Phone Home

This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.

“Taylor, will you please turn off your alarm?”

It’s more of a groan than a question, with fair reason. Taylor’s response is, in fact, also a groan. Because she didn’t set an alarm. Plus, this doesn’t even sound like her alarm. And she was still sleeping.

She tells this to her roommate, Brooklyn, who says, “Well, it’s loud and it’s coming from your phone.”

Taylor flips over in her bed, reaching out toward where she last remembers leaving her phone. The noise is still happening. It sounds close enough that her phone is probably still on the bed. It probably didn’t fall over the side and plummet to the floor below. Probably.

It takes a solid minute to find it, though, because Taylor hasn’t mastered sleeping in a lofted bed yet. In her defense, her eyes are also closed. Once the phone is in her hands, she hesitantly opens one eye and then the other.

Her mom’s smiling face fills the screen.

Oh right. It’s not her alarm. But it is Mom’s ringtone. 

Her thumb hovers over the red DECLINE button. But let’s be real, Mom will just keep calling. So she hits the green button and mutters, “Hello?”

“Oh, honey, were you sleeping? I’m sorry! Hold on, what time is it? Henry! Henry, what time is it?” Pause for Henry to tell Mom the time is on the thing she’s holding in her hand. “Can’t you just help me?” Pause for Henry to tell her it’s 10:05. “Goodness gracious, Taylor you’re still in bed at 10:05?”

Taylor makes a mental note to set the alarm clock in her brother’s bedroom two hours later the next time she’s home. “Yes, Mom. I’m still in bed.”

“Don’t you have class or something?”

“It’s Saturday.”

“Well, surely something is going on. Don’t you have homework? What am I paying for?”

“You’re paying for me to go to class all week, get overloaded with homework, and then reward myself for surviving by not setting an alarm on Saturdays.”

“I thought you joined some clubs.”

“Activities Fair is next week.”

“So you can’t join clubs yet?”

“Mom, clubs don’t do things at 10 in the morning on Saturdays.”

“I doubt that! When I was in college we had things to do every Saturday morning. Like I remember this one time . . .”

This is the part of the phone call when Taylor gets distracted because usually the words “when I was in college” in her mom’s voice are followed by “we had to yell, ‘Boy on the floor!’ every time there was a boy on the floor because there weren’t co-ed dorms.” And that story, now that Taylor truly understands what it is like to live in a dorm, leads to a train of thought that ends with her thinking that it’d be so much nicer to be able to not have to take a change of clothes to the shower.

“Taylor, are you even listening to me?”

Lots of blinking. What was she saying? “Umm, sorry, Mom, got distracted. Brooklyn is trying to sleep.”

A groan of affirmation from Brooklyn’s side of the room.

“Oh! Well, apologize to her for me. She needs her rest, I’m sure.”

“What happened to it being too late to be in bed?”

“Well, I’m not her mother. But I am yours. So get up, get moving and don’t forget to phone home. I want to hear all about your first week of school!”

Taylor almost asks, wasn’t that the point of this phone call? But she stops herself. If Mom just hangs up now, maybe she can fall back asleep.

“Okay, Mom. Got it.”

E.T. phone home!”

“Gosh, Mom, I’m at college, not outer space. And it’s the twenty-first century.”

“Doesn’t change my point. You better get out of bed. Love you! Talk to you later!”

The phone beeps to make sure Taylor knows her mom really did hang up. But at this point, Taylor is awake, so what difference does it make? She sits up and bangs her head on the ceiling. Another groan. Giggles from Brooklyn’s side of the room.

“Guess Saturday isn’t going to be any different from a weekday after all,” Taylor mutters. 

Brooklyn responds, “Except for the part where E.T. needs to phone home.”

Taylor groans and clicks the volume down on her phone.