The Answering Machine

In the Spring of 2013, NPR held another Three-Minute Fiction contest, this time looking for short stories in the form of a voice mail message. Here is my submission. It wasn’t selected, but I later re-wrote this piece for my Barhoppers play, Lulu.


*beep* Hi, is this John? I think I recognize your voice, but you don’t actually say who it is. Anyway, this is Louise. From Kate’s party the other night? Kate gave me your number. I know I gave you my number, but you hadn’t called me and I thought maybe you had lost it or something. I really hope this is the right number. Anyway, call me back.*click*

*beepIt’s Louise again. I just wanted to say that I had a really good time with you at the party and … well, it’s okay that you’re a little … nothing. I just mean that, I heard that you had broken up with your girlfriend a few months ago, or maybe she broke up with you. It’s not my business. It’s just … I’ve been hurt, too. But sometimes the best thing to do is get back on that horse, you know. So maybe we could meet sometime again, if you like. So call me back. *click*

*beep* Oh god, I just realized that I called myself a horse. You must think I’m crazy. Well, maybe I’m a little crazy, but in a fun way, you know? Like, when we met at the party, remember when that guy was talking about his car or his house or something, and I was all “oh please, just go back to the suburbs!”, and everyone laughed? So yeah, I can be fun. And remember when we were sitting on the couch, and I pretended that that guy had taken my drink, and then I fell against you and we were laughing? Well, okay, I was laughing and you were all “you spilled your drink on me!”, but then I was wiping off your pants with the napkin? I think you really enjoyed that, mister. So, call me! *click*

*beep* John, it’s Louise. I know things got a little heavy at the party, but I really think it’s time we talk about it. I know that you had a bad break up, but I’m not her, okay? I am my own woman, with my own feelings, and right now you need to deal with that. Things were said at the party, serious things. You know what I’m talking about. You can’t just leave things like that. I’m sorry what you had to go through before. Maybe you could see a counselor. Or, you know, we could go together, if that would help. I would do that for you. Just call me. *click*

*beep* John, I don’t think this is going to work. You’re a really nice guy, and I had a great time with you at Kate’s party, but I think that you’re not over your old girlfriend. Maybe give me a call in a few months once you’ve worked things out in your head. You know the number. It’s Louise. *click*

*beep* Oh god, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have ended things with you like that. Will you forgive me? Let’s just start all over again. Just pretend that last message didn’t happen. I miss you so much. Please just call me and tell me it’s okay. *click*

*beep* Okay, John. I get the message. You’re never going to call me again. That’s fine. You were not the only man at that party. That other guy, the tall one, I bet he’ll be real interested in calling me. So you just tear up my number, mister. *click*

*beep* Oh god, I just realized that I never left my number. It’s 5…*click*

*beep* “The answering machine is now full. Please erase some messages to make room.”

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