say “You’ve lost your mind!  I’m not payin’ that!” to someone on his phone and I nodded, understanding his sentiment, more than satisfied with what I’d seen, as I would also not be paying that much for a t-shirt of my own creative devices.

            I kept my hands in my pockets the whole time I was there and then walked out as though I was hiding something.

            My grandpa’s ashes were in the museum but I didn’t want to go there just yet.  He was a wide man and quite fond of melting pots.  He embraced cultures of all kinds and loved nothing more than trying the food from another family or place.  When he traveled he’d go to “out-of-the-way” spots located in alleys or less touristy locations.  He could cook anything and often felt “the world needs more seasoning.”  He had a moustache made of salt and pepper.  His hair was not unlike fettuccini after it’d been tossed in butternut spaghetti squash and a healthy amount of dried lemongrass.  We called him Grandpa Doctor Captain Kangaroo but he didn’t so much care for that.  He loved sleeping.