ENTRY 0010, February 6, 2004

It has been a busy time around the compound.  Sheila is stumping all over town looking for corporate support for the school.  I'm working on THREE master's classes.  Not one, not two, three.  I'm insane, but at least I know I'm insane.  Actually, two of the classes are great.  The third, my writing class, would be great if it were not son damned redundant.  I have taken writing classes before, just not in the past 15 years or so.

However, one interesting thing happened in class this week.  We always start with some sort of writing exercise, to break the ice and get the juices flowing.  Sometimes the professor knows exactly what she wants us to write, other times she opens up her Writer's Block and picks a topic at random. 
The Writer's Block is pretty cool.  It is a cube of a book with several hundred ideas.  Turn to a page and your inspiration gets going.  Kinda neat.  Anyway, last Monday she opened the book and read the following:

"Write a short story that begins with a phone call at 3 AM."

I wrote the story, just as I was supposed to.  I like it.  So I thought I would post it here.


    The phone rang and precisely 3:00 AM.  The answering machine picked it up as usual.  No way I was answering.  I always screen my calls.  I waited.  At this time of night, it could only be one of three things, bad news, a prankster or a really wrong number.  My message ground out from the tape recorder.
    "Hi, this is Jim Rockford.  I'm not in right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you."
What seems to be brilliant referential humor at 7:00PM sounds amazingly stupid at 3:00 AM.  The message ends and the beep for the person to speak sounds.  A pause.  Then a voice I don't recognize.

    "The pearl is in the river."  Click.  He hangs up.  What?  I was tired, bleary.  Maybe I heard it wrong.  I got up and stumbled to the phone.  The display was blinking "1" over and over.  I hit the play button.  The message sounded again.  I had heard it right.  What the hell?  Must be a prankster.  I forgot about it and went to bed.  I did not think about it at all the next day, or the next evening.  I didn't think about it again until precisely 3:00 AM. 


    I'm awake, again.  My message.  The Beep.  A pause.  And then "Basset Hounds have long ears, but clowns like them anyway."  Click as he hangs up.

    I get up, look at the caller ID screen.  Nothing.  Not a number, not "out of area", not "Private number".  Nothing.  It's like nobody called.  But the message is on the machine. Basset hounds? Clowns? I go back to bed and forget about it.  Wendsday Morning, 3:00 AM  Ring, Message, Beep and "California Condors are endangered.  Not so the Fruit Fly." Click.  Through my annoyance, I must admit I have become intrigued.  I played back all three messages and I noticed that the voices were different.  They were almost the same, but not exactly.  It was almost as if different voice actors were all trying to do the same voice.  Strange.  I was definitely intrigued.  Tomorrow, I would have them.

    At 3:00 AM I was already awake.  I was by the phone.  It rang.  I picked up before the answering machine picked up. 
    "Hello!  Hello!  Who the hell is this?  Why are you calling me???"
    "I'm sorry you have picked up.  I can't give you your message tonight.  Good evening."  Click.  I put the phone down.
    The next night the message was a bit different. 
    "We are now one day behind schedule, sir. Crickets chirp at night, while Cicadas scream in the daylight."

    That's how it went.  Sometimes the message made sense:
    "Brazil is the largest country in South America, and the population speaks Portugese."  Other times it was less sensible:
    The grape dangles, while that pig grunts,the chicken clucks and the trout leaps."

    The first call came more than thirty years ago.  Since that time, every single night, the voice has called.  Each time the voice is a little different, each time with a new message.  I have them all written down in logbooks.  More than 11,000 entries.  As a group, they make no sense. 

    Every once in a while I pick up the phone before the machine and the voice tells me that he can't give me the message.  The next night the voice lets me know how many days behind schedule we now are.  We are now twenty one days behind schedule. 

Behind what schedule, I do not know.

Anyway, what's new?

-Bush is still a lying moron.

-It appears that there is now abundant evidence that the president was planning to invade Iraq from day one.  9/11 was just a convenient excuse.

-Science fair projects came in today.  Some look pretty good.  We will see.

-Sheila's mom is in Spain, travelling with friends.

-We have two working rovers on Mars.  That is Too Cool For Words.

-The primaries have begun.  John Kerry has pulled in front rather quickly, and Howard Dean appears a bit nervous.

-A woman is suing Viacom, CBS, MTV, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, due to the unfortunate "Wardrobe Malfunction" during the Halftime show of the Superbowl.  She is asking for "Billions" in damages.  Geez.  ( * )(   )  woo hoo.

-Quizno's is using the most annoying ad EVER!  It is based on some Flash animations that have been floating around for a long time.  Here is an example.  The main webpage has more stuff like this, as well.

Well, I gotta run.

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