The Obscene Phone Call
by Erma Bombeck
The other night I nearly fell off my chair when a voice said, MOM! TELEPHONE!
I wandered through the house shouting, Where! Where!
IN HERE! shouted my daughter. IN THE HALL CLOSET!
I crawled in under a topcoat and felt my way along the cord to the phone.
Are you going to talk long? she asked.
I dont even know who it is, I answered.
I didnt ask who it was, she said, I asked if you were going to talk a long time.
I wont know until I know who it is, I said firmly.
I grabbed the receiver and said, Hello.
Who is it? she asked impatiently. .
An obscene phone caller, I whispered.
Are you going to be long? she persisted.
I dont know, I said, listening intently.
In the small bit of light that was available, I saw my daughter dance up and down in front of me, grabbing her throat while her eyes bugged and her tongue began to swell.
Pardon me; sir, I said to the caller. Could you hang on just a minute? My daughter, Karen, is in front of me and is trying to tell me one of three things: (a) Her pantyhose are too tight and have cut off the blood supply to her kidneys, (b) she is thirsty and is asking permission to split a soft drink with her brother, or (c) she will die if she does not get the phone within the next minute and a half. Covering the phone I said, Karen, what do you want?
I have got have to call Celeste, she said. It is a matter of life and death.
In a minute, I said and returned to my caller.
The closet door opened and my son poked his head in and pantomimed, Who is it?
Its an obscene phone call, I mouthed back. What do you want?
Do you have a no. 2 tomato can? Fifteen jelly beans? Four buggy wheels? And a box of cocktail toothpicks?
Not on me, I said.
Another figure crawled into the closet. It was getting crowded. Mom, who are you talking to?
An obscene phone caller.
The dog wants out, he said. Whats obscene mean?
Get a dictionary.
You want the dog to go on the dictionary?
I want you to look up obscene. Into the phone I said, Really, I am too paying attention. Its just that. . .
My daughter crawled in the closet with a poster that read, FIVE MINUTES WILL BE TOO LATE.
My son persisted, It can be a no. 2 can of orange juice if you dont have the tomatoes.
PLEASE! I said aloud.
Finally, my husband poked his nose in the closet.
Is that Grandma from Florida? Why wasnt I called?
Its not Grandma, I said. Its an obscene phone caller.
Oh. We really oughta call Grandma now that we know where the phone is. We havent talked with her since Christmas.
Finally, I said to my caller, Look, the timer on the stove is going off because I have been on the phone ten minutes now, my daughter is demonstrating right here in the closet, my son is forcing me to drink down a no. 2 can of orange juice, and my husband wants me to call Florida. If it isnt too much trouble, could you call back?
was a silence on the other end, then a curt, Forget it,
lady, before the click.
[from the book Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own! ]