She almost didn’t answer the call. Miracles happened, of course – lepers were healed, blind men were given back their sight, the dead were raised – but they were usually things more easily accomplished than waking Avery before noon.
In her dream, she was driving a fast car on a cool, sunbright road when a passenger appeared in the seat next to her singing robotically. It was annoying, but familiar. She had the vague notion that it would stop soon, and she was delightfully unbound from physics on this snake-back road.
The pavement was smooth as ice and every turn was a breeze and a thrill. The singing would stop. It only occurred to her after burning rubber smelled sweet, like a marshmallow lit on fire, that none of this was real. Except the tinny repetition of her ringtone.
Avery rolled over, caught her phone on the last few seconds of the song, and put it to her ear before she opened her eyes.
“Good morning,” she said. Because it was morning, and even half-asleep she knew it was a rare opportunity to give the greeting correctly. It was only half intended to chastise the caller.
“Hello, Avery Mitchell?”
She rested her forehead against the pillow, before remembering she couldn’t speak with her face buried in the sheets. Lifting her head enough to rest it on her hand instead, she mumbled, “This is she.”
“Hello!” The unfamiliar male voice continued in its too-light, too-quick tones. “I’m calling to verify your reservation on Coracle Cruises. It looks like we have you down for a balcony suite with our Empire’s Choice event package, including three meals a day in our four star dining rooms, and an upgrade to include all of our live shows. It looks like everything is paid up, we just need to collect some information. Can you tell me your birthday so I can bring up your file?”
“What?” Avery said. Very clearly, she was sure, with half of her still asleep and the other half buried in bed.
“Your birthday, ma’am?”
“I’m not going on a cruise,” she said.
“You’re not?” He sounded truly stunned. Perfectly uncertain. “If you just give me your birthday, I can look it up for you.”
“I promise, I’m not,” Avery said.
“Are you sure? You’re on our list of customers who recently bought a time share and secured a free cruise as part of the incentive package.” There was some clicking. Rapid typing. “If you just give me your birthday, I can get a better look–”
“I didn’t buy a timeshare,” Avery told him.
“Oh, wow. I’m so sorry. This is embarrassing. We’re not even supposed to tell anyone about this deal. I mean, we’re giving away tens of thousands of dollars to each customer over this. It’s ridiculous. I don’t even understand why my bosses agreed to it.” A small pause. “I can transfer you to the timeshare reps, if you’d like. Now that you know about this, it can’t hurt.”
“What?” Avery said.
“Let me transfer you. They can explain everything, and then, if you’d like, they can transfer you back to me, and I’ll get you set up with your free cruise from Port Canaveral to Barbados. Just give me a mo–”
And Avery got an idea. “Young man, you should be ashamed of yourself.” She dropped a little gravel into her voice, and knew that it was over-the-top, but simply hoped that there had been enough of it in her just-woken-responses that he didn’t notice the difference.
She rolled over, grinning to herself, then forced a scowl to keep it out of her tone. “This is ridiculous. Pranking calling old ladies about cruises and barbasco. You think I don’t know barbasco is a poison?”
“Barbados, ma’am, and–”
“How dare you interrupt me!” Avery held her breath for a moment, just to keep from laughing. “I don’t know when they stopped teaching children manners, but you, young man, are just beyond the pale. Put your mother on the phone.”
“I want to talk to your mother,” Avery told him. “Put her on the phone.”
He hesitated. “You want to talk to my supervisor?”
“You work for your mother?” Avery demanded.
“Put your mother on the phone, young man. Don’t make me ask again.”
“I’m sorry. If you’ll just give me your birthday, I can open your file, and–”
“Put your mother on the phone, or I will call my grandson. He’s in the coast guard, and he’ll straighten you out with two hands tied behind his back, hopping on one foot. What’s your name, young man?”
“Scott, ma’am, and I’m sorry, but my mother’s not here. Can I put you in touch with my supervisor?”
Avery let the line go silent for a long moment. Another moment. She held carefully to her elderly voice. “Scott?”
“I’m sorry, wrong number,” Avery said.
“What?” Scott said.
And she hung up the phone. Rolling over, she buried herself under her pillow to block out the light streaming through her window. She shut her eyes, yawned, and smiled.
It was going to be a good day. And to think she almost didn’t answer the call.
I’m a thief! I stole the first line of this piece from my friend, Kate. Be sure to stop by her blog to see the original work of fiction. Then, take a peek at how all the other thieves responded to the call.