Friday, November 15, 2019

Bethany Gets a New Job

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: call center ~ furniture ~ Black Friday ~ turkey ~ rolls

It was submitted by:

Working in a call center on Black Friday wasn’t as bad as it sounded. She got paid by the hour, so she didn’t depend on commissions to make money. It was really just a day of listening to the phone ring and looking forward to the leftover turkey and rolls she packed for lunch. Actually talking to people? That was the worst. Snowy days when people stayed in as much as possible were the hardest. So Black Friday? It was sort of like getting paid for a vacation.

She settled into her cubicle, wrapped up in her shawl because the place was always an icebox, and sipped her first peppermint mocha coffee of the season while her terminal booted up. It was going to be a good day she kept telling herself. She never went Black Friday shopping being the kind of person who avoided crowds, so she wasn’t actually missing out on anything even though most of her friends were already posting about the deals they’d snagged.

Nope, not for me, she reminded herself as her coworkers began to drag in. Black Fridays were a bit of a skeleton shift. Most got the day off, and it was supposedly a lottery of who was chosen to do it, but she’d gotten picked the last 3 years, so…she was pretty sure the powers that be were using it as some kind of passive aggressive punishment. Well, fuck them. She was not so easily perturbed.

She sipped more of her coffee while she waited on the clock to hit exactly 9 a.m. so she wouldn’t get in trouble for being “too motivated” yet again this quarter and stared at the decorations around her desk that always made her smile. She had a Hey! Arnold figure, photos of her cats, a plush toy of Garnet from Steven Universe, and some odds and ends Happy Meal toys she picked up when she forgot to pack her lunch. She was here enough…she might as well make it more like home. Everyone else had photos of kids and spouses and vacations and always gave her weird looks at her little toy collection, but fact is, no one had to grow up entirely, and she probably never would, so they’d have to get over it or be salty. Not her problem.

She was lost in that train of thought when her phone rang.


The phone didn’t really ring here all that much. This wasn’t like some IT help desk place or anything. She sold shit no one really wanted or needed or at least didn’t think they needed until they heard from her how awesome this set of silicone baking dishes were and made an impulse buy to get maybe one or two molecules of dopamine that might boost their mood for awhile. She didn’t leave voicemails or answering machine messages. They weren’t supposed to…just call and hope for the best. So the chances of someone actually calling her without being prompted were slim to none on a typical day.

“Thank you for calling Advanced Commercial Solutions! This is Bethany speaking. How may I help you today?”

She heard fast, shallow breathing on the other end for a moment, then a feminine voice said, “linda? Is that you? Something’s been moving the furniture again. Everything’s out of place. I don’t know what to do! I’m not crazy…please. Can you please come over?”

She was about to tell the person on the other end of the line that she had the wrong number when there was a piercing scream on the other end and a click. The caller was gone.

It has to be a prank, she thought. It sounded real. The caller sounded terrified. But moved furniture? That was fucking absurd. No, it had to be a joke….right?

She went about her morning making calls, listening to the ring, and satisfactorily ending the call when no one gave two shits to answer the phone. Call after call after call ending the exact same way. Not a single answer for her entire first hour which was certainly something to celebrate. It surely beat the screaming and yelling when she interrupted someone watching Good Morning America who didn’t want to be bothered but answered for unknown reasons anyway.

But then the phone rang again. And when she answered, it was a word for word replay of the call she’d taken before.

“linda? Is that you? Something’s been moving the furniture again. Everything’s out of place. I don’t know what to do! I’m not crazy…please. Can you please come over?”

And just like before, it ended with a scream and a click.

She still wasn’t really unnerved. In fact, the repeat performance made her even more sure it was a prank. It had to be a recording otherwise no one could have gotten it so eerily perfect down to the breathing and the sound of the scream. Not a chance. She chuckled to herself about how good this story would be when she told it to her friends over the weekend. They might be enjoying the sales, but she’d have the best story of the bunch by far.

She got up for a quick break to grab another cup of coffee and use the restroom. Prank or not, her heart was beating like mad, and she needed a moment to collect herself before making another round of calls.

By the time she got back to her desk after drinking her coffee and chatting up Jamir in the breakroom, almost half an hour had passed. As soon as she put on her headset and opened up her script, the phone rang again.

