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Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by Mario Scattoloni

The Babysitter

The kids are asleep upstairs, and the sitter waits alone in a darkened house—and then the phone rings. If you think you know what happens next, think again.

The Beginning

When Shelly arrived at her babysitting job that Friday night, Mr. and Mrs. Miller were already dashing out the door to their night out across town, leaving two hungry kids in the kitchen and a pizza on the counter. As was typical, Shelly hustled the kids through their dinner and baths and then plopped them in front of the television until about 10, when she roused them and led them up the stairs to bed.

When everything had quieted down, she tiptoed back downstairs, and turned the TV back on. A few minutes later, as she was starting to doze off herself, the phone rang.

Hello?” Shelly answered quickly, hoping the noise hadn’t awakened the kids.

Nothing. Then dial tone. She hung it up and turned back to the television.

A minute later, the phone rang again. Exasperated, she snagged it up. “Hello?”
 

The End by Choire Sicha

Shelly heard breathing.

“What do you want?” Shelly demanded, almost loudly enough to disturb little Madison and Cedric upstairs.

A hoarse and quiet voice came through the phone—sepulchral, yet whiny, as improbable as that seems.

“I need your help,” the voice said.

“I’m just the babysitter,” Shelly said, stupidly. “Mr. and Mrs. Miller are out tonight.”

“That’s fine,” the voice rasped. “You’ll certainly do.”

“I’m hanging up now!” Shelly said. She was a little afraid.

“Oh, wait!” the voice said needily. “I need you to do something for me. Please don’t hang up, I only get so much time for phone calls.”

“Okaaaayyy,” Shelly said, chewing a piece of her hair. She was finding that the line between horror and boredom was rather thin.

“I am being held in a Swiss prison and I need you to sign a petition,” the voice asked.

“What?” Shelly said. “Why aren’t you, like, emailing me then?”

“We don’t have internet,” the voice said. “They give us several hours of phone time, but I can’t even check my email. Isn’t that crazy?”

“That totally is crazy,” Shelly said.

“So, listen,” the voice said. “A bunch of people are passing around a petition, to keep me from being extradited to the U.S. I think Woody still has the master list. You’re in New York, right? Can you stop by his house maybe so you can sign it?”

“Woody Allen?” Shelly asked. “The old guy who used to make movies?” She had been pacing, and, without noticing, had ended up in the big, gleaming kitchen.

“He still makes movies!” the voice said. “In Europe, where movie-making is revered!”

“OK, sorry,” Shelly said, as sarcastically as she could. She wondered if it would be gross if she dug around in the trash for the last two pieces of pizza. She’d thrown them away earlier, so as not to eat them, because then she’d have to throw them up, given the excruciatingly complicated rules of her burgeoning bulimia.

“Listen,” the voice said. “It would be a huge favor to me. You have no idea just how much the Swiss government fears internet petitions.”

“OK, OK!” Shelly said. “I’ll see what I can do. Listen, I have to, like, go, OK?”

“Sure,” the voice said. “I can’t thank you enough. Tell your friends! If enough people sign this petition, I’ll be free to keep making the kinds of movies that the people of the world need to see—to propagate an original, daring cinema that provokes human understanding. And now I must go make more calls.”

“Whatever,” Shelly said. “OK. Bye?” She hit the “off” button on the phone, and put it down on the counter. She stood there for a minute in the cold kitchen, looking at the big silver refrigerator, and the painting of eggplants over the sink, and the unused copper pots hanging on the wall, and at the trash can. The trashcan’s lid was just a little bit open, like a dog’s mouth. She figured she could probably slip a hand inside it without even touching either the rim or the lid.
 

The End by Giles Turnbull

“I know what you did last spring,” rasped a hideous, raspy voice.

“Well, doh,” Shelly replied, “It’s all over Facebook. Of course you do. So does everyone else. Is that you, Karl?”

“Um, no,” lied Karl. He’s never been a very good stalker. Only last week, Shelly had tripped over his outstretched knife-wielding arm in a dark alley behind the college gym. The knife flew sideways and carved a chunk out of Karl’s elbow before falling and slicing his knee on its way down to his toes. The nurses at the emergency room had been very understanding.

