Revolutionary Ghosts, Chapter 19

By the second ring, I had already tossed both magazines aside, and sat up on my bed.

Telephone communications were a completely different thing in 1976, especially if you were a teenager living with your parents.

There were no cell phones, of course. Most homes had only one landline. This meant that at least half of all calls you made or received went through an adult, on one end or the other. (Today’s teenage boys know nothing of the awkwardness of asking a young lady’s mother or father to summon her to the phone.)

My social life had been barren in recent months. In March, my girlfriend of two years, Julie Idelman, had abruptly informed me that it might be a good idea for us to “see other people”.

I soon realized exactly what she meant by “other people”. It wasn’t long before I saw her standing in the hall with Brad Kemp, a senior (now graduated) member of the West Clermont football team.

I could have used some action on the social front—the female front, specifically. I wasn’t expecting a call from the likes of Leslie Griffin, of course. (Despite the eerie feelings of the afternoon, I wasn’t delusional.) But a call from a girl in my class might not be too much to hope for. Surely many of them knew by now that I was single.

My parents habitually answered the phone when they were home. I sat there on my bed, heard the phone ring once, twice, three times.

I dimly heard footsteps as one of them walked into the kitchen to answer the call on the wall phone in there. There was no fourth ring.

About fifteen seconds later, my mother called out: “Steve! Telephone!”

I was up from my bed in an instant. I pulled open the door of my bedroom. I barely thought about the feelings I had experienced a few minutes ago, that sense of something lurking in the hallway.

“I’m here!” I said.

It was a straight line from where I stood in the hallway, down to the place where our living room connected to our kitchen. My mother was standing between the two rooms, holding the handset of the kitchen wall phone. The coiled rubber cord was stretched taught. Her hand was cupped over the receiver.

“For you,” she said. “I don’t know who it is.”

She was frowning. But that might not mean anything.

“I’ll take the call in your bedroom, okay?”

There were two telephone units in our household. (This, too, was a fairly common arrangement in the 1970s.) There was the wall phone in the kitchen, and a desk/tabletop phone in my parents’ bedroom.

My parents understood my need for privacy. They always allowed me to use the phone in their bedroom, provided I asked for permission first.

“That’ll be fine, Stevie.”

Why was my mother frowning? I wondered. Why did she have a puzzled expression on her face?

And no, my mother wouldn’t have been overly protective about her younger son receiving a call from a girl. Before she discovered Brad Kemp, Julie Idelman used to call our house almost daily.

There was something else going on.

Oh, well, I would know very soon, wouldn’t I?


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Chapter 20