Jun 16, 2006

Quarter phone

The way I heard it, the way it was told to me, was that it happened early in the morning on a Sunday. After the birds had broken the dawn, after the sun had set long tree shadows running down the street, while pastors and priests were polishing sermons and the neighbors were still sleeping in, the light at the bottom of the hill turned red.

A circuit switched with the cycle and deep inside the yellow box above the street corner there was a click. Up the hill a foot pressed the brake pedal but the air breathed out of the lines. The pedal collapsed to the floor and then the foot was frantic, pumping and stomping and pleading stop, stop, stop. The car came down the hill without stopping, without slowing.

Someone blew a horn out into the morning and it sounded sad. The horn blew and the car came through the intersection and then it swerved away from the road and an oncoming collision. The car veered left in a hard lean and came over the curb in a jump and a crunch. It crashed through a line of box-cut bushes and tossed leaves up in the air in its wake in a shuffle. It came over the curb and the hedge and onto the edge of the gas station parking lot.

Standing there was the telephone, the pay phone posted on a piece of lumber with a pipe feeding up the wires to the blue box with the word BELL written on the side. It was standing in the way, facing the other way, silent and waiting to ring when the car came crashing brakeless down the hill and smashed into the phone.

The way I saw it was as a stub of a post splintered off at about the knee and turning gray with the winter. The wires were tied off in a knot and pushed back down into the ground. People would come by and ask for our phone and I've have to say we didn't have one, it was gone, broken off.

The head was in the garage leaning dead against the wall, blue box banged up on the sides and the silver buttons with all their numbers worn away. The joints of the phone cord were dotted with red rust and you could still see some numbers scratched in ball point pen on the inside wall.

The owner was keeping it there in case the company ever came for it. But it'd been years now and it didn't seem likely that they’d ever care to come, seemed they'd decided to let it die and that with all the cell phones it didn't even need replacing. It wasn't a collectable, the kind of phone people think of as nostalgic. It wasn't a red box British phone or nice glass booth set on a historic highway. It was just a phone.

It was just a phone I wanted to take home, to see if I could coax the wires out from where they'd recoiled and extend them from where they'd snapped off short and rework them into the line in the jack in my house. I wanted to attach the yellow post to the wall, leaving the shattered bottom a foot off the floor and the box handing there with the black phone buzzing once again with a dial tone. I wanted to hear it gulping as it caught quarters and to see it there, hanging bruised in my kitchen. I could have gone to another phone on another corner and lifted the receiver to hear the tone, but I wanted this one, monstered as it was.