But Karl didn’t understand why Shelly wasn’t interested in him. Surely, Shelly, he thought, surely this is what you like in a man? Isn’t it?

“Dammit Karl, it is you,” she yelled. “I’m putting my mask on right now, and I’m going to come round there and knife you to bits. We’ll be able to kebab you.”

Her mask was difficult to put on, what with holding the phone and the fact that she’d put on a few pounds in recent weeks. Being a cannibal serial killer is a nightmare for my waistline, she thought. I can’t eat Karl—way too many calories.

“Listen, Karl,” she breathed, turning him on and scaring the crap out of him at the same time. Which just turned him on a bit more. “Listen, Karl, I’ll meet you at the usual place, OK? We can go out for pizza. I know where the Millers are eating out; we can catch them as they’re leaving and slice them up for dessert. Then if you’re lucky, I’ll spare you. But I’m warning you, I might be hungry.”

She moved to hang up the phone. “Bye, Karl,” she said.

There was no answer. Karl had dropped the phone, his eyes wide and his mouth dribbling. Shelly was the best. Always the best.
 

The End by Erik Bryan

“Hey, Shelly. It’s Mary Kate. Sorry I got cut off just now. The reception in my room blows. Thanks, AT&T!”

Shelly recoiled in horror, but sputtered out, “Didn’t I put you and James to bed, like, an hour ago?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been watching True Blood up here On Demand. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going nowhere this season. And not nearly enough of Stephen Moyer without his shirt on.”

In the background, Shelly could hear James call out, “Or boobs!”

“You and James go to bed right now,” Shelly demanded.

“But, Shelly, you haven’t even heard why I called,” Mary Kate pleaded.

“Fine. What is it?”

“There’s this scary-looking guy outside my bedroom window. He has, like, clown paint on or something and he keeps asking us to come out and play with him.”

“Oh my God!” Shelly screamed. “Run downstairs, now!”

Laughter erupted from upstairs.

“JK, Shelly. Can you bring me and James some Bagel Bites?”

“Hell no! You turn off the TV and go to bed this instant or I’m going to come up there and strangle you myself!” she yelled before slamming the phone down.

But they didn’t, so she did.
 

The End by Kevin Guilfoile

“Have you checked the baby?” a voice rasped.

Shelly hung up. “Idiot,” she said.

The phone rang again. And rang. And rang.

“Hello?” Shelly said.

“Have you checked the baby?” the voice said.

“Who is this? Sam?”

“Have you checked the baby?”

“Nice try, Sam. There’s no baby here.” She hung up and laughed.

The phone rang again. Shelly picked it up.

“Have you checked the baby?” the voice said.

“There’s no baby here, Sammo.”

There was a long pause on the line. “Um, I know for a fact there’s a baby.”

Shelly said, “I’m babysitting for the Millers, doof. They’re like nine and seven.”

A pause. “Have you checked the baby?”

Shelly hung up.

The phone rang.

“What do you want, douche?” Shelly said.

The voice was whispering now and Shelly could hear a mobile playing in the background. “OK, I’m in the baby’s room right now. I’m looking at the baby. Checking it, as it were, which is something you should do once in awhile. There is undeniably a baby in the house.”

Shelly said, “Not in this house, goob.”

Pause. “Wait. Did you say you’re sitting for the Millers? What address are you at?”

“5952 Oak Park Drive.”

Shelly could hear paper uncrumpling. “Oh, crap, OK.” The voice chuckled. “I totally called the wrong number. I’m at the Milners. Over on Copeswood.”

“Oh yeah. I know Donna,” Shelly said. “What are the odds you’d try to call the house you’re in and get a totally different house also with a babysitter?”

“I know, right? Oh boy. See, 20 years ago tonight I played this same bit on Mrs. Miller when she was babysitting. It really freaked her out. I just escaped from the institution this afternoon and realized it was our anniversary so I thought I’d do it again.”

