My First Fairy Tale Inspired Short Story
After watching the movie, Snow White & the Huntsman, I was reminded of my very first fairy tale inspired short story. Circu 1993-94
Phone Calls and Dwarfs
“Hello,” she answered her phone for the third time since I sat down. “I told you not to call me anymore.”
I didn’t hear the phone ring once.
Happy, a petite woman in her thirties, moved into my neighborhood two weeks before. Since I had a day off from work, I finally had a chance to walk over and say hello. She introduced herself and welcomed me into her home. I didn’t know what to think after witnessing her bizarre behavior.
The first time it happened I thought that maybe she was deaf and had some special code, like a blinking light or something connected to the phone, so when it rang it gave her some sort of noiseless communication. But the second time she answered it she seemed to be listening attentively to me. She stared me straight in the eyes when right in the middle of my sentence she said, “Oh, just a minute,” and picked up the phone. Her conversation carried on just about the same way this third call went.
So, after the second time, I knew something was just not right with this Happy person. I told her I had left something on the stove and had to get back home—if she could have imaginary calls, I could have pretend food cooking. However, before I made it to the door she excused herself, this third time, to answer the phone.
“I have someone…” she stopped mid-sentence and hung up. She looked at me, but I recognized it as one of those blank, straight through a person stares, and then she said with a smile, “Would you like something to drink?”
I used my stove excuse again and made my exit.
My husband was out of town on business, and my children were at school, therefore I had the day to myself. I went to the kitchen and thought about mopping the floor, but made myself a pot of coffee instead. Before I had a chance to pour myself a cup, my doorbell rang.
“Mrs. Roberts?” A tall, gorgeous policeman stood at my door—and me with no make-up. Behind him stood a shorter and plumper officer who looked aggravated.
“Yes, is something wrong?” I gave my best smile to the handsome policeman and tried not to look at the unpleasant one.
“Do you know a Hillary Glass?” he said, not returning my smile.
“Are you sure ma’am? She lives right across the street.” He turned and pointed to Happy’s house.”
“Oh… Happy. I just met her a few minutes ago.”
The policeman frowned at me and then turned to look at his partner. “Happy?” he said, after he turned back to me.
“Yes, that’s her nickname.”
His left eyebrow made a high arch. “But I thought you said you didn’t know her. Now you’re telling us you know her by her nickname.”
“Yes, I mean, I didn’t know her real name until you just told me. I met her this morning and she told me her name was Happy.”
They both just glared at me, their mouths slightly open.
“What is the problem? I asked. Did something happen?”
“We received a complaint today. Mrs. Glass has been receiving threatening calls and has named you as the perpetrator.”
“What? Me? No, there’s a mistake. Happy, I mean, Mrs. Glass is a loon. I went over there and she received three phone calls.”
“She received the prank calls while you were there?”
“No,” I said. “She didn’t receive any calls.”
The handsome policeman stared at me. The unpleasant policeman looked up at the clouds.
Handsome spoke slowly. “You said she received three phone calls.”
I said, “She picked up the phone three times and carried on a conversation, but the phone didn’t ring.”
“So, she made three calls while you were there.”
“Please listen to what I’m telling you,” I said, becoming quite upset. “Happy picked up the phone like it rang, but it didn’t, but she talked like it did. It was very weird.”
“Yes, Mrs. Roberts, it sounds really weird. All I know is that she said she has been receiving threatening phone calls and has named you as the one making those calls.” He exhaled. “Just treat this as a warning. Anymore calls and we’ll be back… understand?”
“I don’t even have her phone number. She probably doesn’t even have her phone connected.”
“She’s putting caller ID on her phone today. If you call again, your number will be recorded and she has the right to press charges.”
“She can put whatever she wants on her phone. I didn’t make those calls, and I will never call that lady.”
“Have a nice day,” the not so handsome anymore policeman said.
After they left, I went back to the kitchen and poured myself the cup of coffee. What was that woman’s problem? Certainly not a problem I wanted any part of. I decided a nice shopping trip would get my mind off of the morning.
Make-up and hair done in less than thirty minutes, I opened the front door, and there stood Happy Glass. I stared at her crossly, but she just looked past me and into my house. I wanted to shout at her. I even had an urge to punch her in the mouth. But I held my tongue, and my fist, and waited for her to speak.
Finally, she said, “Where are you going?” A smiled covered her face.
