A Bad Connection

The phone rang, distracting her.  She was thinking about her husband, Harry.  She looked over at the clock:  9:45.  He was coming home later and later these days.

Standing up, she headed for the kitchen.  She glanced at the dish of cold hamburgers and fried onions sitting on the sink.  She wished she were a better cook.

Picking up the receiver, her heart skipped a beat.  The idea that Harry might be injured, or worse, flitted through her mind.

“Hello?”

There was silence on the other end.  Then a click.  The dial tone sounded, droning.

She put down the receiver.  Just as she flipped off the kitchen lights, the phone rang again.  She flipped the lights on again and walked to the phone.  If he were going to eat out, he could call her.

The phone rang again.  She flipped on the lights and picked up the receiver.  “Hello?”  Again there was silence.  She waited for a click.  There was none.  “Hello?” she said again.  “Hello?  Who is this?”

Now the phone clicked dead again.  She looked at the receiver, slowly placed it back in the cradle.  Her alarm was growing.  Who was that?  A wrong number?  Harry trying to call her but being prevented from doing so?

She flipped off the lights and went into the living room.  It was just past 10:00.  She turned on the TV to listen to the late news.  The lead story was about a huge fire in downtown Honolulu.  It had engulfed an entire block between King and Beretania Street.  Her heart sped up.  Harry’s office was in the third tower they showed, the camera panning to take in the horrible spectacle.  Everything was chaos, with flame and billowing smoke, police and emergency vehicles screaming.  Oh please, she thought, please let him be all right.  A prayer from her childhood leaping into her brain.

The phone rang.  She leaped off the couch and ran to it.  “Hello!”

“Honey, hi, it’s me.”

Oh thank God, she thought.  “Harry!” she blurted out.

“Hey, babe, something wrong with the phone? I could hear you, but I guess you couldn’t hear what I was saying.”

“Oh God, Harry, I’m so glad you’re okay.”

He laughed. “Oh whoa, yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I be? I just wanted to let you know that I’m working late at the office again tonight and won’t be home until maybe midnight or later.  Big deadline.  Don’t wait up for me, honey.”

The phone went dead.  Slowly, very slowly, she dropped the receiver into the cradle.   Picking up the plate of hamburgers and fried onions, she carried it to the sink.  She opened the utility drawer and pulled out a roll of plastic wrap.  He’d probably have eaten by now, she thought, placing the carefully covered plate on the top shelf of the refrigerator and shutting the door.

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