“Was it Mrs. Miller or Mrs. Milner?”

Laughing. “See now you got me all mixed up.”

Shelly said, “You know what you should have done? Instead of calling the babysitter downstairs, you should have called Mrs. Miller at the restaurant and asked her if she’s checked the baby. Or, you know, Mrs. Milner, whichever.”

“You think with 20 years to plan this I would have had my ducks in a row,” the voice said. “I’ve really gummed this up six different ways. Anyway I’m going to hang up and call the real babysitter now. The one downstairs. You said her name was Donna?”

“Too late. I’ve been texting her this whole time.”

“Oh right. Cell phones. Boy, I really didn’t think this through, did I?”

“Donna already called the police. She’s been listening to our conversation on the baby monitor.”

The voice sighed. “You know I was going for the urban legend vibe, but now it’s totally ventured into a bungling criminal kind of thing.”

“Donna wants to know if the baby’s OK,” Shelly said.

“What? Oh yeah. Looks like he’s got some eczema.”

“You know what you could do to turn this around?” Shelly said.

“What?” asked the voice.

“Right when the police bust through the door, jump out the window and lie motionless in the grass. Then when they look away, probably to check the baby and whatnot, you get up and run into the woods. It’ll totally freak ‘em out.”

“But won’t I die from the fall?”

“No,” Shelly said. “I’ve seen it done.”

Then Shelly texted Donna: lol.
 

The End by Nozlee Samadzadeh (with help from Jarrett Moran)

“Hello?” she repeated, hearing only the wind whistle outside and the receiver hiss against her ear.

Finally, softly, it asked, “Are the kids asleep upstairs?”

“Beat it,” she replied, realizing only afterward the faint refrain audible behind the caller’s panting breath.

She heard a cackling laugh and a click on the other end. Only then did she look up to see two glistening green eyes, like a wolf’s, peering from the window. Stiffened, gaping corpses lurched into the streetlamps’ circles of light. Shelly jumped from the couch, suddenly breathing hard. She ran through the kitchen to the door, frantically unlocked it, and flung herself onto the lawn barefoot, directly into a phalanx of zombies. “Something evil’s lurking in the dark,” the closest zombie sang, leading the others in a crotch-grabbing gyration.

“I told you we were through, you creep!” she yelled. It was her ex-boyfriend, Michael.

These babysitting gigs were getting harder to find—last time he’d crawled through a window to “come say hello” during the Smith twins’ bathtime. Another time he’d insisted on playing airplane with the Williams’ toddler on the bedroom balcony. Now zombies? She was running out of references, and more importantly she couldn’t let Michael ruin things with her new guy—he was such a sweetheart. Just today he’d sent flowers with “I Would Die 4 U” written on the card.

Shelly’d had it. But as she stormed into the midst of the zombie army, she saw a flash of headlights in the driveway. A zombie’s arm fell into the wet grass. The engine clicked off. Mrs. Miller jumped out of the car and screeched, “What’s going on here? Is that you, Shelly?” Without waiting for a reply, she added, “That’s the last time you get anywhere near my house—you’re fired!” The Millers ran inside, yelling for their pretty young things. The zombies shuffled awkwardly; Michael looked sheepish.

“God damn it, that’s the last time I’ll be able to babysit in this neighborhood. I’ve moved on from you, Michael. I’m seeing someone new.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

“I…I can’t tell you.”

“Come on, Shelly.”

“Do you have any paper? I could draw it.”

“You’re kidding. That ‘Love Symbol No. 2’ weirdo?”
 

The End by Jessica Francis Kane

“Hello?” she said again. Nothing.

Shelly went upstairs to check on the children. Zach and Zephyr were five-year-old twins. In the large house, they had their own bedrooms, blue for Zach, pink for Zephyr, and a yellow playroom they shared. Zach had fallen asleep with books all around him, and Zephyr was wrong-way-around in her bed, but Shelly didn’t want to disturb them, so she simply moved the corner of a book away from Zach’s cheek and closed their doors. Just as she was heading back downstairs, the phone rang again. She raced to answer it.

