Talking Dirty

by Peter Conners


The first time it happened I thought it was Bernie playing a joke on me. It's not his way, not at all really, but that's what I thought. I hung up on him anyway. If that's the way Bernie was going, I thought, tough for Bernie. So I hung up. Bernie's a middle-aged man after all - I read the magazines, I know how they get. He's got no money for sports cars, lord knows, and not much of a looker, so this is what Bernie is doing I thought: talking dirty on the telephone. Well let him talk dirty to someone else. I have grocery shopping to do and he won't think it's so funny when there's no food in the cupboards.

That was just the first time though.

I'm home a lot. My phlebitis makes it hard to get around, swells my ankles into dumplings. I got veins the size of water balloons so maybe I'm an easy target. I dunno. I listened longer the next few times, trying to catch Bernie at it. I never said a word though. What I wanted to say is, Hey Bernie, this is your wife. Grow up and get back to work! But I didn't. I just listened for a while, then hung up.

At first I'd drop hints at dinner to see if Bernie would admit anything. Have any interesting phone calls today? I'd ask. Or, On the phone much today? Questions I'd normally never ask him. See Bernie is assistant manager in charge of shipping and distribution at Quaggle Automotive, so he's on the phone all the time, but never to me. But Bernie never flinched. It took months of this to convince me that he didn't have anything to do with it, and by that time it was getting sorta routine. I'd be half-hour stretches on the phone by then, just flipping channels or thumbing magazines. I didn't say anything myself you understand, I just didn't hang up either. It was always between Days of Our Lives and the afternoon radio programs - so what was the harm, I thought. He didn't seem dangerous or anything. Just lonely. A lonely man looking for someone to talk to in the middle of the day. So what was the harm? Would it be right to turn a man like that away? No, it wouldn't. So I listened until he was finished and then I hung up. It became a routine really - and he didn't miss a day. Eight months this went on: him calling between programs and me putting my ankles up on the pillows, listening for him to finish. Eight months without him missing a single day, and then it stopped.

The first day he didn't call I waited all afternoon but the telephone never rang. And then the next day and the day after that, still nothing. No calls. For a full month I waited, but he never called back.

When I'm good about my phlebitis it goes down in a week or two. The more I put it off though, the worse it gets. Well one morning I was feeling pretty good - it'd been a while I'd been off my feet - so I decided to make a bigger grocery trip; even stop by Gintelles Deli for the pork chops Bernie likes so much. I got my pocketbook together, my lightweight coat and car keys and was all ready to go when the telephone rang in the den. Now usually I'm very good, I answer the phone on the first or second ring. But this time I waited. I had my grocery list under my arm, my keys in my hand, and my coat already buttoned, so I had to decide what to do. Did I want to answer it? Or did I want to go straight to Gintelles for the pork chops? The phone rang and rang until finally I made up my mind. It wasn't that hard really. After all, it's not like Bernie had asked me for the pork chops or anything.