Payphone - A short story by Seth Renzi
Payphone - A short story
It had been ten years since she left him. Nine years since he had become an alcoholic. Eight years since he added hard drugs to the mix. For the last seven years he had no home but the sidewalk, no family but the other vagrants, and no friends save a bottle, needle, pipe or what have you. He couldn't remember the last time he held an actual conversation. It didn't matter, after the two bottles of cheap bourbon he had sucked down tonight he wouldn't long for any of it. The sidewalk might even feel warm and soft in his current condition.
As he stumbled in the vague direction of a nearby overpass he blearily noticed something strange. A pay phone. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he had seen a pay phone. Ever since cell phones they were a dying breed. He found himself inexorably drawn towards it. He stuck a grubby finger in the coin return slot, and was shocked to find coin in there. Enough to buy a smoke from a passing stranger, but he didn't pocket it. Instead he found himself inserting the coins back into the machine and shakily picking up the receiver.
He punched out the only number that came to mind. He was expecting to hear a voice tell him the number had been disconnected, but it was ringing.
"Hello?" came the voice from the other end.
"Whose this?" He blurted
"You called me mister," a young boy replied smartly.
"Is Frank there?" He wasn't sure why he was asking for his long deceased father. He wasn't sure why he was doing any of this.
"Nah, he's working, want me to take a message."
"What? Um... No. Where does your father work?"
"He drives a cab, I don't have a number to reach him while he's working. I can tell him you called if you give me your name man."
"My father drove a cab, his name was Frank too..." He stammered, confused.
"Weird," the voice said flatly, "What did you say your name was again?"
"I didn't. Um. This is Albert."
"Whoa, freaky, that's my name too," the boy giggled. "Stupid name, sounds geeky if you ask me"
"Exactly what I thought when I was younger," Albert nearly whispered. "Don't worry, you'll grow into it," he added.
"This probably sounds dumb to you Albert, but.. uh.. what if you're me... like from the future, you know?" The boy laughed nervously.
"Then I got some bad news for you kid. Stuff doesn't exactly work out."
"Well, like, maybe that's why your calling me... you know, set me on the right path or something?"
"It's probably all coincidence kid, Life don't work like that."
The boy undeterred asked, "What was your best friends name?"
"Dude! Sleepovers at his place every weekend. We like to watch monster movies even though we ain't supposed to."
"Yeah... so did we" Albert said finding this all very strange.
They continued to chat noting all the similarities: first girlfriends by the same name. The math teacher they both hated was Mr.Thomas. Spider-Man was undoubtedly the best super hero. They both kept a hidden playboy stashed behind the middle dresser drawer.
Albert, for the first time in ten years, felt hope. He could change things for this boy, for himself. Hell, he could give him stock tips, make sure he never ended up on the street. He would certainly tell him never to date a girl by the name of Autumn, she would just break his heart and his life would systematically fall apart.
One more question. "What year is it Albert?" The grown man asked.
"2015, were you thirteen then?" the boy asked hopefully.
The drunk hung up the phone. He didn't know how he allowed himself to buy into the fantasy. This wasn't a story, or a movie or an after school special. This was his life, and there was no changing it. He slumped down and collapsed by the phone, no longer caring to reach the overpass. "Should of spent the change on a smoke" he mumbled through his sobs.
By: Seth Renzi