The Slow-Cooked Sentence


Rachael Conlin Levy

Photo courtesy of magandafille, Creative Commons

The family phone hung on the kitchen wall, an arm’s reach from the sink and table, its cord hung to the floor, stretched and twisted by our efforts to have a private conversation in a home crammed with people.

Getting the phone wasn’t easy, but then nothing was after my parents moved us to Silver Springs, a patch of scrub brush pocked and brittle from the hot, dry wind. We were the first to move onto Badger Street, and our tin trailer was an island in this ocean of tumbleweed and alkali. For you see, we moved in without electricity, running water, nor telephone. Why? I shrug. Can any child explain their parents’ actions? Maybe they were too tired or too poor, it doesn’t really matter, because the end result was the same: A lonely family, marooned in the desert.

The telephone became my mother’s mission. She couldn’t afford to bring the power line down our street, and the task of building a water tank and windmill was my father’s. But she could dig the ditch and lay the phone line to connect our trailer to the rest of humanity. There I picture her, a strong, determined woman in waffle-stomping hiking boots and shorts, tank top exposing breast and unshaved armpit, digging to keep herself sane.

That first ring was beautiful, the trilling of the metal bells shattering the air, so heavy with solitude. Can something be filled with emptiness? I argue that it can. Those days of our first summer there were filled with nothing. I’d walk outside the trailer and be swallowed up in the vastness of desert, the expanse of sky, the brightness of the sun. My hair tangling in the wind, my eyes squinting against the glare, I’d join my brother in a hunt for the largest scorpion, or a game of hide-and-seek among the sagebrush. But the best game of all was the race for the phone. It’s musical ring sent us dashing for the receiver, knocking over chairs, pushing each other out of the way. The winner answering it with a breathless, desperate, “Hello?”

Prompted by Sunday Scribblings challenge of the week: Phones.

One response to “Connected”

  1. ChefDruck says:

    What a beautiful post filled with incredible images. I could see your mother digging that ditch. And I could hear the phone ringing and connecting you to the rest of the world. Incredible.

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