The Comedic Potential of Cell Phones

Several weeks ago, I entered a contest on the Writer’s Digest website, for which I needed to write an approximately 750-word story based on the following prompt:

“During your weekly housecleaning you find an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of your couch, but can’t recall having had any visitors. It rings.”

The bad news is my entry didn’t make it to the finalist stage; the good news is because it didn’t, the rules of the contest allow me to go ahead and publish it here.

So, without further adieu, I give you the Dining Room Office premiere of:

Why Fight It?
“Hello?” I say. (Like I really wasn’t going to answer.)

“Who is this?”

“Who is THIS?” I shoot back. I hate when people do this. You called me. Well, sort of.
“This is Dan.”
“Dan … Dan … I don’t know any Dans.”
“Sure you do. I installed your furnace.”
“Oh, right,” I say. Something doesn’t add up, though. “But that was like a month ago.”
“Yeah, it was.”
Dan isn’t getting it. “So if you dropped your phone then, and I just found it now, how is it still charged?”
“I didn’t lose it then.”
“OK,” I say, holding the “K” noticeably longer than usual. “Then when did you lose it?”
“A couple of days ago. You know, when I came back.”
“What do you mean ‘When you came back’?”
“We always do an in-home follow-up a month later to make sure everything is working properly. It’s part of our award-winning customer service.”
“How nice. But I didn’t see you a couple of days ago.”
“I know. I was bummed, too.”
We both pause. I think he’s waiting for me to say something. I think I’m waiting for him to tell me he can see me through the front window.
“So how did you get in?” I finally continue.
“Oh that.”
“Yes, that,” I say.
“Well, when I realized you weren’t home, I just checked under your welcome mat—nice pink flamingos, by the way—and sure enough, there was your spare.”
“First of all,” I say, “that welcome mat was a gift. Second, you didn’t think it was weird or, I don’t know, illegal to just let yourself into my house?”
“Why would I? You left me here alone all day to install the furnace while you were at work. I don’t see a difference.”
“There’s a difference.”
At this point, this exchange has already shot into the top two on my all-time most unsettling conversations list, right up there with the one about the gastrointestinal effects of various kinds of beans that a complete stranger insisted on having with me through the stall wall in a public restroom.
You just don’t let something like that go.
I’m afraid, however, that my next question for Dan might make this conversation the new titleholder.
“Dan?” I ask, not really wanting him to answer.
“What’s up?”
“If you were here to check on the furnace, how did your phone end up in my couch?”

“It was in the couch? Huh—that’s funny. It must’ve slipped out when I was watching General Hospital.”
I don’t know what surprises me more: how casual he is about admitting his TV-watching or that he told me he did it so he could stay caught up with what’s going on with Sonny and Brenda.

Hey, I saw a Soap Opera Digest while I was in line at the grocery store. It’s not like I watch it.
“So you were watching TV while you were here?”
“Yeah. Soaps really aren’t my thing, but I saw it was recording on your DVR, so I didn’t want to mess anything up.”
Damn you, Dan.
“Well, I … uh … don’t know how that happened. I’ll have to check it out.”
“Actually, it was pretty good. Sonny showed up at this …”
“Don’t tell me, Dan! I’m not caught up.”
“My bad.”
“It’s fine,” I say, defeated. “Nothing happens on Tuesdays, anyway.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
I have to refocus; there are larger forces at work here.
“You do get how strange it is you were watching TV in my house after letting yourself in without my permission, right?”
“I probably shouldn’t tell you about the bathroom then, either.”
“Why? What did you do to my bathroom?”
“It’s not so much what I did ‘to’ it as ‘in’ it.”
“Please tell me it was only number one, Dan.”
“Sorry, dude. That frozen burrito I made cut right through me.”
Beans again. It’s like they’re mocking me.
“So when do you want to come get your phone, Dan?”
“How’s tomorrow at 3:00?”
“I’ll be at work,” I say. “But you know where the key is.”

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