When the Phone Rings – By Sydney Rende

She knows it’s him when the phone rings. It’s the redundant, sing-song tone she’s been dreading since the last time he called. She doesn’t want to answer; but she knows if she doesn’t, it won’t stop. The painful tune will clog her ears and permeate the veins in her brain until finally, she gives in, because he never does. So she picks it up, but she doesn’t say hello. That, she leaves to him.

“Mommy,” she hears him whisper.

She sighs. She’s had this conversation three times tonight, already.

“What, Charlie?”

“Um, Mommy, are you comin’ home soon? Because Doggy’s scared and there’s something movin’ in the ‘frigerator.”

His voice quivers, like the uneven tones of a harmonica. And she knows the tears that fog his eyes are even heavier than the last time. She wants her ex-husband to hear this, but she hasn’t heard from him since that day in the hospital, almost six years ago.

“Charlie, I told you – I’ll get home when I get home. Now get in your bed with Doggy and I’ll see you in a little.”

Charlie chokes out a coughing sob on the other end, and says, “Okay, Mommy.”

She knows he’s waiting for her to hang up.

She sighs again. She’s tired, and knows she should be getting home – and she wants to go home, too. But she would never admit that now. Especially not now. She lights a cigarette and leans back against the headboard of the bed. Beside her, a lumpy, hairy mass snores and mumbles slimy things.

And she wonders how much she’s really worth, as she puffs on the tip and waits for the phone.

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Sydney Rende lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a rising senior at The Friends School of Baltimore. Although she has no publishing history, she recently attended the Sewanee Young Writers Conference at the University of the South. There, she participated in fiction writing workshops in which she wrote various pieces including micro fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. At home, she is a tutor in the writing center at The Friends School and an active member of the yearbook staff. She plays varsity tennis in the fall, and spends her free time chasing after her three younger siblings.

  1. This is lovely writing. Ms. Rende has true talent. I love that she allows the reader to piece together what happens in the story as it progresses. There is a ton of heartbreak in this tiny story.

  2. Elicits true horror. The true horror of bad living baldly written. I hope to hear more from this writer.

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