The Green Phone from the Dream Shifters Collection By Janice Abel
So, a green phone is delivered to my cubicle. I knew right away it wasn’t a company issue, or there would have been umpteen forms to fill out, and I didn’t even have to sign for it. But gees, the phone was nothing but a green glob, real weird. All the keys were odd- shaped, and the numbers were jumbled up like some kid put them on who didn’t know his numbers. Lying on the grey sea of my desk, the green glob stared at me. My curious vibes told me to reach for it, but I had a quota to fill. I had to get sailing on the great Web. So I booted up. That didn’t work. The big green phone began vibrating. “It’s having a seizure!” I exclaimed. Paper clips began popping, doing a rumba across the counter and my paper stacks began shifting like top heavy, layered cakes. Then the green glob rang, resonating like church bells in the confines of my little cubicle. I grabbed for it, but my high tech chair skated across the tile floor and slammed me against the counter. I got the phone to my ear just in time to hear a gurgling voice say, “Lo, Hedy Lou?” “Huh?” My name’s fractured again. Dang, I thought. “Yeah, it’s me, Betty Blue here,” I barked. “I’m a Martian and we're holding your Grandma for some ucks.” Some translation problem here, I thought. He must have meant ducks? Didn’t make sense. Oh, yeah, then I caught the joke, “Bucks!” Yeah, sure, I’ve got clever friends. I figured it was just them joking around. “Oh, uh-huh,” I said, playing along. “Yeah, we’re bankrupt and need some credit.” Uh huh. Must be my music friends: Elmo, Mary, or Peter. They always called when they’d lost their gig or were broke. “No way,” I said. “Get your own credit.” The gurgling voice hardened to a crisp snap. “Hey, you want to play hard-all. We can play that way.” Voices in the background began shouting in some funny language. Muffled sounds swirled in the earphone, then “Hey, honey, it’s me.” God, it sounded like Grandma. Gees! My mouth dried like sand in a desert. “Would you believe where I am?” she said in an almost cheery voice. “Grandma, is that you? Where are you? Are you all right?” I shrieked. “Oh, dear, it is a wonderful ride, a party of sorts.” “You’ve left the Care Center!” My heart thumped a hip-hop that’s not natural. “Have they pulled your nails or stretched your toes or anything like that?” “Oh, dear, no,” Grandma sighed. “In fact, despite their predicament, they’re jolly. And . . .” “THEIR predicament,” I blurted, “YOUR predicament, Grandma.” But I realized it was fast translating to mine. “Now, now, dear,” Grandma said consolingly and then letting out a giggle only she could make, “They’re like jolly giant green Jell-O drops, jiggling all over the place. But it’s goo city up here....” “Up here, what do you mean?” I interrupted. “Somewhere, I don’t know, dear. But anyway, it’s goo city here. Their housekeeping, oh my, all I can say is I’ll never criticize you or your mother again.” This is when I first noticed the phone was a bit sticky; in fact, a glob had dripped down the front of my new peach Stella Jane sweater. Drat! Normally I‘d be dressed in jeans and white T-shirt with the company logo. But this was anything but a normal day. I was meeting a guy on a blind date for lunch. He’d think I was a real do-do. Grandma continued, “I have promised them chicken soup for supper; that is, if they have chickens.” No doubt, now, I knew for sure it was Grandma. Chicken soup was her cure-all for everything. I drew in a deep breath. Sweat had started soaking through the back of my sweater. My black mascara had to be trailing down my cheeks. I heard swirling in the phone and then breathy gurgling sounds. Jell-O ball was back. “You do have my grandma!” I shouted. “Was there ever any dope?” he retorted. “Doubt, you mean, doubt,” I said, clutching the phone as though it were his neck. “Why are you picking on me and my grandma anyway?” “We’re bankrupt and you’re the credit expert.” Dang, now we were into a real cultural confusion. Me just a credit card solicitor, an expert? But, hey, maybe this was a way to get my Grandma back and fill my quota all at the same time. And to-boot, I wouldn’t even have to give them my credit card pitch. Cool down, keep cool, I said to myself.