Chapter 12 1996 - Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand

A passerby noted the man standing at the booth, obviously in distress and asked his problem.

"I'm standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand," Clark opined. "there are people in dire peril and I have nowhere to change!"

"You need change?" the passerby asked. "I think I can help you out." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful. "Here you go," he said as he held out his hand. "I'm always ready to help out a fellow in need."

Clark looked down at the man's hand in disbelief. Not only did he not need change, he was in rather a hurry and did not have time to stand here debating the need for coinage. Despite the stranger's helpfulness, Clark had to turn him down.

"Sorry, pal," he began. "You seem to have misunderstood. I've got plenty of change. The problem is the phone booth itself. It's broken. I can't get the door open without ripping it off from its hinges. I'm afraid the local police would have a problem with that."

"Then your problem is solved!" the man declared triumphantly. "You can use my cell phone. I have plenty of spare minutes. Here you go." He proffered the device.

Clark looked down at the man's hand and shook his head. "Again you misunderstand. I am not in need of a phone. I just need to use the phone booth." He paused uncomfortably. "It's a bit hard to explain."

The man looked curiously at Clark, then offered another bit of help. "There's another booth around the corner."

With a flash and whoosh of air, Clark seemed to disappear in front of the man's eyes. "That was odd," he noted silently as he walked away, shaking his head.

Angela looked over the manuscript I had provided to her. “This is what you’ve been working on? This is your ‘Great American Novel’?”.

“Yeah! What do you think?” I was eager to hear the answer.

“Frankly, it’s crap. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so bad.”

I was crushed. “But I’ve thought this story out to the end. Anyway, it’s just a first draft. They’re always a bit rough.”

“Sandpaper is rough. This is atrocious. Stick to writing music. You’re good at that, and not so good at writing a novel. Stick with what you know.”

“I must respectfully disagree,” I took on a haughty attitude. “This is my baby. This is what I was born to do. You just wait, the story will emerge, and I predict it will be a bestseller!”

“O.K., have your fun. But I don’t think your dad is going to be able to get you out of the one. He can complete your projects, but this one is beyond redemption.”

“My dad is not an Author. I am” I insisted.

“Right, right. An Author. You just go ahead. When it hits the bestseller list, I’ll read it.”

I ignored her jibe and continued writing.

Clark discovered the working phone booth around the corner, just as the stranger had indicated. The door was operational, and the street itself was fairly deserted.

“This will do,” he stated to no one in particular. “This will do nicely.”

Clark removed his hat, and placed it carefully on the shelf just below the telephone. He removed his glasses, and placed them in his pocket. He picked up the phone book, thumbed to the “R” listings, and ran his finger down the page until he encountered “Raven.”

“Here it is, ‘Raven, John L. - 2877 Santiago Blvd. #3’”, Clark took out a notepad and wrote down the address. He picked up his hat, replaced his glasses and stepped outside the booth. Looking up and down the street, the lack of activity on the street was now a problem. Seeking to hail a taxi, Clark returned once again to the busier street at which he began his quest.

“Taxi” he hailed, as he spotted the yellow vehicle down the street. “Taxi!” The vehicle slowed, as Clark stepped into the back seat. He glanced at his notepad, “2877 Santiago Blvd.” he told the driver. And there’s an extra twenty in it for you if you can get me there in under ten minutes.

“You got it!” the driver indicated, as he stepped on the gas.

Eight minutes later, the driver pulled to the curb in front of the Santiago address.

I stopped typing and read over his previous scene. “It’s perfect! The suspense is building nicely!”

Clark paid the fare, and added the promised twenty and stepped out of the car. He surveyed the building in front of him, and caught his breath. “This is going to be dangerous, I fear,” he sub-vocalized. “But there’s no other choice but to go out and do it!”

He approached the door warily, grabbed the handle, entered and spoke to the person inside. “Dr. Raven, I presume?”

The woman looked up and indicated the sign on the wall, “Yes, this is Dr. Raven’s office. Do you have an appointment?”

Clark looked to the right and to the left, as if afraid that someone might overhear their conversation. “No, I do not,” he simply said.