And again it was the same exact thing as before: “linda? Is that you? Something’s been moving the furniture again. Everything’s out of place. I don’t know what to do! I’m not crazy…please. Can you please come over?”

That scream seemed so real. She wondered where the recording had come from. It was haunting, joke or not. For a moment she thought about reporting it to the supervisor Kyle, but he’d been here a long time, didn’t care at all about the employees unless they weren’t making sales, and actually yelled at her the last time she had an issue with a problem customer. The guy had been obviously jerking off on the phone, so she hung up on him only it was one of her recorded QA calls, and she got chewed out by Kyle for it. He’d told her he didn’t care if the customer was shitting onto their receiver—she had to finish the call and try and get a sale. So much for no sexual harassment in the workplace, eh?

She really had to start looking for another job.

She hoped whoever it was had gotten a life somehow, and the whole thing would be over. She wasn’t laughing anymore. You can’t hear a scream like that and not be affected by it.

3 calls down with another several dozen to go, she got another call. Only about 15 minutes had passed this time. It was the same exact drill. The same words and the scream. 10 minutes later she got another one. And then another 5 minutes after that. And another a couple minutes later and a minute after that, and then they started coming in as soon as she hung up the phone. One after another after another.

She finally broke down crying and went for Kyle.

Maybe the tears worked on him when her usually stoic fa├žade did not, but he seemed sympathetic as she explained. You could hear the shrill ring of her direct line all the way to his office, so he knew at the very least she was getting the calls, but he assumed, like she had, they were pranks especially after he played back the recordings for her call log and heard, like she had, the exact same words down to the breathing and the tone of the scream. It was eerie.

He went and picked up the line at her desk as it started to ring again and before anything was said, he shouted into the headset, “listen here you little shits. This isn’t funny. It was never funny. You’ve wasted an entire day of your life being absolute wastes of oxygen, and I swear to all that is holy in this world I will find you, and I will make sure you see consequences.” He hung up himself sure that would be the end of things, but when he started to put the headset down, the line rang again. He disconnected the call. It started again. Over and over he would put a stop to the call, and it would ring again until finally he answered.

It wasn’t the recording.

It was a scream so loud and so terrifying that he snatched the headset and threw it but not before it was completely and utterly damaged unable to handle whatever was being put out on the other end.

He looked shaken for a moment, but that turned to rage in a hurry. He would not be made a fool of. She could hear him saying it. He stalked back to his office mumbling about the cops. Of course he would call the cops on some kids playing a prank.

At least she hoped this was still some kind of prank.

A couple cops did show up. She’d gotten a replacement headset and was having to make calls from a different cubicle because her line never quit ringing. They listened to the calls themselves and seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal, but in order to get them stopped, they’d try to figure out where they were coming from and go have a talk with the kids involved. They were positive it was just some kids on Thanksgiving break who were bored and didn’t have any supervision. They took a digital copy of the recordings, the phone number that popped up on the caller i.d. for the computer and said they’d get back to us—Kyle really—later in the day.

It was barely lunch time. The thought of eating her leftovers now turned her stomach in knots.

Kyle powered down the computer at her desk, but the moment he did, another line began to ring. He tried again turning the next one off only to have another one start. He’d gone through every computer in the office before it was all said and done because for whatever reason he couldn’t “let them win.” He should have just let one ring the rest of the day instead with the sound turned down to begin with, but eventually he saw the light on that and turned them all back on figuring they’d pick one and stick with it until the police tracked them down.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

They all rang. Every single line in the office. Every cubicle. No one could get any work done, and Kyle called the number on the card the two cops left to tell them things had escalated. We all gathered in the break room everyone with a theory on what was going on, of course, but no one could have possibly banked on the truth.

Well, we still don’t really know the truth. All we know is the little bit of info the cops gave Kyle on that phone call. He came back to the breakroom, pale with widened eyes. He looked like he was in shock, so we all held our collective breath waiting to see what he might have to say. He stammered, paused, took a deep breath, and started again, “so, uh, the cops traced that number back to a line that hasn’t been used in a few years. Uh. Ok. Well. The last time it was active, it was the account of a woman—someone named Marge--who disappeared around this time of the year not far from here actually. It’s still an open case, so it wasn’t hard for them to get ahold of the info or whatever, and what we’re hearing is basically what her sister Linda reported as their last contact. It was the last time anyone heard from her, but there was never any recording made of the call that Linda knew of. They have no explanation, but someone’s coming by to try to listen in and see if they can get any evidence, I guess.”