“I can get good deals on our one stop shopping credit card, the best on quantities, 21.5% interest rate for customers without a credit check." On purpose, I didn’t say per month, per day or anything like that. If I could just get them to hang loose I could slip in most anything. It could be a real company coup for me and might even get me a promotion. Maybe I could be an expert. “Yeah, maybe, but…”his voice trailed. Now he sounded a little more hesitant. But I said to myself, forge ahead. “What kind of delivery? You got an address?” “No addresses up here. Don’t know how we’ll handle that.” “You don’t even have an address? How you gonna expect me to deliver anyway?” I wanted to sound like I was in control but he shot back, “Well, how do you think we got your Grandma up here, by remote control or tweetie bird? We got our ways.” My temper was coming up and without thinking I spit a hot bullet back. “You got your ways? Then get your own credit!” “Does credit have a warm -ody or is it, now let’s see….” I heard the ruffling of pages and a funny muttering, like he might be looking a word up. “Is it organic?” he finally asked. “Huh,” I said. “We got our ways with organic, like your grandma.” Now I was translating, “You mean organic, warm body?” “You got it. Yeah, yeah.” They must have a special power with bodies and live stuff, I surmised. Maybe they could get rid of the little critters that scampered into the cubicle cracks when I made my morning entrance. “Like I said, I can get you credit, I can get you good deals on shopping.” “Shopping? Our space is limited. We need credit for hard stuff! We got a - ist.” “You mean list?” “Yeah, maybe, list, yeah a list.” The mushy voice became crisp. “Our mission is to collect human cultural clues that’ll tell us about you all. Our orders, - ring -ack plastic -owls, soda pop -ottles, -alls, phones not green ones, and aseall cards.” Oh, yeah, now it came to me. The globs were having trouble with their letter “b”. My translations were getting better. They were finding out about us and needed plastic bowls, bottles, balls, and baseball cards. Yeah, sure, I giggled to myself. I could imagine a museum floating somewhere out in deep space with all these things to tell about us humans. I was getting more confident and feeling defiant. “Credit cards, yeah, they’ll do. You can get anything on that list without a prob.” Now in the background, even with the funny language, I could tell there was an argument occurring of a gigantic proportion. Finally a clear deep voice replied, “Maybe credit cards will work up here but we gotta call the –oss.” “Boss, you stupid Jell-O head.” Drat, that made me explode. I was just dealing with middle management and I bet they would try to hold me up for something else! “Put the Boss on. Give me back my grandma,” I screamed, “Or, no deal!” “Don’t get tough,” the green glob slurred. There was a swirling sound in the phone. “It’s okay, dear, I‘ll make them chicken soup and these goo balls will simmer to a jolly –o!” “Grandma, tell them I’m the expert, okay?” “Yes, dear!” Static crackled. Hum. Disconnect. I thumped on the keypad, dead! Melt the little Jell-O balls. Put poison in their soup. Damn. My heart banged against my ribs. Now for the first time fear shot through my veins. They had my grandma and I’d lost the green phone connection. I checked with the nursing home, and Miss Sweetie Pie assured me everything was all right. She’d seen Grandma in her wheelchair racing down the walk with two fellows dressed in green costumes. “I'm sure it’s all a part of a promotion, or something. Your grandma was anxious to get away,” she said merrily. Sure, who wouldn’t? I slammed the phone down and punched police emergency. My luck, a computer voice answered. “Marshall County Police Department. To best serve you please choose your option.” There were ten. Kidnapping wasn’t one, so I chose the next best thing: missing persons. The guy that answered sounded as though I woke him up. I heard the rustle of papers and pencils tumbling like pick-up sticks. “Oh damn,” he muttered then clearing his voice, “Yes, Miss?” “My Grandma has been kidnapped and . .,” “Sorry, Miss, you’ve got the wrong department. This is missing persons, that’s diff…” “I couldn’t find one for kidnapping,” I said interrupting. “Now let’s see, that would be …well…,” he kept drawling some more. God, I didn’t need a slow talker. “I need help,” I pleaded. “Well . . . well, guess I’m your best shot. You’re right, we don’t have a kidnapping department. I’ll need you to answer a few questions.” Oh Lordy, my heart flip-flopped. A form, I could see it growing pages