“Well, let’s look at the book.” She scanned and turned the page. “We’ve got nothing open today, but it looks like a 9 AM slot is available tomorrow. Would you care to return in the morning?”

Clark’s newfound bravado poured out of him, as syrup from a jar, slowly returning to the anxiety of earlier in the day. “There’s nothing available right now?” he asked. “Can you check again, please?”

“No, I’m sorry sir, tomorrow is the earliest we can fit you in.”

Clark sighed. “That will have to do. Put me down for 9 AM.”

The receptionist looked down to pencil him in. “Your name, sir?” There was no reply. Looking up, again she said “Sir?”

But Clark was nowhere to be found.

“That seems as good a place to end this chapter,” I said aloud to no one in particular. “The character is developing nicely, the situation remains mysterious. I think the Pulitzer Prize is practically in my pocket!”

I pushed back the chair as he stretched his arms about his head. “It’s time for some inspiration!”

I stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of hard candy and popped it into his mouth. Biting down, he felt a piece of his tooth chip off. “Ow!” he cried out. “My tooth!”

Angela heard his cry for help and ran into the room. “What’s the problem?”

“I think I broke my tooth when I bit on this piece of candy,” he reached into his mouth and pulled out the candy, and a bit of the tooth. “I’m going to have to go to the dentist,” he said. “Can you make me an appointment, please?”

Angela got on the phone. I could hear her speaking to the dentist’s office “Tomorrow at 9 AM? Nothing earlier? OK, we’ll take it. See you in the morning!”

“Tomorrow?” I complained, “My tooth is hurting now!”

“I’m afraid that’s the best we can do. Dr. Santiago is all booked for today. If something opens up today, Ms. Clark will give us a call. Why don’t you get back to your ‘writing’. It may take your mind of the pain. Plus, you can take a couple for aspirin as well.”

I returned to his desk after downing the aspirin, and tried to concentrate on the manuscript.

Clark fidgeted as he awaited his 9 AM appointment. A visit to Dr. Raven was always nerve-wracking for him. It’s not that he was afraid, but the thought of the initial pain belied the fact that even the hope of relief could not compensate.

“The doctor will see you now.” Clark was led into the examination room.

“Please remove your shirt, and Dr. Raven will be right in.”

Clark was nervous, but awaited the doctor’s arrival. He looked at the wall. The doctor’s degrees were displayed there, and the charts and diagrams were a pleasant distraction from the anxiety he was feeling.

Dr. Raven knocked and entered the room. “Please lie down, and we’ll get started.” He began pressing upon his spine, gently kneading the vertebrae, until a distinct “pop” was heard. “There! Does that feel better now?”

Clark sat up, raised his arms above his head, and declared, “No pain! You’re a miracle worker, Doc!”

Clark jumped up off the table, shook the doctor’s hand and said “Thank you!”

“Just check in with the receptionist on your way out, and you’re good to go.”

Clark paid his bill, left the office and felt ready to face the world once again.

Angela looked over I’s work the next morning and shook her head. “This is about the least interesting piece of crap I’ve read, possible ever. I don’t think you’re going to find a second career as an Author, despite your efforts. I’m sorry,” she repeated, “it’s just horrible.”

“My tooth pain is throwing me off my game,” I claimed. “Once we’ve been to the dentist, I’m sure I can make some revisions.”

The two of them got into the car and headed to the dentist’s office. Pulling into the lot, they noted a broken phone booth on the corner.

“Looks like someone hit it with their car,” Angela noted. “I’m glad we don’t have to make any calls this morning. That’s going to be out of commission for some time, I fear.”

“You’re trying to distract me from visiting the dentist,” I accused. “You don’t have to do that. I don’t fear the dentist. I’m a big boy.”

He boldly stepped out of the car. “I’ll walk right up to that door, turn the handle, and enter without a care in the world!”

He reached the door, grabbed and turned the handle and got ready to enter. The doorknob failed to turn. It was locked. He looked at his watch, and it read 8:55 AM. The office was still closed. He would have to wait out the five minutes.