I dropped the phone onto its cradle and walked out into the hall.
“Everything okay?” my mom called out.
“Everything’s fine, Mom,” I said. “It was Louis. I’m going to work an extra shift tonight.”
“Good man,” my dad said. “Build up that bank account.”
Members of my parents’ generation saw incessant work as a matter of course. That was what living through the Great Depression and World War II would do, I supposed.
“That’s right,” I said. I would gain nothing by revealing to either of them that I would have much preferred to have the evening off, even if I’d have done little but watch the boring shows that the three television networks ran on Saturday night.
I walked back into my room. Was there a strange odor in the air? Something sulfurous perhaps, or maybe something rotten?
I put a stop to these thoughts before my imagination could run away with itself—or me. Today had been a strange day thus far. There was no denying that. But there was nothing in my room. I was a teenage boy, and the laundry hamper at the foot of my bed was presently full. If there was a weird smell in here, it was coming from my dirty clothes.
I had no further desire to read—either the Spooky American Tales or the Car and Driver.
I was hopeful, of course, about the new cashier, Diane Parker. That was as yet a speculative long shot, though.
Mostly I was thinking about the hostile phone call I’d received before Louis’s call came in.
Another thing that has changed regarding telephone communications: Nowadays, almost every telephone has some kind of a caller ID function. Not so in the days of analog landlines. Back then, it was technically possible to trace telephone calls, but only with the intervention of the telephone company and the police. The situation had to be outright criminal before this would happen.
Prank calls were therefore common. Most of the perpetrators were bored teens or adolescents.
I recalled one such call that had been made to our landline, a few years prior. The caller had asked if we had Prince Albert in a can. My father hung up before they could deliver the punchline: Then why don’t you let him out?
But today’s call had been no mere random prank call. The call might have been intended as a joke. The words and the tone, however, had been much more along the lines of a threat—British accent and nonstandard vocabulary notwithstanding.
I didn’t think that I had many enemies. Perhaps I was being naive. Someone had obviously wanted to rattle my chain.
But the question remained: Who?