long. “You say your grandma is missing?” “Kidnapped.” “No place to enter that, but that’s okay. Now let’s see, her name and address?” “Ruby Ruth Rush Nursing Home, the east center site.” I quickly replied. “Oh, and she is in a wheelchair, an electric one.” “Have you thought that maybe she’s off on a day trip, or maybe ran away with a boy friend? This happens in 50 per cent of the cases.” “No, no, nothing like that.” I squirmed. Underarm rings were beginning to seep into my soft peach sweater. “Okay, just one more section. Any distinguishing marks or habits, a tattoo, a ….” “Hey, can we get on with it? How much more?” I said forking my fingers through now sweaty locks that I’d carefully coaxed into place very early that morning. “This is real important, lady. Ninety percent of the time we find’em because of an oddity. Just last week it was a guy with a double thumb picked up for shop lifting, the finger prints, it was the thumb prints that got him.” “Okay. Well… there’s a small mole on her nose and she always carries a black bag chucked full of kitchen utensils, a can opener for sure. “Can opener?” He sounded skeptical. “Yes, she makes chicken soup almost on the spot.” “Okay,” he replied. “That’s about it. Three days if she isn’t back, I’ll send the info forward.” “Three days,” I screeched. “It’s policy, lady. Ninety-nine percent of the time the lost is found--off with a boyfriend, mad about something, out on a fling.” “But it’s my Grandma in a wheelchair; she’s been captured, being held against her will!” My voice escalated to a resonating squall. “How do you know she’s been kidnapped? A little birdie told you or something?” That sarcasm really lit my fire. “No, a Martian on a green phone told me,” I shouted. “Lady . . .” it was like the guy couldn’t catch his breath, “Lady, where in hell are you?” “Just sittin’ here in my little gray cubicle twiddling my thumbs,” I barked. Silence. Oh, oh. Drat, what had I just said? His voice got real smooth. “Stay calm. I’m sure everything will be okay. If you don’t hear from your grandma in three days, call back. In the meantime, my advice, don’t take any more calls on a green phone. Just be cool.” Click I couldn’t stop shaking. How could I be so stupid? I’d have to cross cops off my help list. The day was running out fast, already past noon. Tammy, my cubicle neighbor, stuck her head into my space. “Hey, are your forgetting your date? I thought you’d skip out early.” “Oh wow, forgot.” “You gotta be kiddin’.” I related my whole morning to Tammy. She stared at the green phone for a sec then shook her head. Still no way, she couldn’t understand why I would ever forget this special lunch date. This guy Davon was a knock-out and was making a big splash at the company, she said. He was an exec and had spied me when he’d come to the branch for a company review. Tammy punctuated her point, “Regardless of anything about the green phone, you’re gonna eat one way or another. And if you choose downstairs standing in line for anemic macaroni and hot dogs over upstairs where the catch of the day is lobster and a guy with a fat expense account, I’ll know the little green globs have already grabbed your brain.” I agreed. Besides, I needed time out to let my creative juices flow on the green phone problem. Davon might even be able to help me. I didn’t want to miss a green phone call, so I wrapped up the sticky phone and stuck it in my purse. I managed to rub out most of the sticky glob that had pasted itself down the front of my peach sweater and slipped on my three inch heels. Though I hadn’t seen Davon myself, Ammie Fay, my best friend, said I could wear my highest spikes with Davon. As the elevator lifted me to the penthouse café, all I could think about was how all my cubicle buddies would pound me with questions about Davon and rubbing shoulders with all the top wheelers and dealers. But as the elevator door opened and I punched my heels into the plush carpet, the green phone problem splashed back into my brain. A blaring Wall Street announcement began streaming across a line of monitors. No way could I ignore it; for that matter, no one in the place did. Red lights flashed, bigger than Wally Market’s red light specials on Saturdays. A crisp announcer chattered. “According to Wall Street sources from around the globe, all chickens have vanished. Chicken farmers began reporting their losses earlier in the day. The only traces of chickens came from a weather report