Brooks Sterritt


The man is in the room again. It is filled with telephones: black, red, beige, white, cordless, touchtone, rotary, wall-mounted, on tables and stools and on the floor. The room contains more than 900 phones. Power strips and multi-pronged phone-line routers line the walls to accommodate the wires that sprout from backs of phones. The room is a confluence. Its walls are beige.

The man was in the room before but he never lifted a receiver. He picks up a purple phone’s handset and listens to the tone. He picks up a phone resembling a banana. He leaves it off the hook. He tries a red phone, thinking “hot line.” He tries a white phone, thinking “Ralph.” He lifts several receivers, leaves them hanging, and gets a little wild in his indiscriminate grabbing. Phones begin to emit an engaged tone. Crickets being born. Cradles without handsets increase and sound fills the room. The man picks up a fortieth phone and listens. What if someone tries to call? He hangs up phones, sits cross-legged in silence. He sits in the room’s center, feeling its hubness. He is excited that the lines are free and revels in their potential. If someone calls he will be ready.

After many hours he falls asleep waiting for a call and dreams that a phone rings in the corner of the room but he moves too slowly to reach it before it stops, or that a phone rings and he can’t determine which one and he knocks over a cluster of phones and hears a voice which ceases when he can’t find the right receiver, or that he picks up a ringing phone but is unable to speak, or that he picks up a ringing phone but the person on the line is speaking a language he can’t identify, or that he answers a phone and it is someone close to him calling to tell him the truth about himself. He wakes up in the beige-walled room when all the phones, conduits of truth, begin to ring.

Brooks Sterritt lives in Boston and blogs at His work appears or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Gigantic, Night Train, Barrelhouse, and Wigleaf.

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