Marge is still missing. And Bethany found a new job.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer

Spatulas on Parade

On the Border

Follow Me Home

Sarah Nolan

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, November 8, 2019

To Say Or Not To Say

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 7 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My subject is: Tell us about a recent time you said something then wished you could take those words back. Were you able to make it right?

It was submitted by:

This is a long rant, and it's something I have discussed on Facebook at certain points, so it may be repeat info, but it's something I needed to get down like this.


Back in May I had a call from a Florida number I didn't recognize, so of course I let it go to voicemail. My entire generation thrives on screening calls and texting, so why would I ever answer the phone for a random? Imagine my surprise when I checked the message left to hear it was family and children services wanting to ask me questions about how my ex husband's wife parents in her home. Just let that sink in. Not how my ex parents. How his wife parents. And why were they calling exactly? What kind of question is that?

I didn't even know why I would be a person for children's services to call. I've never set one foot inside their home and never intended to. The most I'd seen of her parenting was at birthday parties and the few occasions they all came in when it was time to pick up my kid for his every other weekend visits. That's certainly not enough to formulate any kind of real opinion on the matter. I knew how she treated my child, but that's a good bit differently than she treats her own on a daily basis unfortunately, so any opinion I did have wouldn't have been a good one. Why would these people have given children's services MY number as a reference? The whole thing was ludicrous.

So I did what any reasonable person would do I'm that situation or what I would assume is reasonable. I asked my child's father.

I shouldn't have.

I got my answer. That part was fine. Apparently his wife's daughter, my son's stepsister, told her teacher her mom punched her in the stomach. It wasn't the first time she had said such a thing. The last couple times it turned out to be a lie, though, and she had to get state mandated therapy. Her parents opted not to continue it, but apparently she should have because here we were again. Last time she lied she tried to involve my son, and until her therapy was over I didn't let him go to their house. I had hoped this was all over even though I worried every time he was down there that she would end up telling the kind of lie that could ruin his life. It was her thing when she got angry.

So I get the story from my ex, and I also let him know that recently she logged into my son's PlayStation account and told all his friends he is a lazy, gay douchebag. He saw the messages when he logged on, and I wanted to make sure it was addressed. That kind of thing should never happen. None of this should have happened.

That was my second mistake.

The stepmom told my son he was the liar and started aggressively questioning him, and even when his dad proved her wrong, she refused to apologize and dug her heels in. Her kid lied supposedly to children's services about abuse because she was mad at her mom, but it's my son who is the problem? He wasn't happy with the whole situation and how his stepmom talked to him and told his dad he wouldn't be coming down to his house for visits until something changed. His dad said he understood.

He did not.

For 3 months, his dad saw him 3 times for about an hour each time. That's not the limit anyone put on him. That's all the time he would give. It's not surprising. He's barely been an every other weekend father for a few years, and for most of the time we have been separated/divorced, he was barely around at all much less giving financial support until he absolutely had to. Every single time he saw his son during this 3 month period, he fussed at him about making things right (I didn't know this until later). He put all the responsibility of repairing a long damaged relationship between all of them on a 13 year old and yelled at him in restaurants about it. Is it the child who didn't lie who should really be fixing things here?

But then I said another thing.

His dad text me a couple months ago letting me know the child support payment would be late and I would need to have some patience for once.

For once.

I had put up with all this going on for months without saying much, but I couldn't anymore. The child support didn't come at all for years and years, and now that he has to, now that it finally does, it is ALWAYS LATE. Not 2 days late or 4...2 to 3 weeks late every single month without fail, and I never say a word besides asking at the 3 week mark when he will be able to pay because I have to wait on that money to pay my mortgage on a house I didn't want, in a place I didn't want to live, that I got left with in the dissolution of our marriage. I'm never rude. Never demand it. I simply ask what day so I can fill out a promise to pay for the mortgage company, and that doesn't happen every month--only if it was 3 weeks late already with no word from him.

