FREE short story by Colin Devonshire
Are You There?
“Hey, where did you go?”
Sam banged his phone on the counter. He listened and stared at the Android.
“Hello, are you there?”
He looked around, hoping someone, anyone, could help.
“Now what?” He asked the ceiling.
The patrons of the upmarket coffee shop were unaware of Sam’s daily drama. He felt like throwing the cheap unit across the room. The people on the next table read his mind, they hid behind menus. A limp smile calmed them.
“Phone’s not working,” he said, shaking it wildly.
“Try turning it on,” said the school uniformed teenager on the next table to him.
The plaster above and the screen in front, blank, had no answers.
Sam gripped it tightly as if squeezing the life out of it, then pressed and tapped. The screen lit, Sam smiled at his neighbour, who grinned at her friend. The smile said, idiot.
“It’s working!” he squealed.
A man burst in, “I need a large Americano please.”
He looked around, wiping sweat from his brow. His jacket tightened as he loosened stressed shoulders.
“Hey, it’s you,” he said, glaring at Sam.
“Sorry, do I know you?”
“No, but I just saw your face.”
“Eh, yes, I’m sat here,” said Sam.
“I mean, I saw you on a telephone screen,” the man was panting.
“I don’t know what you are talking about?”
The man calmed, “Sorry, I should explain. A phone crashed to the pavement, just missing me. It fell from the sky, hitting electric wires on the way, then thumped into the man in front of me, bouncing off him, then crashing into me. I glimpsed the screen, it showed a picture of you. The same cap, the same shirt. It was you.”
“I was just talking to my girlfriend. Was it her phone?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“Where is the phone?”
“A road-sweeper collected the bits and binned it.”
Minutes before, high up, a heated conversation was taking place, thirty floors above the coffee shop.
“See ya, dad.”
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Oh, I’ve got university work to research,” said Chinsao.
“I thought I heard you saying you were meeting that idiot ‘gweilo’ boy.”
“His name is Sam, and I can meet who I wish.”
Chinsao’s father grabbed her wrist. He dragged her across the spacious living room.
“Come with me,” he fumed, leading the way past the open-plan kitchen and four doors to the bedrooms to a little-used doorway tucked at the back of the property.
“Where are you taking me?”
The door creaked.
“To the roof, I want you to be clear about something.”
He pushed her gently up the dusty steps to another firmly shut steel door, which complained at the opening.
“And what is up here, that is so vital for me to see?” said Chinsao, dusting her skirt of cobwebs.
“Yes, it is important darling, when I was your age, I didn’t have a comfy uni to attend. I didn’t have friends in designer gear, I had to craft, getting covered in filth and dust. You should be grateful for the life you have.”
“It was sad what happened to her. I’m sorry, she couldn’t cope.”
“Mum hated you and the life she endured.”
“It was business, I worked hard. No wife should complain about a husband like me,” he said, walking to the edge of the roof. Concrete blocks, steel pipes and wiring littered the space.
Chinsao looked around, fixing her eyes back at the doorway, judging if she should dash for it.
Her phone bleeped.
“Give me that,” her father said as he snatched it. “Him again, has he no work to do?”
Sam’s beaming face filled the screen as it flew over the edge of the building.
“Dad, that’s mine!” She spluttered as it disappeared.
“I’ve brought you here for a couple of reasons.”
“What if I’m not interested?”
“You damn well should be. You are the last in the family. You are heir to my wealth.”
He spread his arms, looking left, right, up and down.
“On every rooftop, you can see, and in every room below us you know, they have electronic elements made by my company, every satellite dish, every box of tricks that supply internet, each tv and radio, have parts supplied by me. And, my dear daughter we own property up and down the country, as well as this, magnificent tower block,” he pointed behind them. “We live in luxury, the whole top floor of this block, why could your mother not wait? We own the most desirable part of Bangkok.”
“Yeah, yeah, dad, well done,” she clapped in slow motion. “I’ve heard it all before.”
“Which brings me to the second part of my little speech. The part you haven’t heard before.”
She looked around again for an escape route, guessing what was coming.
“Next week, my great friend and business associate from Beijing is coming here, to visit you. He is bringing his son. A dazzling and independently wealthy business executive, to meet you.”
Chinsao’s eyes looked at clouds.
“No way, dad. I’m not interested in anyone else.”
“You my, dear, will do as I order.”
The talk in the coffee shop buzzed about the dangers of living below sky-touching buildings. Sam checked the time, his watch and his phone, both told him, she was late.
Coffee drinker’s eyes were drawn to the window. Pedestrians ducked and dived sideways, forwards and backwards in fear as a heavy object bounced from telegraph pole to advertising board and on a tangled clump of wiring. Out of view from the windows but all too clear to the people outside, a body was spinning on its downward spiral to crash to the street.
People covered their eyes and turned in horror as sirens raced to the scene. The police quickly covered the mess.
Sam, leaning on one person’s shoulders, as he peered between other customers’ heads, they could see a gathering of people stepping away from a spreading puddle of blood.
The back entrance of the coffee shop burst open.
“Hi, all,” said Chinsao, “Coffee is on me. Who wants another one?”
“What?” asked Sam.
“What are you talking about?”
“My dad just left me this business, amongst other stuff.”
“That’s him, over there, behind the police screens. He jumped off the building.”