The Cellphone: (Flash Fiction)
Grover Turnbull was full of long-suffering, righteous indignation, his usual ontology. It was rather charitable of him, in a Jesus-like way, hanging in there, patiently dispensing guidance to invariably erring people in an invariably erring world. He wondered where the strength came from.
Seated at his desk, he summoned his stepson, Bradley, to his study.
Bradley opened the door. "You wanted to see me, father?"
"Sit down," Turnbull said, indicating the chair. Bradley took a seat.
Mr. Turnbull reached into the top-center draw of his desk and removed something. "Recognize this?"
"Oh, my cellphone," Bradley said, reaching for it. Actually, he hadn't even known it was missing. He had a spare; and, a bit retrograde for a young man his age, he didn't use it much. He worried about reports on the connection between cellphones and brain cancer.
The phone was withheld. Bradley sat back, managing to both look attentive and zone out, while his stepfather drowned on, saying something about "...responsibility..." and "... a place for everything and everything in its place..." and there being "...no excuse for such carelessness..." and remarks along similar lines.
Bradley's gaze shifted downward. Color me chastened, father.
"Thank you, father. I will certainly have to be more careful, won't I?" He reached for the phone. Again it was withheld.
Bradley scratched his eyebrow, suppressed a smirk of irritation.
Mr. Turnbull said something about money not growing on trees. He talked about how soft and easy Bradley's generation had it. Why, when Mr. Turnbull had been Bradley's age, "... we didn't have everything handed to us on a silver platter..." and so forth.
Bradley certainly did admire the up-by-your-own-bootstrappiness of his stepfather's generation. When I was a boy, we walked ten miles to school up hill---both ways!
Bradley shrugged. The patience of a saint is what you have, sir---the patience of a saint. "Its just an oversight, you know. It happens."
"Not to me," Turnbull said, and Bradley had to tune out again as his stepfather went on and on and on again. At one point his stepfather had said something Bradley was sure came from a movie... The Godfather. Something about "...women and children can be careless, men cannot."
"Thank you for instructing me, sir." Its not like you bought the phone. The phone along with the calling plan was a gift to me from my mother. You know, the one with all the money in the family?
Mr. Turnbull let it be known that there are no circumstances in which "...such carelessness..." is acceptable.
Oh, come on! Bradley leaned forward. "What if I should race into a burning building and save a baby," he said breathlessly, "wouldn't it be understandable if I should lose it in all the excitement?"
Mr. Turnbull snorted. "That'll be the day. The only person you care about is yourself."
Bradley leaned back and folded his arms, smiling. "That hurts, Dad, your not thinking that I have the capacity for heroism. Under the right circumstances, you know, anyone can surpass himself, exceed his normal abilities..."
Bradley paused for dramatic effect, imagining the appropriate music to lower the boom to. "...as you do with the nineteen-year-old Hooters waitress on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Claremont Hotel."
The deer-in-the-headlight look on Grover Turnbull's face said it all. Despite his exceeding caution and discretion, Bradley had found him out.
Bradley had been wondering about when, how, and under what circumstances he should reveal this discovery to Mr. Turnbull. No time like the present.
Mr. Turnbull found it hard to breathe.
He leaned forward, his face earnest, all compassion for the weakness of Man. This soul of discretion said, "Don't worry, old man. Our little secret. I feel close to you now, knowing something intimate about you that no one else in the whole wide world knows."
He did not have to say that this included Bradley's mother, the one with all the money in the family, who would be bound to be very, very, very disappointed with Mr. Turnbull for this dalliance.
Bradley, always an indifferent student, nevertheless had a head for figures. "44-30-40, if I had to guess. A big, curvy, well-fed girl. Pretty in a tawdry sort of way. Attractive, if you go for that type, which, I suppose you do."
Words would not come to the usually evangelical Grover Turnbull.
"Well," Bradley said amiably, "thank you for recovering this for me," gently prying the phone out of his stepfather's unresponsive digits. "Now if you'll excuse me," he rose, "I have some people waiting for me. If there's nothing else..." He turned to leave.