"The Phone Calls"
She keeps her cordless phone handy, right by her chair with her Bible. Its her sister she tells meher sister is just calling all the time now. And since she has to use the walker to get around she has to keep the phone close by.
Its pitiful, really, she says, the way her sister calls three, four sometimes five times a day. Her sister has given up watching the soaps because she doesnt want the characters seeing into her house. Oh they do you know. They can see where you put your pocketbook. They can see if youve got any jewelry around. Her sister worries about that but she doesnt. She doesnt care if they see her. So her sister calls to find out what is happening on the soaps. Sometimes it really gets on her nerves, having to recount who is having an affair and who is sick.
But her sisters real problem is that the dead are pestering her. People dead 10 years are calling her sister. John Bradley is getting married again. That man. This is his third wife. Youd think two would have been enough. And Hattie, poor Hattie. Her back has gone out and that good-for-nothing daughter of hers wont lift a hand to help her. Poor things. Both of them dead now and her sister just cant keep it straight.
Her sister is really in a bad way. All those dead folks bothering her. Telling her their stories, complaining. Youd think the dead wouldnt have so much to complain about. Youd think that wouldnt you, she wants to know. She wants to tell me about her sister. What are you going to do, she says. You just have to listen. Thats why you have to keep the phone next to your Bible.
There she says. There she is again. She picks up the silent phone and listens. Its her again. Thats the trouble with the deadthey just wont leave you alone. And what can you do but listen to their problems.
From Finishing Touches: Selected Essays and Fiction by Michael Chitwood, Tryon Publishing, $19.95
The noise of the place,
From The Weave Room by Michael Chitwood, University of Chicago Press, $11