Phone Lines

Contributor: Kai Raine

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“What do you think the cover should look like?”
“I leave that up to you. I love your pictures no matter what you do.”
“Aw, you and your flattery. How’s the office?”
“Boring as hell. But, you know, it’s a job. Would you believe, Felix got on my case again about my presentation? He went on and on about how it’s useless to have a PowerPoint presentation at all if I’m not going to put any words on it.”
“Wait, was this the one for the ad pitch? With the beach and ocean pictures to create the atmosphere that you were pitching?”
“Yes. Can you believe his nerve?”
“Shit. Your boss didn’t agree with him, did he?”
“Nah, she was more than cool with it. I’m giving the presentation to the higher ups in Friday.”
“That’s great!”
“Yes, it is! How’s the flying?”
“Oh, you know…routine. But in my line of work, routine is good. I’m half worried that I’ll have to land in the Hudson one day, and won’t do it half as well as the other guy.”
“Yeah, I’d take boring office drama over boring routine any day. Even if your office is a cockpit.”
“Your cubicle is bigger.”
“So, back to the cover-”
“Argh, seriously, I’ll love it no matter what you draw. I’d even love it if you drew a skeleton, though that might be a little bit tonally dissonant from the actual story.”
“I’m kinda debating between a cool, swashbuckling prince versus dragon type cover, or a medieval landscape with the castle and moat and everything.”
“I think the dragon might be a little more attention grabbing, if it’s that.”
“Because of the glasses and puppy dog tail?”
“I was thinking for the landscape that there could be this little distant grappling on the castle drawbridge between the pelicans and the guards. Then show the marmoset paddling across the moat on the other side, fighting off the crocodile with the paddle. And then just a hint of the dragon in the corner of the sky.”
“Oh, go with that one. That one sounds way awesome.”
“Are you sure? I thought it might be a bit busy.”
“Well, you know, don’t kill yourself over it. If it’s too time consuming-”
“No, of course not! When have I ever been too busy to illustrate for you?”
“That time that your…friend ran away to Thailand. And that other time that your ferrets broke the wall and you had to patch it up yourself because your neighbor wouldn’t shut up about it and the repairman couldn’t come around for three days.”
“Fine, I get your point-”
“There was also that time when you were working three jobs and taking night classes-”
“Hey, you didn’t even ask me to illustrate then. If you’d asked, I’d have done it.”
“Yeah, and promptly dropped dead of malnutrition.”
“Speaking of malnutrition, how’s your brother?”
“The doctors say he’s fine. He was on IV for twenty-four hours, then got sent home with strict orders to eat better. Mom’s making a fuss about how if he had a girlfriend, it never would have happened.”
“He hasn’t told her yet, then?”
“Hey, I haven’t ever had the guts to tell her I was dating anyone, even when they were more…conventional sorts of people.”
“Fair enough. I’m pretty sure your mother thinks we’re dating.”
“Ugh, please don’t bring that up. Speaking of which, your father thinks the same.”
“He does not.”
“He does. I got a long email about what an irresponsible partner I was that time you got hospitalized in Berlin.”
“What the- Oh, crud. I’m sorry. I’ll talk to him.”
“Don’t worry, I told him to kindly go stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
“You did not.”
“I so did.”
“I think I love you.”
“Ditto. You know, much as I enjoy these conversations of ours, I’ve got to be at work in five hours.”
“Right, sorry. Exciting day battling witches tomorrow?”
“More like the demonic forces that be.”
“Sounds fun. Make sure you’ve got your light sabre on hand.”
“Oh, I will. Don’t mess up tomorrow and send yourself to the angels.”
“Haven’t messed up yet.”
“Keep it that way. Same time on Thursday?”
“Definitely. Bye!”
The line went dead.

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I am a graduate student finishing a novel and fighting bureaucracy. My work has appeared in the anthology Denizens of Darkness and the periodical Suddenly Lost in Words.
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