Did she just ask: where am I going? I could feel my face rising to an abnormally high temperature. I bit my upper lip and then I bluntly said, “Out.” I practically had to push my way outside. I took my keys from my purse and locked the door, trying it three times, just to make sure.
“Oh,” she said, “I was hoping we could do lunch. I made a couple of sandwiches and I have a fresh pitcher of iced tea. We can sit outside on my patio, so the phone won’t disturb us.”
“What? Are you…” No, I wasn’t going to say the word, because obviously she was. Okay, she called the police on me. I wanted answers. “Why did you tell the cops I prank called your house?”
“Is that why the police were over here earlier?”
“Yes,” I said through my teeth. “They told me, you told them, I called your house and threatened you. Why would you say that?”
“Oh no,” she said and put her hand to her mouth in dismay. “They must have misunderstood. I told them you were there when I received the calls. I’m so sorry. Let me call them right now so I can explain the misunderstanding. Can I use your phone?”
“I’m leaving. Why don’t you use your phone at your house?”
She sniffled air as her bottom lip pouted out. “I really didn’t want to go back by myself. I’m afraid the phone will ring again… and please… I’m really spooked.
I felt myself soften to her pitiful eyes. I did want the whole mess cleared up. “I’ll tell you what,” I said. “I’ll make us lunch and that way you don’t have to be alone. Okay?”
“You’re very kind,” Happy said. “Thank you.”
I unlocked the door and walked in. Happy followed and said something about how wonderful I had decorated the house. When she asked where I kept my phone, I directed her to the one on the table next to the couch. I heard her ask for Officer Brenter, and then I walked into the kitchen.
After making tuna salad, I went back to the living room to tell Happy to come eat. She was gone, and the front door was wide open. I walked outside just in time to see Happy open the door to her house and go inside. Okay, that was strange. But fine, I didn’t want to have lunch with her anyway.
I decided to go on out for the day and just treat myself to lunch. I put the tuna in the trash and grabbed my purse. I couldn’t wait to tell Frank, my husband, all about this when he arrived home. Yes, later this would become a grand story to tell all my friends. When they came over, we could stand outside and stare and point at the weird neighbor’s house.
Lunch out by myself is never one of my favorite things. I never know where to focus my eyes. I didn’t want people to think I was gawking at them, and I didn’t want to look lonely, so, I picked up a newspaper on the way to the restaurant. As I read the paper and waited for my order of tuna salad, one article caught my attention, “Bashful strikes again!” The story told about a bank robber who would request the money in a shy manner. This made me think of my neighbor, and I laughed to myself. The seven dwarfs—Happy and Bashful made two of them.
It began to shower as I left the restaurant, but the darkness of the sky and the distant thunder divulged a more sinister storm to come. I decided to skip the shopping trip and head home to take a nice long nap. Sleeping in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm is magnificent.
As I made the turn down my street, I saw rain-blurred blue and red lights. In front of my house were two patrol cars and in front of Happy’s house an ambulance. My heart began to pound when I thought of my kids. I was relieved when I glanced at my watch and saw that it was only 1:00 P.M.
As I pulled up to my usual spot on the side of the road, four policemen immediately surrounded my car. “Get out with your hands up!”
What? I squinted and tried to see out the window. The rain came down in a nasty hurry, but I could still see that the officers actually had their guns pointed at me.
I stepped out into the rain with my hands up. Before I had time to ask questions, they had me facing my car, handcuffing me and reading me my rights. My children came to mind again, and I told them I needed to make a call. One of them laughed and said I had made enough calls.
Soaking and freezing I sat in the back of the patrol car with my hands cuffed behind me. I asked what I had done. That’s when I noticed I was with the handsome policeman and his partner.
“As I told you ma’am,” Handsome said from the passenger side, “your neighbor has caller ID. She recorded your phone number today.”
Wait a minute. How did she record my number? I didn’t call her. And then it dawned on me. She didn’t make that call to the police… she called her own house. I tried to explain this to them.
“So, you ‘re telling me that after this woman called the police on you, you let her in your house to make a call?”
“That’s when she called her house,” I said.
“Is that when you slit her throat?” he growled.
Despite my wet clothes, I began to get extremely warm. The entire day began to jumble up in my spinning head. I closed my eyes trying to rid my double vision and the feeling of nausea.
