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The Cell Phone

Short Story by Lakshmi Menon


The clock on the wall struck seven times. Vidya took a deep breath and got up from her seat. “Thank God, today was not bad. The day had passed without any untoward incidents,” she said softly to herself, while grabbing her bag from the drawer. 

Ramu the attender, smiled at her acknowledging it. As they were locking the one-room office of their Counseling Centre, the phone rang. Vidya went back with a tinge of disappointment and answered the phone call, ignoring the attender’s warning gesture not to attend the call at this moment.

“I want to speak to you urgently, can I?” said a male voice at the other end of the phone. For a split second, Vidya was disappointed at this last moment’s phone call. She knew if she agreed to talk she would be late to get back home and she would miss her usual bus.  The next moment she immediately remembered her position as a voluntary counsellor and encouraged him to talk. 

“Thank you, Madam. Anyway I’ve made up my mind about what I’m going to do.  But just before that I thought of talking to you. At least one person in this world should know why I did it, and that is the reason I called you now,” said the male voice at the other end.  His decision echoed in his voice. 

“Please go ahead. May I know a little more about you, before you proceed, so that I may be able to help you?”  Vidya said in her usual calm voice, conveniently ignoring Ramu’s impatient glance while he was standing at the entrance of the room. 

“I don’t want your help,” screamed the frustrated guy at the other end. ”I just want to tell you. That’s all……… Could you spare a few moments to listen to my story?” There was an urgency, mixed with frustration, in his voice.  

“Of course, you can tell me.  I’ll keep it confidential. Don’t worry.”

“I’m not bothered whether you keep it confidential or not. That’s not my problem. I’ve anyway decided what is to be done,” screamed the voice at the top of his voice. He paused for a moment, and then added, “All that I’m bothered about is that somebody in this world should know why I did it and I thought you’d be the right person to talk to.”

“May I know a bit about you, please?”  Vidya was eager to know at least something about the desperate guy, who was in urgent need of pouring out his heart. 

“I’m going to kill my wife tonight and then kill myself, and you’ll read about it in tomorrow’s newspaper. Then you’ll know more about me,” he continued after a pause. “You’ll be wondering why I’m going to do this………… After all you’re also a woman. You may not understand my feelings. Is there a male counselor to whom I could talk to?” 

“No, today is my turn. If you want to talk to a male counselor you can call another day. A male counselor will be available on Monday,” Vidya was calm in her voice, not precisely, but pretended to be calm.  Actually, there was a sudden turmoil in her mind.

“Did my heart miss a beat?  Will I carry this conversation in my mind to my little home?” wondered Vidya, with a shudder. 

Vidya soon recomposed herself and tried to help the caller. “I understand you, young man. I can very well make out how disheartened  you are.” She empathized with him, and this had the desired soothing effect on him. 

There was a deep sigh at the other end. “I wish I could come and meet you personally and pour out my heart.” The velocity of his anger had been reduced suddenly, and this brought a welcome smile on her face.

“Sure, you can come and meet me in person. But today the time is over. I’m already late. I’ve to lock the office and go now. I’m not supposed to stay here after seven. I stay far away.”  

“But I can’t wait for another day. I’ve to finish her off today itself. I don’t want to postpone this task any longer,” echoed the voice at the other end. 

“I understand you, but right now I’m helpless……” said Vidya, and paused for a moment, and then continued as there was no other response from the other end, “Could you please wait for one more day, so that we can meet here and you can pour out your heart to me? I’m willing to listen to you everything in detail. I hope you won’t disappoint me.”

After a pause, she added, “Oh, I forgot to tell you tomorrow is Sunday and no one will be here. You have to come on Monday only. I will be here.”

“Mmmmm………..”

Vidya felt his frustration. 

“Or give me your phone number. I’ll call you at home and talk to you.” The caller had found a solution. 

Vidya was not willing to give him her residential number. At the same time, she knew it wouldn’t be nice to turn him away.

“I wish I could give you my number, but my phone is dead for the last one week….  I don’t know when the telephone people will come and repair it.”

“Mmmmmm……..OK, then give me your Cell number.” He was desperate.

“I’m sorry. I don’t have a cell phone.”  Vidya preferred to lie at that moment.

“These days a cell phone is a must…….  Do you know it’s the cell phone which helped me to nab my wife for her infidelity.”  

The attender boy  was desperately showing signs to her to put an end to the phone call soon. Besides,  it was getting late and he was worried that they would both miss their buses, as they  travelled two different directions.   In between he gestured her to look at her watch.

Vidya’s mind was aching for the young man who was going to murder his wife and kill himself.  “I must save these two lives, at any cost.” She said to herself.  All that he needed now was to divert his mind from the turmoil he was going through. This would help him to change his decision,” she said to herself, remembering  the lessons she had learned from her counseling classes. 

The Short Story continued here...