noting chicken feathers were snow-balling the mid-west and skirting into the edges of Kansas City. The Chicken Index Commission reports that all livestock indexes are gyrating for fear of massive losses in hogs and cattle as well. The chicken index has skyrocketed, elevating over 50% in the last half-hour.” Oh Lordy, a Jell-O ball bumped up into my throat. Announcements continued scrolling across the monitors, but all that was flashing across my brain was chicken soup and Grandma. I drew a deep breath. “Calm down,” a voice in the far reaches of my brain yelled. But my reality was that the little green globs had snatched all the chickens for my grandma to make soup. The host looked up from his clipboard, and seeing me he smiled and nodded his head. “I’ll bet you’re the good looking blonde Davon told me to watch for,” he said, giving me a look all too seductive for a host. “Davon, yes,” I nodded. My blonde sensitivity sparked a little, but I briskly followed as the little narrow butt led me into a large dining room and to a table located in a cozy corner. A dynamite of a good-looking guy smiled and motioned me to take a seat. He had a phone to his ear. “Be with you in just a sec,” he said; “Chicken futures market is on rampage.” He snapped his finger at a waiter, and in another split second I had a martini. Now I’m not much of a drinker and never at noon, but this noon, you bet. Wow, what could be better than this, a drink at hand and sitting with a hunk of a guy. He had a body build to die for. It wasn’t hard to set my gaze on him. His big brown eyes looked through a perfect dark tan complexion. Golden curls fell gently over his forehead and feathered back over his ears. The only imperfection was a small disk scar on his left cheekbone. He had a pug nose and a dimple that moved as he talked. God, he was cute. Things were looking up. Through my first martini and most of my Caesar salad, he was on the phone. Then with his apology we started the usual first date small talk: what you do, what do you like and all that stuff about ourselves. Well, I should say he talked about himself, his new BMW, his tennis game with his buddy Tad (he won, of course), and his trips to Paris, London, Rio de Janeiro, and his upcoming ones to Athens and Rome. This was all between a number of phone calls. His eyes were on the monitors most of the time. The market was going wild with chicken talk. He’d get this light bulb look, apologize, and punch in another call. I didn’t think of my green phone problem until about the second martini when I came face to face with the green olives swirling about. I rolled them on my tongue and crushed them gently. It was obvious, no way was Davon going to be my sympathetic ear on my green phone problem. The third martini, that’s when I really got a good look at the whole place. I sat back, hanging loose in the saddle so to speak, and my glassy blue eyes cruised around the room. It was nothing more than a giant game board of red carpet and white tablecloths with players wearing Armani suits and armed with cell phones and computers. I reached for my refreshed martini glass but missed it, bringing my head around to stare once more in Davon’s face. His “C” for cute had turned to “C” for clever and I swear he had grown devilish pointed ears. Under his Armani wasn’t muscle but flab oozing out from the collar on his baby blue shirt and the small scar I’d spied on his cheek earlier? Hell, that was deeper than the split in the seat of my worn 2003 Chevy. Suddenly I had the sensation of the table falling. I braced my elbows on it but it kept teetering, the olives in the martini slopping over the side. And that’s when my light bulb lit with a big flash in my churning brain. I could take care of my green phone problem myself! Like my Grandma’s rising bread dough, I was about to bust out of my Stella Jane Sweater. My mind opened up to thinking big. Play the game, get on the big game board, my brain shouted. I grabbed my purse and like a weaving bullet I aimed for the door. “Hey, where are you going?” Davon yelled. “Chickens,” I yelled as I charged out the door, “Chickens.” By the time I got back to my cubicle I had a to-do list punctuated as clear in my brain as the company motto streaming across my screen saver, “Timing is everything.” First, I punched into my internet personal trade center and bought Put Options on the Chicken index and also set a sell order that would reap me a big