The Other End of the Line
I pick up the phone, which had been ringing, after seven rings, because I was in bed with the lights out and almost asleep at the sound of the first, and it has taken me a while to rouse myself and to throw on a robe and to slip on some slippers, because it is as cold as I remember a November, and to make it to the parlor, where the phone is kept, just next to the liquor cabinet.
In the second it takes me to put the receiver to my ear I think about the manner in which I might answer.
Since I was already in bed, and not of the sort to tuck in early, it is obviously too late for someone to be calling me, at least anyone with the slightest sense of decorum, which would thus require my answering of the phone to have a flat, stern and questioning tone, so as to avoid any future affronts on the part of the caller. However, as most of my acquaintances are not wholly immune to matters of etiquette, it is probably not a friend on the line, unless they are drunk perhaps, and calling late from the club, alone and distressed and looking for some amount of comfort. In such a case the severity of my answer might only cause them further aggravation, and, in some rare circumstance, give them the leverage necessary to drag me from home to join and so console them.
There is a slight chance also that the call is long distance, from the West Coast, since I do have associates that reside there, and sometimes a call can come in at inappropriate hours, from one momentarily forgetful about the difference in time. In such a case I should perhaps temper the anger in my voice, and resort to playacting a certain grogginess, which would cue the caller in to the fact that they had indeed roused me, and so require of them an apologetic remark, to which I might act the gentlemen by conceding that it really is no bother.
It could, I admit, also be nothing more than a coquettish lady caller. Since my separation, and due to the pecuniary advantages of my station, not to mention a certain exuberance left over from my youth, I have been, of late, entertaining members of the fairer sex. However, any that I have been with; furthermore, any that I would ever consider being with, should know better than to disrupt me at such an hour, if they thought it appropriate to call me at all. Here the tone should certainly be reprimanding.
The only other situation I could think of that would require my attention at so late an hour, something I hesitate to even consider, is that there has been some accident. Perhaps my former wife or one of our three grown children have found themselves in a spot of trouble, in which case any tone other than one showing my alertness, my readiness to deal with whatever fortunes have befallen my family, would be inappropriate.
The second is up and so I must answer, but it is only a dial-tone that returns my confused, Hello?
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