“Hello?”

She thought she heard piano music behind the presence on the other end of the line, a rustle, then the dial tone again.

Shelly was 17 years old, the drum major of her high school band, and the president of the debate team. She did not scare easily, but these phone calls were making her nervous, and when she was nervous she cleaned. She washed up the dinner dishes, then emptied the dishwasher. She swept the kitchen, wiped down the counters, and straightened the living room. When the phone rang a fourth time, Shelly picked it up, waited—more faint piano music—and after the caller hung up, she pounced on the arts supply cabinet and started a load of laundry. An hour later, she’d organized the pantry, folded two loads of laundry, and baked a banana bread.

When Mr. and Mrs. Miller returned around midnight, Shelly met them at the front door.

“How are you?” Mrs. Miller asked, peeking over Shelly into the house. “Get a lot of homework done?”

“Well, I’d hoped to, but…” Before Shelly could say more, Mrs. Miller moved past her and began exclaiming. “The dishes are done! The toys are all picked up! And the laundry? Yes!” She pumped her fist in the air.

“Well, you see,” Shelly started to explain, “I was kind of…”

Mrs. Miller hugged her. “It’s wonderful to find a sitter who is so…conscientious. Are you free next weekend?”

“I am, Mrs. Miller, but I think you should know…”

As Mrs. Miller was getting out her checkbook, a business card fell out of her purse. Shelly saw it before Mrs. Miller snatched it up from the floor. It was from Daniella’s, the new restaurant in town with a piano bar.

“…that I’ve raised my rate,” Shelly finished.

Mrs. Miller narrowed her eyes at her. “You have, have you? How much?”

Shelly was pleased with the price she negotiated, but on the way home Mr. Miller told her she might want to wear protective clothing the next Friday. “She has a project in mind for the basement,” he said, “and, you know, there’s just no telling what she’ll do.”
 

The End by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

She heard a click and then nothing. The moment she hung up the phone, the dial tone filled the room. The sound came at her from every direction. Always the same pitch, with neither a hint of beginning nor end. She knew the sound well.

Two months ago, the dial tone accosted her for the first time. She was walking home from school, when she heard the tone in front of her. It approached dimly, as if to avoid startling her. Then the dial tone grew louder, so loud she could feel it on the entirety of her skin. She turned around and walked the long way home.

The dial tone began appearing at her bedroom window. When her fingertips touched the panes, she could feel the sound on the other side. It intonated her to unlatch the lock and let it in. For weeks she maintained her refusal, but finally, on a night when all the other kids were probably having the night of their lives at the high school dance, she relented. She lay awake, the dial tone beside her, for how long she couldn’t really remember, but she didn’t forget the feeling of not being lonely. The dial tone returned over the next week. She could hear it as she did calculus homework in her room, as she trained for her meets at the school track, as she smoked pilfered cigarettes behind the laundromat.

She read in an “alternative” science magazine that some other people also heard strange tones that others couldn’t. Secret subsonic radio transmissions from nuclear submarines could be a cause. Alien technologies were likely involved. Hers simply sounded like a phone dial tone. And those people’s tones didn’t follow them to the mall or sneak up on them at the movie theater on Friday nights. She suspected that the dial tone had installed a miniature webcam in her bedroom ceiling.

Two weeks earlier, she had told it to stay away. She turned around in the locker room and yelled at it after it tried to creep into the shower stall. Magically, as if she had hung up some invisible fallen receiver, the dial tone disappeared.

Now it was back. She should have known better than to believe that it would finally leave her alone.

She dashed to the rec room and reached for the Millers’ noise-canceling headphones. The dial tone caught her ankle. She fell to the floor, but managed to kick the tone off her. It leapt at her again and took her by her hair. Her head snapped backward as she made another run for the headphones, dragging the dial tone with her. Her fingertips touched an ear cup, but slipped off. The dial tone pulled her down by the legs. She hit the floor hard.

