Two days later, Greg was sitting downstairs on the couch in the mid-afternoon reading Elmore Leonard’s Valdez is Coming when the phone on the kitchen wall began to ring. It startled him at first because hadn’t heard the sound of an actual telephone ring in years. He looked up from his book and looked towards the kitchen. He wasn’t even sure where the phone was. He hadn’t even been aware that there was one.
“Ellie?” he called out.
From somewhere upstairs, she said, “What?”
“Do we have a home phone?”
It rang some more. Ellie answered, “I don’t know. Is that what that sound is?”
“I think so.”
“It sounds like it. I guess we do.”
She came to the top of the stairs to listen. It was hard to pinpoint the sound while standing in the stairwell.
“I hear it, but I don’t know where it’s coming from.”
“Somewhere in the kitchen,” Greg answered.
“Well, go find it.”
Greg closed the book and went to the kitchen. Following the sound, he crossed the room to the corner by the fridge. The phone was partially obscured by the large appliance, but he saw the spiral cord dangling from the wall. It was dusty, old and dark yellow. It didn’t appear to have been used in quite some time. Rick never told him about it. Maybe he didn’t know about it. It just surprised Greg that the unit even had an active number.
“I didn’t know we had a phone,” he said and lifted the receiver. “Hello?”
The line was silent.
“Hello?” he repeated.
No answer. Greg hung up and went back to the couch. Before he could sit down, the phone rang again. He sighed and answered it, again.
Again, no reply.
“Look, whoever this is, if you’re going to call, then talk.”
No one spoke for a few seconds. Greg heard the line click and then the beeping of an ended conversation. Greg shook his head and hung the dirty thing up.
Ellie was standing in the small hall between the kitchen and living room when he came from the corner.
“Who was it?” she asked.
He shrugged and answered, “Nobody. Well, somebody. But, they didn’t want to talk.”
“Well, that’s the way things seem to go around here.”
The day wore into evening and they spent it watching TV and reading. All was quiet except for the programming. The mysterious phone call had slipped from their minds when, just after sunset, it rang again.
“Who the hell even has this number?” Greg said as he stomped to the phone.
The silent caller was back. Greg didn’t hesitate in hanging up. But, instead of going back to the couch, he leaned against the wall and waited. When the phone rang again, he answered it and said, “Look dickhead, don’t call here anymore.”
Whoever was on the other line said nothing. Greg put his finger on the lever, pushing it down to end the call, and let the receiver hang suspended in the corner.
“Can’t get through, now.”
“You know, maybe that was someone who knew the people that used to live here and just didn’t recognize your voice,” Ellie suggested.
“I don’t care; it was getting on my nerves.”
A few minutes later, the obnoxiously loud alarm that sounds on the phone when it’s off the hook began blaring. Hoping that the prankster noticed they’d stopped answering and given up, Greg replaced the receiver on the base. He then sat in the kitchen waiting for the phone to ring again. After five minutes, it didn’t ring and he went back to the couch.
Greg was going to look for a job in the morning so they went to bed early. The workforce was tough and employers were getting pickier and more unreasonable. They wanted so much yet were offering so little. Despite their educations, they found it difficult to get a call back. They were young and inexperienced and didn’t have enough money to get all dressed up for the interviews. It was frustrating dealing with such a superficial mindset, but what could they do? They didn’t enjoy being on government assistance.
At about four a.m., the phone started screeching downstairs. Greg jerked his head up and Ellie only opened her eyes.
“Is that what I think it is?” she asked.
It rang again.
“Shit!” exclaimed Greg, kicking off the covers and heading down the steps.
“Look you asshole…” he started when he picked up the receiver but was interrupted.
In a soft, scratchy voice, someone said, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Despite being startled that the caller had finally spoken, Greg said, “That’s real clever, moron. Are you five?”
The caller hung up and Greg hung up, too. He spun around to look about the kitchen and living room area. He walked over to the kitchen window and looked out–nothing. He crossed the living room and checked out that window, nothing but parked cars with lights reflecting off the windshields.
When he entered the bedroom, Ellie asked, “Same caller?”
“Yeah. But, he spoke this time.”
“What’d he say?”
“Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
“That’s really lame.”
“I know. I told him so and he hung up. But, I guess it means he knows we’re sleeping.”
“It’s four-in-the-morning; of course we’re sleeping. Everyone’s sleeping.”
“Well, we’re not sleeping now.”
“But, we should be. So, let’s forget that idiot and get back to it.”
“Good idea,” Greg said and lay back down.
A few minutes later, Elle asked, “Do you think it was whoever left the note?”
“I don’t know.”
Ellie said nothing else and they both drifted back to sleep.