Phoning a Friend

horse drawn funeral

(700 words)

Not wanting to dial, but wanting to dial, Jessica Sumner hesitated, her finger poised over her phone’s keypad. She felt nervous. This was silly, she could simply say she’d dialled the wrong number, no one would mind. Her brain commanded her finger to press but her muscles refused to cooperate.
She’d upgraded her e-mail program and a window had popped up, asking permission to migrate her address book. She’d had the option to manually approve the entries. Having some time to kill, she’d checked through the list, one at a time, deleting contacts from her detested last job, waitressing at Burger Legend, and others she wanted to put out of her mind forever. How she’d hated that job, all those cowboys leering at her chest. It wasn’t her fault she was so ‘full-figured’! She felt a pang of regret at the name Roland Korzybski though. She’d delete that one later she told herself.
Suddenly, seeing an old familiar name, she felt a lump in her throat and a burning sensation in her eyes. Eleanor Naddeo. Dear Ellie. Jessica felt a tear trickle down her cheek, almost relishing the chance to give in to overwhelming sadness at the memory of her good friend.

Jessica had visited Eleanor almost every day towards the end, looking into the sunken yellow eyes in Ellie’s gaunt face, feeling desperation whilst trying to exude optimism. “You’ll be OK Ellie, the doctors say the prognosis is good.” The next thing had been Ellie’s funeral, the coffin pulled on a carriage by two white horses, Jessica watching with tears streaming down her face. She choked back a sob at the memory. Come on Jess, that was over two years ago. We have to move on! But still, she and Ellie had enjoyed so many good times growing up together.

So now she had the inexplicable urge to dial Eleanor’s old number one last time, just to see who was there. Crazy, she knew. Do it!
“Hello, Eleanor Naddeo.”
It couldn’t be, that was impossible!
“… Hello, is anybody there?”
“Y-yes, it’s Jessica, Jessica Sumner.” Just hang up!
“Hi Jess, I haven’t heard from you. It’s been so long. Just so long. Are you still hanging with Rolly?”
It must be a prank! “Who?”
“Roland Korzybski, your boyfriend, the biker.”
The voice sounded so familiar. “No. No, I’m not. Ellie, is that really you?”
“Yes, of course it is, who did you think it was?” Eleanor laughed her unmistakable laugh, a kind of giggle that rose in pitch.
“Ellie, don’t get me wrong, but you … you died. Two years ago. Liver cancer.”
Eleanor laughed. “Yes, I remember being ill. I don’t remember after that. But I’m OK now. I’m back at college, finishing my teacher training.”
I’ll wake up in a minute, Jessica thought. She pinched the skin above her right wrist. “Ow!”
“Jess, are you OK?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I just …. What college are you at?”
Eleanor hesitated. “I … I forget the name right now. Sorry, I … I seem to forget stuff.” She sounded upset.
“It’s OK Ellie, don’t worry. It’s just great to talk to you! How’s your family?”
“Oh, mom’s fine, dad’s doing a lot of overtime, they’re aiming to go on a world cruise next year!”
“Chuck’s got himself a new girlfriend, Sandy, a pom pom girl! He’s finished college. He’s working at MacDonald’s whilst he finds himself a proper job.”
“That’s enterprising of him.”
“Yeah, and I get free Big Macs!” She laughed her unmistakable laugh again.
Jessica felt a stab of love and longing. “Ellie, can we meet? I want to see you.”
Again, Eleanor’s tinkling laugh. “Of course, why not? It’s been so long!”
Just the thought of seeing Ellie again, illogical as it was, to throw her arms around her friend and hug her again, made her heart pound. “Wow, that’d be cool. Look, I’m free tomorrow afternoon …” Jessica realised the line had gone dead. Frantically she pressed the redial symbol. Ellie’s number popped up and she pressed the dial button. The number rang … and rang. Come on Ellie!
Finally, someone picked up the phone. A man’s voice answered. “Hello Pizza Hut, how may I help?”

Please note that there is an extended version of this story, 1200 words. Click HERE to view.

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10 thoughts on “Phoning a Friend

    1. Hi Ida, I’m starting to read K M Weiland’s free e-book, The Five Secrets of Story Structure, that you recommended on Community Pool 28/8/17. She says that is a supplement to Structuring Your Novel, which I have on audiobook (haven’t listened to it as yet though …), and I think the basic idea of my story could adapt well to a novel structure, according to her ideas.
      Maybe Jessica and Ellie could set up a meeting and then something goes wrong, Jessica’s car breaks down or whatever. Yes, plenty of possibilities. I’ll be pleased to buy a copy if you get round to it!

      1. Could be. Though, by the time I’d be done with the thing, you could probably not tell that I got the inspiration from or even shy away from any association. XD Knowing myself, it’d get twisted real quick:
        Maybe Ellie’s death wasn’t natural after all. Maybe she was getting better, but somebody wanted her dead. Maybe that person then proceeded to take Ellie’s identity, even stealing her cell-phone in her grave. Maybe the voice came from a sound simulator, run by that same person. And then when Jess meets Ellie, she won’t be able to tell right away that it’s not her late best friend because the person had surgery, but then she’d notice stuff like a different shoe size or something. And then the person would start obsessing with Jess…


        Maybe Ellie never actually existed and she was just Jessica’s imaginary friend, who’s in fact a second personality that was pushed into oblivion two years ago when Jess got better psychologically (because of Roland?), and now Ellie wants revenge and is out to kill Jess.

        Ahem. Sorry. Can you tell I like psychological thrillers? ^^;

        1. Hi Ida, I edited the comment for you as per your request. I always think it’s odd that if you comment on someone’s blog, then they ‘own‘ your comment and can edit it or delete it, but you can’t! Ditto Community Pool.

          Anyway, there are some really interesting ideas in there!

          I needed to start on a new story earlier in the week, but really couldn’t think of an idea, even looking at the usual prompts etc. Unusual! Then something I read brought to mind an event from several years ago. I’d gone to a storage warehouse at night for the first time. It was on an industrial estate and it was dark, cold, isolated and lonely. I’d typed in my security code, expecting to access a door. Instead, a huge steel shutter started rolling up, clanking and banging, making me jump out of my skin!

          So with that stimulus I used an idea from What If? by Pam Painter and Anne Bernays. Write five possible continuations based on ‘what if?’

          What if I went to my storage unit and found it empty? Ditto and found a dead body inside it?! etc. etc. Pretty soon I came up with an idea (appearing on my blog in a few weeks’ time!). So, yes, one could brainstorm quite a number of possible scenarios for the Jessica/Ellie story I guess. Yours are definitely imaginative!

    1. Hello Jo, thank you, I’m glad you liked it! What had actually happened in the story was that Pizza Hut had taken over Ellie’s number. Perhaps, due to her emotional state at the time, Jessica had made contact with Ellie’s spirit on the ‘other side.’ The contact was broken, and, unfortunately, she couldn’t have made physical contact with Ellie in any case.

      I read the story as an ‘urban legend,’ so not sure if it really happened. It’s a bit similar in idea to my story Voices from the Ether

      1. Hi Simon! It’s a great plot – whether real or imagined. You could expand on it, or keep it the way it is. I like reading urban legends and see how they might inspire my own imagination.

        1. Hi Jo, yes I suppose there is a potential to extend the plot so that Jessica manages to contact Ellie on further occasions (without being arrested for harassing Pizza Hut!). I guess the idea might be used for a much longer story, or even a novel. But as far as I’m concerned (famous last words!) the story ended with that final line!

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