Lying on her back, she could hear the dial tone over her. If she had been haunted by a Muzak track or a mobile ringtone, maybe she could have taken advantage of pauses to strike back, but the dial tone was a merciless monolith of sound. It yielded nothing. It had few qualities beyond stoic persistence. She thought of the children upstairs. What would the dial tone do to them? With her eyes squeezed shut, she waited for the finishing blow. It never came.

It took her a moment to figure out what had happened. In coming after her for so long, the dial tone had exhausted itself. The room was now filled by the voice of an angel:

“If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again. If you need help…”
 

The End by Jonathan Bell

“I’m watching you,” said the voice on the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry?” said Shelly, still half listening for any wailing from the kids.

“I said, [pause] I am watching you.”

The voice was simultaneously close and distant, both at her side and a thousand miles away. She said nothing.

The caller began again. “Young lady, I believe I can help you.”

“OK, mister, is this some kind of joke?”

“I am sorry to say this is no joke. Not a joke at all.”

“What are you talking about?” The hairs on her arm start to rise.

“You are in imminent danger of losing everything. Everything.”

“Who is this? Please?” The last word was unnaturally stretched out, a plea, not a question. She was now desperately unnerved. She wanted to twitch the curtains beside the phone table and look across the lawn, but what if…

“Help me to help you. You must look outside. Now.”

It was a strangely compelling suggestion.

“You want me to do what?” Shelly said slowly. Why didn’t she just hang up?

“Reach forward, young lady, and draw back the curtains. Then all will be revealed.”

Shelly hesitated, but not for long. She was inside. The doors were shut. What could possibly happen?

Tucking the phone between her chin and shoulder, she reached forward to grab the drawstring.

The breathing on the other end of the call was faster now, little rapid puffs that crackled down the line.

She was aware of little Wendy Miller whimpering in her room.

Her heart was in her chest.

She yanked the cord. The tracks ran smoothly and the window was suddenly revealed.

The front lawn was illuminated by the streetlights. She could see nothing. Her heart was beating hard, matched by the caller’s heavy, frantic breathing.

“Open the curtains. Open them! I said, open the goddam curtains!”

Some kind of peak was clearly approaching.

“But I have,” she said, suddenly confused.

There was a strangulated cry on the other end of the line, then a bang and a pop, as if the handset had been dropped. A distant voice swore.

“Hello?” asked Shelly, emboldened and intrigued. Wendy was quiet now. The street outside was empty.

“Hello?”

The line went dead. In the distance a car started. Shelly leaned forward to look down the street. Along the road, outside the neighbors’ house, was a van. As she watched, its headlights came on and it lurched forward, stalled, re-started and then proceeded to drive jumpily past the Miller house. She caught a glimpse of a young man, cap pulled down over his eyes, banging the steering wheel in frustration, as it passed.

The sound of the engine faded and she refocused her eyes to study her faint reflection in the window. She was still clutching the phone to her ear, the dial tone droning.

Upstairs, Wendy Miller started to cry.
 

The End by Matthew Baldwin

“BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS!” groaned a voice on the other end of the line.

“Okay, lemme grab a pen and paper,” said Shelly. “One sec.”

Using her shoulder to pin the receiver to her ear, the babysitter rummaged through the household junk drawer until she excavated a steno pad and ancient ballpoint. “Sorry about that,” she said. “For how many?”

“Braaaaaaains. BRAAAAAAAAAAAAINS!!”

“For two. And you want any salad or cookie dough with that? Soda?”

“BRAAAAAAAAINS!”

“Already got the brains, thanks. Can I get your name?”

“BRIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!”

“All right, gonna be about 20 to 30 minutes.”

She dropped the receiver into the cradle and returned to the sofa, folding her legs underneath her. Within moments she was so engrossed in her television show that she had forgotten all about the call.

Half and hour later, though, her reverie was abruptly shattered by a pounding on the front door, accompanied by the cringe-inducing scrape of fingernails tearing their way through pine. Shelly leapt to her feet and moved toward the sound.

“Tyler! Jessica!” the babysitter called up the stairway as she passed. “I need you down here pronto.”
 

