Saturday, June 6, 2015

If a phone rings in the forest


The Zen guys have a lesson in the form of a question. It goes something like this, if a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear, does it make a sound?

Here’s an easier one. If a phone rings incessantly in a backwoods trolley shed, will it ever stop? Answer, only if I pick it up.

Once I had turned on the power and phone, the phone began to ring as I was starting to bring my gear inside. I tried to ignore it and hoped it would stop. I hoped very hard. I wasn’t looking for conversation. After a dozen or so rings it was clear the caller was in for the long haul. I put down what I was doing, switched on the shed’s inside light, and walked to the phone on the back wall. I answered with a weary, “Hello.”

“Hello, Ed?”

I recognized that woman’s voice. For an instant I hoped it was grandma calling from the great beyond for a chat. No such luck. But, I surprised myself. I was glad to hear Leslie’s voice.

“Hi Leslie. How you’ve been?”

“I’m good thanks. What’s up with your phone? I’ve been calling your number all day, and this is the first time I got a ring.”

“I forwarded it to my trolley shed. I just turned the phone service back on.”

“That’s nice. I didn’t know you had a place in the country.”

“I inherited it a couple of years ago. This is the first time I’ve been up here.”

“Interesting. How are you doing?”

I looked at the corner where grandma used to stored the captain’s chair. It was there of course. I figured I’d sit. It was my vacation after all. 

“I was fired last month, but I’m doing ok.”, I said in a matter-of-fact way.

“Fired? I’m sorry to hear that.”

The problem with the chair in the corner was that the corner was around 72 inches away and the phone ‘s receiver had a 12 inch cord. Hmmm. I carefully studied the row of chunky buttons along the bottom of the phone. One had a little picture of a speaker with some waves coming out. I pushed it.

“I did alright. Two years severance with benefits.”

“What happened? And, you know you sound like you’re at the bottom of a well.”

“I’m on speaker.” I pulled the chair over to the phone, sat down under the phone and let the receiver dangle from it’s embarrassing cord, ”It’s a long story.”

“Are you still there?”

“Yeah, just getting a chair.” I sat there, chair leaned against the shed’s back wall, staring across the covered trolley and outside the open double doors. My eyes followed the shed’s track to the woods. “It’s a long story, but after days of interviewing me - interrogating really - they tried to figure out if I was as dirty as Adams - and if I had pushed him on the track - and then relieved me of my duties once they were convinced I was just some sort of unwitting patsy. Luckily, a friend of mine had a friend, who had a friend who was a labour lawyer. That guy got me two years severance, with full benefits to boot, as long as I signed in blood that I wouldn’t discuss any of what was going on with anyone, especially the media, or got involved with anything to do with any more investigations into the whole mess. That was all fine by me.”  It made me feel better just blurting it out to somebody.

“Maybe we have a problem then.”

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“I wanted to ask if you’d come with me to Dr. Ellesmere’s lab at the U of T to pick up the fusor we left with her.”

“You don’t need me. I’m done. And they’re probably watching you. No doubt they’re still watching me.”

“She said she had something she didn’t want to discuss on the phone.”

“They’re probably bugging our phones too.”

“You’re really paranoid.”

“We’re discussing this on the phone. My phone and your phone. It doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“Sic your lawyer on them. You learned how to be an investigator at that place and I might need your help. Meet me at the front doors of the physics building Wednesday at 9.”

There was a click. It was so loud I could have sworn it made the dangling receiver jump. 

She didn’t say if it was 9 am or 9 pm. I guess I’d have to find out for myself.

Part 5 of this spine tingling series can be found here.

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