“Good afternoon, Mr Parsons,” said the voice on the other end of the telephone. It wasn’t really afternoon; that was, to Charlie Parsons, a time between one pm and six pm. After that it was evening, and then night.
Charlie didn’t recognize the voice, and the timer for the frozen ham and pineapple pizza in the oven was about to sound an alarm, but he’d been raised to be moderately polite, so he accepted the “good afternoon” and then said he had no time to chat as his dinner was ready and he was hungry.
“Oh!” said the woman’s voice. “Then I’ll be brief. You did not renew your subscription to Ice Fishers’ Digest, and I’m simply calling to rectify the situation by putting the new subscription on your credit card.”
“Thanks, but I’m not renewing. Good-bye, now!” said Charlie Parsons, and almost had the phone back in its little cradle when the woman screamed.
“Hello?” he said, bringing the instrument up to his ear again.
The oven timer dinged.
“I’m sorry, Mr Parsons,” said the woman, out of breath. “I didn’t mean to startle you. But you see, the upcoming issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest has an article about celebrity ice fishing. Did you know that Amal Clooney sits for hours on end in an ice-fishing cabin, for fun?”
“Wait!” That scream again.
“If you don’t renew, I lose my job. I’m already living out of my car, with my seven year old daughter Amelia, who has ADD and no medication. I’m saving up to buy a tent. Please Mr Parsons! And, did you know that the kind of line you use affects the weight of the fish you catch? Little known tip, but amazing.”
“I’m sorry about your daughter, but—”
“I know where you live. I know where you work. Don’t make me come after you,” said the voice, now almost a whisper. “Plus, international ice fishing laws vary. Did you know you could inadvertently end up behind bars when visiting Finland?”
“I don’t ice-fish. I never got the damn magazine. I’m not interested. I only have nine toes and don’t want to ice-fish.”
“There is a coupon in the February issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest for two dollars off all HeatMe! sport socks. Anyway, many psychologists say fishing provides great mental health benefits, and I don’t need to tell you about the role of Omega fats in a healthy diet.”
“Have you ever been impotent, Mr Parsons? Stress and a poor diet could be the culprits. You need to ice-fish. You need it.”
“My daughter is really almost twenty, and very very attractive. How would you like to meet her for dinner tomorrow night? My treat?”
“No, I mean the ADD thing…”
“Your impotency is more of a problem than my daughter’s ADD,” said the woman.
Charlie Parsons had been looking out the window to a lime tree, whose brilliant yellow leaves were just starting to bud. He didn’t notice the smoke, and when the alarm set off he was startled and dropped the phone on the floor.
“Mr Parsons!” the voice screamed. “Mr Parsons!”
Charlie turned off the oven, opened all the windows and doors, and held a pillow to the smoke alarm until the shrill buzzing stopped. He left the phone on the tile floor, grabbed his leather jacket, and made his way to Piece o’ Pizza, as he felt his mental and physical health depended on a fresh ham and pineapple pizza, perhaps accompanied by a leafy green salad.
- Original Prompt: Renewal, December 29, 2016