The End by Eric Feezell

This time there was heavy breathing, but still no voice. After a few seconds of this, the caller hung up.

Annoyed, Shelly picked up the receiver and dialed Star 69. Not one to shy away from confrontation, Shelly was determined to find out who this creep was and report him to the authorities. Nobody messed with her like that.

“Hello?” a middle-aged female voice answered on the other end.

“Yeah, you just call me?” Shelly’s tone was barbed and sassy, probably on account of the peppermint schnapps in the Millers’ liquor cabinet to which she’d been liberally helping herself after putting down the kids. She was always taking their liquor and they never seemed to notice. Morons.

“No, I don’t think so,” the woman replied softly. “Are you sure you have the right number?”

“I Star 69’ed you, so, yeah, sure I’m sure,” she half-yelled. “The call is coming from INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!” she bellowed self-satisfyingly.

“Well, I am hosting a party, so perhaps it was one of my guests. Hold on just a moment.” The woman placed the phone down, and next Shelly could hear her querying her guests. It wasn’t a particularly loud party—probably a lame, old-person party, Shelly thought.

In a moment she returned. “No, dear, I’m very sorry, but no one here has called you or anyone else in the past hour.” She sounded sincere, and it dawned on Shelly that, sure, it was possible there could have been some mistake with the Star 69 service. She decided to just let it go.

“Well, OK. Sorry to bug you,” Shelly said, feigning humility. “Enjoy your party.”

Not 10 seconds later, the phone rang again—slightly unnerving despite her drunken bravado. She answered a bit more hesitantly this time.

“Um, hello? Who is this?”

“Hi, Shelly,” said a creepy male voice on the other end. “How are we tonight, Shelly?” He kept emphasizing her name, which she thought was weird. Hey, wait a minute, he knew her name! Also weird.

“Look, asshole, this isn’t funny!” The schnapps found its second wind. “My dad is a cop,” she improvised, “and there’s a trace on this phone, so you’re skeevy ass is going to jail as soon as we trace the call. How do you like that!”

“Oh, Shelly,” the voice continued, “that’s highly doubtful…considering the fact that your dad is a dentist and that you’re not even home right now, no? Hahahaha.”

Uh oh. Her dad was a dentist! Maybe this was actually legitimate cause for concern. She panicked, slamming the receiver down.

The phone rang again moments later. This time she could not bring herself to answer.

“Get a grip,” Shelly heard herself say. Riiiing. Could somebody be watching her? Riiiing. How did they know so much? Riiiing. Was it just friends having a laugh at her expense? Riiiing. Her thought processes (riiiing) raced unflaggingly. Shelly figured if she ended up having to call the cops, she’d also have to (riiiing) call the Millers, and that they would come home immediately and discover her irresponsible drunken babysitting escapade. Riiiing. They weren’t due home for another two hours—enough time to sober up. Riiiing. But could she wait that long? Riiiing. God damn it, she remembered: the kids are asleep!

“Hello?!” she screamed into the mouthpiece, not giving them time to speak. “Please stop, OK? Stop it! Stop calling here!”

Silence. Then the caller, now a woman, droned with an eerie, plastic inflection:

If you go down in the woods to-day, you’re in for a big surprise / If you go down in the woods to-day, you’d better go in disguise.”

Approaching the verse’s climax she switched over to a surprisingly convincing death-metal vocal:

“TODAY’S THE DAY THE TEDDY BEAR’S HAVE THEIR PIIIIIIIIIIICNIC!”

Before Shelly could formulate a response, she heard a beeping: call waiting! She’d been expecting a call from a girlfriend at some point in the evening and this was a welcome intrusion. She quickly hopped over to the second line.

“Hello, Stephanie? Look, I need you to come over right now, there’s this crazy—”

“Picnics are for teddy bears! The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today! Watch them, catch them unawares…” This time it was a jubilant chorus of male voices, five or six of them at least.

OK, she thought, hanging up yet again. This had to be a joke! Friends had followed her over to the Millers’ house and were messing with her, trying to scare her, just having a little fun. She peeked out the front blinds. The street was dark, free of cars. Her nerves now shot to hell, she went back over to the liquor cabinet and took another slug. Ha, she thought. Very funny.