profit. A voice message alerted me to the danger of buying Put Options since the Chicken index was at an all time high and still going higher. “Never mind,” I muttered to myself and I punched the order in. I reminded myself, that everything comes down and I was betting on my “expertise with the green globs” to get the timing and downward spiral of the chicken index just right. Next, I picked up the green phone and dialed any combination I could think of. Nothing worked. This was the one drawback of my plan. I had to connect. I hoped these Martians or whoever they were still were counting on me for my ”expertise.” Sweat began running down my spine. I decided if I didn’t hear from my green friends within the next hour I would flood the internet with a message like CHICKEN SOUP POISON AT AN ALL TIME HIGH. FOR A REMEDY CALL 800-000-1234 and hope the little green globs would pick up on the message. I lucked out. In about 40 minutes that seemed like 40 hours the green phone rang. I picked it up and coolly said, “Hello, this is your expert financial counselor speaking.” A green glob said, “We have established addresses on your planet for delivery.” The static was bad so I jumped right in and told him I had quantities of 100 credit cards ready and using UPS could guarantee delivery within the hour. Then I said in a tone of great confidence, “But being a financial expert I have a much better plan, one that’ll get your list completed in half the time. What you need is a much more comprehensive program.” “Like what?” he asked. “Put on your boss.” I’d had enough of middle management. He hesitated, but then I heard other receivers lift. I had an audience. So I told him about the Chicken Index going up and the high price they could get for chickens. “It’s simple," I said, “sell your chickens. You won’t need credit; you’ll have cash to buy all the baseball cards and anything else on that list you want.” One of the little green men commented that he didn’t like Grandma’s soup anyway and the idea might be worth a try. But they all voiced in unison that they had to talk to the big boss. On no, another wait, I thought, snapping my fingers. The static escalated so I assured them of my continued support and we disconnected. Waiting was tough, but within the hour my gray phone rang. It was Grandma. She was home. Seemingly, they got what they wanted or were just tired of Grandma. She related that the return trip was electrifying. Her hair had lost its curl and the mole on her nose was gone. The only problem was that the nursing home wasn’t happy about her sticky green wheels. And she did add before she said goodbye, “Please, let’s give up all green salad as a traditional dish for the holidays.” “Okay,” I said and hung up. I don’t know why I turned my head around when I did, but I did, just in time to see the green phone slide like a Salvador Dali painting down over the edge of the counter and drip onto the floor. In a few seconds it was a mere green puddle and then with a sucking sound it was gone. News reports began flashing across my screen. Chickens were raining down on the central plains. Oversupply was sending the Chicken Index down. Wall Street was going wild. My happiness quota shot up at least 10%, my financial assets at least 125%. My Put Options sold without a flaw. It was late afternoon; my supervisor stuck his curly head into my cubicle. He had pasted on his usual smile but I could hear his teeth gritting, “Didn’t make your quota today. Better tomorrow, I hope.” God, he made me mad. He looked worse than what I imagined the green globs looking like. But I held my temper. I slid back in my chair and kicked off my pump heels; things were really not that bad. I had my grandma back, and I’d made some big bucks on the Chicken Index. Would the Feds come after me for inside trading? Unlikely. Who would believe charges that were based on a blonde wearing a Stella Jane Sweater and talking on a green phone to Martians? Whether I liked it or not I had become a player in the whirly world of finance. And thinking about it, I was pretty damn good. The next day I resigned my cubicle credit card job. Now two years later, I work for a major investment firm as an analyst for Options Indexes and am slated for a VP promotion. I rarely have lunch at any executive eatery but at least once a week I have lunch with Grandma and we laugh about goo globs and green phones and sometimes now and then we even eat green salad.