So for 3 months a couple of adults who should be examples in his life who needed to apologize--his stepmom for calling him a liar and belittling him and his dad for not standing up for him and just saying he didn't want to get into it with her--failed him. They failed to apologize. Failed to work it out. Failed to be good parents. Again. They failed his siblings by yet again putting them ahead of him and making that kind of example. They failed in every way imaginable. And it wasn't just those three months. It had been years of it. Years of my kid being treated like a burden. Years of his dad not showing up, not coming through with promises, and not being an actual father. Years of my child being called names like "princess" and his sexuality questioned BECAUSE OF HIS HAIR and then when he did come out even more months of name-calling and added gay jokes. "I thought I had my straight son back for a minute" is NEVER something your child should hear you say. This kid didn't even have a toothbrush of his own at his dad's. No clothes, no shoes, no offer to help pay for clothes, no toys of his own, no space of his own, no privacy, and no respect. For literally nearly a decade during their entire relationship the wife ruled their time together which isn't to say his dad would have put him first on his own either. There has never been a single instance I can recall where he did something with his own kid after our divorce because that's what his kid wanted to do instead of dragging his kid along to things HE wanted to do and calling it quality time. Listen, no kid wants to go on your motorcycle that you repeatedly promised you wouldn't take him on in the fucking freezing ass cold early in the morning to do a poker run you promised your friends you would do without regard to when he would be there. No 3 year old wants to see gory horror movies with you because you don't want to have to watch a baby movie. It's always been awful.

And I get a text asking me to have patience for once.

For once.

So I said no. I said I have our kid full time now and have never had any help outside child support that was always late anyway and no I would not "be patient for once" because I am always patient and I am finally, FINALLY, not going to be anymore. And that he could pay it or we could go to court. I was done with him putting the kid and his needs last.

And then--of course I did--I got a sob story.

"I wish I could see him more."

"What do you mean? You could have seen him anytime you wanted his whole life. And for the last 3 months the only thing he wanted was an apology which he expressed to you multiple times--that he was going to stand his ground and wasn't coming until things changed and yall apologize."

This was my biggest mistake. Because me saying it so clearly and not saying the nice, placating things this man wanted to hear gave him the one opportunity he needed (wanted) to be able to twist this into me wanting to cause drama and not his son having legitimate concerns. All he could say to any of it was "can't we talk this out like adults" which is exactly what I was doing. His definition just doesn't include anything that might make him feel bad. It if isn't praise, it's drama. If it isn't awarding him Dad of the Year or World's Best Dad then it's not being an adult. If it is any kind of criticism at all whatsoever in any shape or form, it's me being "a crazy bitch." And I knew that. I knew that when I said it. I lived with that for 5 years of my life before I couldn't do it anymore. I knew what was coming, and I was just too fucking exhausted to stop myself.

So here we are another couple months later, and he has told his kid he's done with him more than once because all the things his kid said to them about being treated differently was how he felt and not something I made up.

When he pops in to say "haven't heard from you" even though he ended the last conversation with "I'm done with you," nothing has changed. When he pops in to say Happy Birthday, nothing has changed. It wasn't "drama" that can be swept under the rug. And he can't accept that's how his kid feels, and when that is expressed, he's gone again with another tantrum and "I'm done."

So no I can't fix it. There's never going to be a time when I know if it's right to let my 13--now 14--year old stand up for himself with his dad or get involved, but every time I do it makes things worse. Does he need me to back him up? He's in pain over it all. Doesn't he need one parent always in his corner? If I hadn't I don't think the end result would be different. I know his dad. But does he wonder if it would be different? Does he wonder if I made it worse or does he feel proud that I stood up for him?

He doesn't want to talk about his dad just yet.

I can't make his dad be a good parent, and I guess that's the thing. Whether I say anything or not, I still can't ever fix this. I made a bad choice in a partner that I thought would grow with me but never did, and I can't take it back. I wouldn't want to if it meant not having my son. But I wish there was something, anything, I can do to make it right even if it means keeping my mouth shut even when I feel like doing so will make me explode.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer

Spatulas on Parade

Our Prime Years

Sarah Nolan

Part-time Working Hockey Mom