Riiiiing. She was convinced, and answered with the chagrin of one facing his duper.

“Alright, which one of you assholes is this? Bryan? Adam? Come on, fess up. I’m not falling for this bizarre bullshit anymore.”

There was a long pause.

“It’s you, Adam, isn’t it? I freakin’ knew it!”

“Hi, Shelly.” It was the creep again.

“Yeah, what the hell do you want?” she sassed back, now trying to egg them on.

“I’ll be visiting soooooon…”

Click. And that was that.

The next two hours were nerve wracking for Shelly as she slowly began to doubt it was a friendly prank. Something about the last exchange had left her uneasy, and there were no subsequent calls, suggesting the game had gone to some new mysterious level. Shelly paced frantically about, triple- and quadruple-checking the locks on the doors and windows, debating whether to call the police or the Millers, each time narrowly deciding against it for fear of being wrong and causing any undue trouble or getting caught drunk. The slightest noise from outside or a subtle creek of the old craftsman house’s wood-beamed roofing would set her heart aflutter. It was probably the most scared she’d ever been in her life.

By one a.m., as promised, the Millers got home from their evening looking tired, happy, and slightly drunk themselves. Shelly breathed in deep, slow sighs for the first few seconds of their arrival, visibly relieved to see the couple. As Mrs. Miller headed upstairs to check on the kids, her husband grabbed the checkbook to make good with Shelly.

“You look exhausted, Shelly. Everything go OK?” Mr. Miller asked with a kind, caring smile. “No issues with the kids or anything else?”

“Nope,” Shelly lied. “Just a quiet, normal night.”

“No phone calls?”

“Uh, no. No, uhh, no phone calls,” she stammered. “How was, uh, how was your party?”

“Good,” he replied. “Really a lot of fun.”

“I can’t help but ask: What do you guys do at parties at your age, anyway?” Shelly inquired in an unconsciously bratty tone. “I mean, it’s not like you’re in your twenties anymore…”

“Well…” he thought for a second. “I guess just…lame, kinda old-person-y type stuff. Some drinking. Some games. Nothing too crazy.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Well, I’m gonna go. Good night then.”

“You be sure to drive safely,” Mr. Miller added as she turned to go, a mischievous, knowing smirk on his face. “It’s no picnic on the roads at this time of night, you know…”
 

The End by Elizabeth Kiem

There was a giggle on the other end.

“Hello?” Shelly asked again, and then she glanced down to where the caller ID would have displayed the dialer if the Millers didn’t have some crazy-ass 20th-century rotary-dial model.

“Um. Hello. Is this. Um is this…the,” Shelly heard a scuffle on the end of the line and a stronger, but still juvenile voice said, “Congratulations! We’re calling from Great Britain to inform you that you could be the winner of 2,000 pounds! All we need to confirm is that you are the 2,000-pound winner!”

Shelly heard snickers and a voice saying, “Shut up!”

“Oh, please,” said Shelly into the phone. “That’s so lame.”

She hung up the phone and switched the channel.

A minute later the phone rang again.

“Good evening,” said an outrageously bad Indian accent. “We are very happy to inform you that you have just been selected a winner. All you have to do is fly to Mumbai and collect your Buddha call.”

Shelly rolled her eyes and hung up.

It rang again. “Hi there,” said the nasal voice. “This is the phone company…”

Shelly hung up.

The phone rang. Shelly grabbed it and yelled, “Pick another number, freaks!” The voice on the other line said, “Hey, lady, you called me!”

The next time the phone rang, Shelly didn’t answer. She turned off the TV and headed downstairs. The phone was still ringing when she reached the kitchen. “Dumb crank callers,” she muttered, wrapping the leftover pizza in foil. She turned to put the pizza away, but was dumbfounded to find an empty space where the refrigerator used to be.

The phone had stopped ringing. Shelly glanced out the kitchen window and gasped. The Millers’ refrigerator was running down the street.

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers