Dust on the sill.
Long time gone.
One forever afternoon wipe a finger across the sill and motes spark on the slanty light. Stride over room, shoes mashing the boxes under heel or tip sending them scattering, to reach machine.
Guttural mouse squeak bracketed by snappy switch clicks and a low beep. Instead of stopping to hear the last message, it's the whole of the tape. "--ay? No go on coffee. Still out in the boondocks with the rents. I'll call."
Falling off chair rope swing click hangup clatter; lots of these, sometimes several in a row, serving as rhetoric or elliptical punctuation between other messages, sometimes preceded with long silence or a half-spat epithet. Once following: "...I ...thing... I... thing... i... havethewrongnum--"
Messages of a few seconds or many minutes stumble steadily out.
A sort of poem, droning on: "Closing Time. Flight of us a murmur and flap. We stand up into a stinging cloud of smoke that rained peanut shells and butts and snack wrappers. We are in search of a last call mate, out the door to a bed, in need of a lift. out the door and it's all home free. we never forget how to fly."
Almost a poem: "You'll never believe where I'm calling from, bro. ok, a hint: I'm handling a pair of avacadoes. Yeah, I'm in the middle of Spaceway, dude! My eyes are killing me. You have to get one of these things, you can call from anywhere. Oh, yeah, and they can call you anywhere. I guess that won't work for you. hey, where are those oval things? Aisle what? thanks. Oh, bro, you have to see this. It's taco flavored cheese whizz. I'm not shitting you. Hey, kid, say hi to my bro. ... No? aw, don't cry. Sorry ma'am. fucking little snotty shit--Oh, hey. I know what you need: a pager. One that vibrates. Hey, where are the, you know, for when you--oh, yeah, if it was a snake. Yeah. Oh, next time you're over, make sure to bring that thing, that blue thing. I really--".
Series upon series of numbers.
And pleas for numbers.
And numbers repeated.
"Hey? is this the right number? All smudged. Call me."
Yes, numbers assumed.
"I need you to come in right away, sir. We've got a problem with the leak. He's spurting all over and we just can't plug him."
"Allo! Je suis l'amie de Jacques. Il dit trouvez-moi la gare."
"HEY! WHERE'S THE FUCKING PIZZA!"
And perhaps not the wrong number.
"...bastard.. You BASTARD! I can't believe you fucking did that! You ruined my life, you, you fucking bastard. I hate you!...fucking bastard."
"Right. Are you there? I'm across the street and if you just fucking wake up you can see me giving you the bird... Right. I'll check for you at V's."
"Phone tag! It's me. Your turn."
"--ake two rights and the greenhouse--"
"You never seem to be in at normal hours, son. Well, we're all fine and hoping all is fine with you. Give us your work number and we'll call you there, we're sure there's no trouble."
"Hello. hellohellohello-oh-oh. Are you there? Guess not."
"...Hello? Where are you? I hate these machines. Hello?"
"Roses are red, violets are blue, I am here, where are you?"
"Hey, come meet me and the cow for coffee. She doesn't have a clue yet."
"Hello? Hello? I hate these machines. Call me."
Drunk incompresensible singing of a pop song from another year. Now and then silence, then heavy breathing, then giggling.
"Jay, it's me. Is your refrigerator in a can?"
Recorded cars passing by, or little shouts of "listen" to jangle live rock band drowned out by cheers and muffled chatter and clothing brushing the phone.
Steps on stairs? Washing machine? Sex?
"Jay, no go on coffee, I think I'm getting lucky."
"Jay, coffee's still on and fuck 'em all."
"Jay, all out of coffee. Your place?"
"Jay, where the fuck are you?"
"Jay, come out, come out whereever you are!"
"Jay, sorry. See you."
Last message, right after a request for donations to a good cause. "Listen up, won't repeat. Come to my house for cookies and milk. Make sure not to dress up. Who am I? Where do I live? What time and What day of the week should you show up? How do you know me? Why have I invited you? That's for me to know, and you to find out."
A final click as the dust resettles.