International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: One Phone call away
was on the skip.
Steve was cycling home from work, just another long day in the factory,
when he saw the skip sitting in the street just around the corner.
He had never been able to pass one without looking to see what was
discarded there. "One person's junk," he would say, "could
be another's treasure."
He was always taking
home 'treasures' such as this, and today it was a black, Bakelite telephone.
One of those 1940's style, heavy, with a silver dial on the front. He
thought he'd surprise Mandy and put it on her desk in the spare room.
"That'll be handy for am-dram," he thought, as he pushed aside
Mandy's work to make more room for it. It did look good there, as though
it 'belonged' in its place.
"Where did you get that?" Mandy was pleasantly surprised,
he thought, when she finally got in and went upstairs to her desk.
"Do you like it?"
"It's brilliant. Where did you get it? You haven't been rummaging
through rubbish bins again, have you?"
"No." Steve was a little indignant at this, but conceded,
"I saw it in a skip, actually."
"Thought so. Still, it does look good on my desk. I wonder who
it belonged to."
"It was outside one of those big old houses round the corner from
the factory. They're gutting the place."
Mandy picked it up by the base. It was solid and heavy in her hands.
"I love it. Thank you." She hugged him, smiling.
Much later, that evening, Mandy was alone at her desk, trying to finish
the play she was writing. Nothing seemed to be in her head at all. At
least, nothing which would help get the play finished. She was just
drifting off into a dreamlike trance when the telephone rang. It took
her a few moments to realise what it was. The bell was loud, a real
ringing sound, not like the mobile ring-tones that everyone seemed to
have these days. She sat and stared at the telephone for a good few
moments, whilst the ringing seemed to become louder, more urgent, somehow.
Mandy shook herself into action and reached out to pick up the receiver,
holding it tentatively to her ear. "Hello?" Her voice was
hardly more than a whisper.
"Hello, Hello!" A woman's voice, sounding urgent and clear.
Mandy slammed the receiver back down into its cradle. She wiped her
sweating hands down the front of her jeans, and realised that she was
shaking. Before she could think it through, the telephone started ringing
again. This time, she jumped about a foot in the air, and spun her chair
away from the desk. "This is not real," she was trying to
think it through logically. "The phone's not even connected."
But it kept on ringing, and ringing, and ringing.
Mandy snatched the telephone up and held it to her ear once more.
"Hello! Hello!" That woman again. "May I speak to Doctor
Barnfield. It's urgent!"
"What?" Mandy listened in disbelief.
"Dr. Barnfield. This is an emergency! I must speak to him, now!"
"Oh, very funny. Good joke." She called towards the open doorway,
"Steve, you really got me going there."
But as she turned towards the door, she realised that things in the
room had changed. The bookshelves were dark oak, instead of the cheap
white wood from B & Q, a chaise longue sat in place of the second
hand bed-settee, and the floor was polished wood instead of the thin
carpeting which had barely reached the skirting boards. The room was
dark, dimly lit by a lamp on the desk, the windows were draped with
heavy velvet curtains.
"Steve, where the hell are you?"
Mandy was beginning to feel just a little bit scared, looking around
the room in horror. She made her way to the door, afraid now to stay
alone in the room. "Steve?"
A shadow appeared in the the open doorway; it was not Steve standing
there, but a tall man in a grey suit, old-fashioned, yet comfortable
"Ah, there you are, Amanda," he smiled as he spoke. "Did
I hear the telephone ringing?"
Mandy was amazed. She had never seen this man before, yet somehow felt
she knew him.
"Er, yes. A woman, wants Doctor Barnfield. Urgently, she said."
The man crossed the room and picked up the telephone. "Hello. Yes.
This is Doctor Barnfield. Yes, Mrs. Davies. Yes. I'll come straight
away." He placed the telephone back on its receiver.
"I have to go out Amanda. Mrs. Davies is in labour and she's all
alone in the house. I may need your help until her mother arrives from
"Come along. Chop! Chop!" The doctor was insistent now. "I'll
get the car out of the garage."
Mandy followed him downstairs, noticing on the way how the whole house
had changed. All of her own personal touches were gone. The cheap and
cheerful prints she'd bought at various holiday destinations were replaced
by solid, old-fashioned portraits of people she vaguely recognised.
A short while later, Mandy found herself sitting in an old Ford motor
car with the doctor as he pulled into the driveway of a large house.
He grabbed his bag from the back seat and jumped out of the car, his
footsteps crunching on the gravel drive towards the front door. Mandy
quickly followed, not wishing to be left alone in the strangeness of
The front door was ajar as the doctor pushed it open and called up the
stairs, "Mrs. Davies," but he need not have bothered as her
loud screams were immediately carried to their ears, overlapping his
"Are you alright?"
They rushed up the stairs two at a time, Mandy's heart thudding in her
chest as she flew straight into the room at the top.
The birth was over in what seemed like a flash to Mandy, who was sent
to fetch hot water, clean towels, and glasses of water. As she was feeling
quite queasy about the whole birthing business, she was quite happy
to leave that part to the doctor, whilst she flitted about the house
looking for items she'd been sent for.
At last, as she was waiting in the kitchen for the kettle to boil, a
strange cry was heard from the room above. It took her a moment to realise
that it was a baby. Mandy felt a flutter of excitement as she carried
the water carefully up the stairs and into the bedroom.
"It's a boy, a healthy, baby boy," the doctor was quite emotional.
Mandy moved towards the bedside to peer at the red-faced, slippery creature
that Mrs. Davies was holding with a look of happiness and relief on
her face. Mandy was thinking to herself how disgusting it looked, but
somehow out of her mouth came the right words. "Oh, he is beautiful.
Amazing. What are you going to call him?"
"James, after his father. He was lost six months ago at Dunkirk."
A strange feeling passed through Mandy, a flicker of a memory, but it
was gone before she could grasp it, because just then Mrs. Davies' mother
arrived. She bustled into the room, completely taking over the situation.
"It's time we were getting you back home," the doctor announced,
wiping his hands on the clean towel beside the wash basin.
Once bundled back in the car, it was only a few minutes before they
were outside Mandy's house once more.
"I'll put the car away. Go and put the kettle on, will you?"
Mandy stepped inside, hearing the hum of the central heating starting
up. It was already six o'clock in the morning. The house was back to
normal, her own familiar treasures in the same old places. Running up
the stairs and into the spare room, she made for her desk. She looked
at the telephone, shook her head, then crept into the bedroom where
Steve was asleep. He stirred as she sat on the edge of the bed. "You
O.K.?" he asked. "You're up already?"
"Something weird just happened. Too wierd. Steve, were there any
doctor's in your family?"
"What you talking about? There was only my Granddad. He was a soldier,
killed during the war, in 1940, just before my dad was born."
"You never talk about your dad. What was his name?"
"He left when I was small. You know I don't like talking about
"Yes, but what's his name?"
The telephone started ringing....
© Christine Lawrence Feb 2009
Christine is studying for her MA in Creative Writing at the University
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