Flash Fiction Friday: I Needed to Make a Hole
by Rich Ives
I was trying to find a friend of mine at The Phone Museum. I thought it would be easy to spot him because he wears suspenders and old–fashioned glasses and has a short haircut like respectable men used to have when I was a kid. He’s very well–mannered and likes apple pie and old things with wires or tape in them.
When I got there a man who was my friend was speaking about wire recording and the advent of Ampex reel–to–reel recording, the standard for so long that it’s hard to remember anything else if you can remember it. He looked like he was about to cry. I didn’t want to interrupt him. Some of the men in the audience looked like the man speaking. A couple of them were sleeping, and a couple more were going to cry too. Half of them looked like my friend to me by this point, and for a moment I thought I was going to cry until I realized it was Wednesday and this was the Electronics Club and not The Phone Museum. I was in the wrong building on the wrong day. But it was true my friend sometimes attended both. Although I was pretty sure he wasn’t there this time even though a lot of the men wore suspenders and old–fashioned glasses and every one of them had short hair, and I wondered what it would be like to live so peacefully in the beautiful past, and I felt kind of filled up or something, but very sad at the same time.
The next day my friend was home when I went to take back his hand–drill with the old–fashioned extension that I had needed to make a hole where electricity wasn’t going to find me. He said, “I hear you were looking for me yesterday. I had to transfer an old wire recording for the city council and somebody had erased part of it. An elderly little Watergate right here in our own town. I had to explain to them how it couldn’t have been done by me with the kind of equipment I use. It could only have been done with a machine like the old ones they used to have at the council library. They’re the only ones that could do it and leave that faint background noise.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I handed him the drill. He said, “It’s slow, but it does a beautiful job, doesn’t it. Come over here and take a look at this vintage phone. I’ve got it hooked up to the regular phone line even though it wasn’t made the same way modern phones are. Looks like it came right out of a Jimmy Cagney movie. I got one even older, but you have to crank it, so I didn’t want to hook it up. Clear as a bell,” he said, and he handed it to me, and a voice said, “The time is 4:33 PM.” It was so clear and deep it sounded like an impossibly accurate recording of Caruso. And the voice said, “The temperature is 71 degrees Fahrenheit.” I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked at that sleek black phone and I started crying.
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist’s Trust, Seattle Art’s Commission, and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in various forms of art. His work has been published in Verse, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review and many more publications.