In the middle of shelving, the phone rings. The store’s small, I’m the only one here today, and the storm has kept customers at bay, giving me time to get things in order for them to fuck everything up again.
Yawning, I take my time getting to the phone. Hopefully they give up, and when the ringing stops, I pause and groan when it starts ringing again.
I’m already planning how long to sit in silence while I “check the back” for something we don’t sell as I pick up and say, “Taylor’s Tailors, Fabric, and More, how may I help you?”
The automated voice on the other end is easily recognizable before it even gets out the first syllable.
At least it’s not a customer.
Halfway through the automated voice’s let-me-sell-you-shit-you-don’t-need spiel, I’m about to hang up when static breaks through the voice.
Weird, and I bring the phone back to my ear as a new voice – a woman’s – calls out, “Hello? Hello?!” in a panicked voice.
“Ma’am?” True emotion slips into my voice now, adrenaline spiking through my veins as I dig out my cellphone from my apron pocket in case I need to call the police.
There’s this pounding in my head. Something bad is happening somethingbadsomethingbadsomethingbadsomethingbad
“Ma’am!” I call when there’s nothing but static on the other end. “Ma’am, are you okay?”
The static stops suddenly as lightning flashes outside. The lights go out without even a flicker of warning, and the woman’s voice comes back:
“Do you believe in God?”
My heart falls through my stomach from the war of relief and fury I feel.
“No.” My tone’s too forceful, but I don’t give a shit.
I’ve been dealing with evangelicals in this dead-end town since birth, even almost died when our old preacher convinced my mom to rely on faith healing before my dad finally took me to a hospital. I don’t need this, especially when there’s a breaker box I need to go find.
The woman’s voice is all around me now, the dead phone falling from my hand:
“Too bad. ‘Cause I quit, and you’re next.”