“Ma’am. Ma’am.” Someone gently tapped me on my forehead. When I opened my eyes I saw Handsome’s annoyed face. I was still in the police car, but lying down on the seat. He helped me sit up. Both of my arms were still asleep behind me. “You passed out,” he said, but rolled his eyes. “Do you think you can walk into the station or do we need to get a wheelchair?”
“I can walk,” I said.
The rain had stopped and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds. When I stepped out of the patrol car, my clothes clung to me like plastic wrap, but because my hands were cuffed behind me, I had no way of wringing them out or peeling them from my body. My hair, which had been in a neat little bun, was now undone and plastered to my head.
As we walked into the building, the two men were arguing about something and Handsome told his partner to stop being so grumpy. I began to giggle. Dwarf number three. The police officers looked at me oddly, but didn’t question my untimely laughter.
I spotted a clock above the front desk and switched gears as I remembered my children. “I need to call my mother. My kids are getting off the bus in ten minutes and no one will be home to let them in.”
“No calls until you answer some questions,” Handsome replied
“Oh, come on,” said his partner. “I’ve got kids of my own. Look lady, if you give me the number, I’ll call for you.”
Well, what do you know “Grumpy” seemed nice. I gave him the number, and he went and sat behind a cluttered desk. Handsome led me to another desk and told me sit down. Finally, he took the handcuffs off of me. I rubbed my wrist and felt like crying. I had actually been arrested. But then a policewoman in the corner of the busy room began to sneeze. She must have sneezed ten times. Handsome glared at me, his expression unnerving enough to yield a confession from the most hardened criminal. I realized I was smiling.
“Something funny?” he asked.
“Dwarf number four,” I said, but I didn’t mean to say it out loud.
“Excuse me?” He sat behind the desk violently shaking a pencil he had in his hand. He did not look amused.
I snapped back to reality and ask him what exactly I was being charged with.
“Murder, Mrs. Roberts, murder.”
“She’s dead?” I said. I knew I didn’t kill her, but the way he glared at me, I knew that was exactly what he thought. I needed help. My husband? No. A lawyer. I had a right to an attorney. “I would like to call my lawyer,” I managed to whisper.
“You would just like to call everybody, wouldn’t you. You’ll have time to call later. Right now I need some information.”
I answered all his questions, was fingerprinted, and had my picture taken. Handsome led me to a room with a large conference table. There were seven small chairs. He told me to sit down and then sat beside me.
A couple of minutes later, another uniformed man entered the room. “Where is Sergeant Woodsman?” Handsome asked the man.
“He said he would be here in two shakes,” the big man said. He yawned and stretched out his arms. Something was definitely wrong with me. I was being charged for murder, and here I was thinking dwarf number five.
Two shakes later, Sergeant Woodsman came barreling through the door, but he was not alone. Happy Glass, wearing a bandage around her neck, walked in behind him. My mouth dropped open and my head began to swoon again.
“What is my neighbor doing here?” Happy asked and seemed genuinely surprised.
“There’s been a mistake,” Sergeant Woodsman said. “Seems you have the wrong person.” He spoke to Handsome.
Handsome stood up and put his hands on his hips. “No, I don’t. Her number was on the ID.”
Sergeant Woodsman said, “Mrs. Roberts has been telling you the truth. Mrs. Glass told you Mrs. Roberts was at her house when she received the threatening phone calls. And Mrs. Glass did call her own house from Mrs. Roberts’ house.”
“That’s right,” Happy said. “I called your partner, Officer Brenter. He wasn’t in so I left a message. I then called my house to check the machine. My ex had left a message saying he was sorry and wanted to make it up to me. Yeah, he made it up to me all right.”
“I thought you were dead,” I said to Happy and then looked at Handsome. What a cruel game he had played with me. He didn’t look remorseful.
“Tony, my ex-husband just wanted to scare me,” Happy said. “The doc says I was darn lucky that it was only a superficial cut.”
An uncontrolled deep giggle fought its way to the surface. “Doc,” I screamed and laughed at the same time. “Dwarf number six.”
No one made a move or sound, they just stared at me until I calmed down. And then I said, “When I came over to your house this morning, the phone, you answered the phone… but it didn’t ring.”
“Oh,” she said and smiled. “That phone in the front room doesn’t ring. I can hear the one in my bedroom. It’s a low sound, but I’m used to listening for it.”
Sitting here in my psychiatrist’s office, waiting for my turn, it occurs to me that I never found dwarf number seven… and then I realize… it’s me.