This is my submission to Writer’s Digest’s Contest #28. The prompt is: “a person does weekly housecleaning and finds an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of their couch–but can’t recall having had any recent visitor. It rings.”
Note: This story does contain some profanity.
“I Hate Housecleaning and Uninvited Guests”
By Richard Zowie
It’s a necessary evil, which I’d compare to voting–if I were a registered voter. Clutter, unwashed dishes, unfolded clean clothes and unsorted mail bring unwanted attention, the last thing I need.
So, each week I clean.
When vacuuming the sofa, I remove the cushions and vacuum the crevices since sometimes crumbs will get into the couch while I’m eating and watching old episodes of Dexter (what an amateur!) or Nip/Tuck on Netflix.
I live alone and don’t like questions. If someone ventured into my basement and saw the medical equipment, they’d probably wonder why a work-at-home copywriter needs tools normally needed for removing organs and appendages.
And as I vacuumed the sofa this time, I heard the familiar WHHHHRRRRRR! sound and the gritty vacuumed crumbs. More crumbs than usual this week. I’ll have to be careful not to eat while hearing prospective patients answer Dr. Troy and Dr. McNamara’s trademark request, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” Or when watching the news just to make sure I’m not on it.
The vacuum strained, perhaps like a snake swallowing an animal several times its size. Did I leave the remote control in the couch? I wondered, looking at the end table and seeing the three-in-one remote present and accounted for.
As I lifted the attachment, I could see it sucking onto a cell phone. It was silver Sprint phone, scuffed as if dropped a few times. I have a cell phone, but it’s a black Verizon.
Curious, I opened it and saw the number pad illuminate, as if waiting for me to dial a number. The screen showed the correct time and date and a picture of a guitarist with wild pale eyes alive with mascara.
Someone has been in my house, I thought, my stomach boiling with an ulcer. This is not good at all. If they’ve been inside I must assume they’ve seen EVERYTHING.
It was Monday, and I had spent all of Sunday at Cedar Point, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. I rarely leave my house for that long, but I needed a break.
A quick glance around my house showed nothing missing. The basement was locked, no sign of attempted entry. The safe was still in my bedroom. They must’ve either been on a tight clock or just chickened out. Perhaps the group’s lookout, while sitting on the couch and stealing glances out the window, shifted and didn’t realize his cell phone sliding out of his pants pocket down between the cushions. It must’ve been three guys, I presumed. Two to work together and one to make sure all was clear. Perhaps they heard a distant police siren, panicked and bolted.
“DOOOOO YOU HAVE THE TIME, TO LISTEN TO ME WHINE?” someone abruptly sang as they played guitar, startling me. The cell phone’s screen lit up and read “Billy Z”, whoever that was.
I pressed the green button and said, “Hello?”
“Can I have my phone back?” an annoyed young man asked.
“W-w-why were you in my house?” I asked, sounding weak and defensive.
“Don’t worry about it, asshole, just meet me in an hour–”
“You must come to my house and get it,” I said, hoping I sounded as though I’d soiled my pants. “I won’t call the p-p-police.” Of course I wouldn’t. If I spoke to the police they’d probably visit and ask questions and develop a case of sticky fingers like that annoying Vincent D’Onofrio prick on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
He sighed. “If you give us a hard time, we might just have to rape your wifey.”
I said nothing at first as I realized he and his friends were amateurs. A quick glance at my home would reveal I lived by myself. No wife. No girlfriends. No sisters.
“I’ll be w-w-waiting for you,” I said.
“O-o-o-ok!” he laughed as he hung up.
I laughed heartily and after a quick trip to my basement, I sat down on the couch and waited. Hidden on my person was my stun gun, and they would never see it coming. I’d done it many times against far more dangerous people.
As I sat on the couch kept glancing out the window to see if a vehicle with three young men had pulled up, I wondered. What did they know and had they told anyone? How would I dispose of the bodies?
I might even have to question them in that special soundproof room in the basement.
Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.