It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and Mother and Daddy were leaving us home alone for the first time. Since Terry and I were the oldest, we would be in charge.
“We won't be gone long,” Mother said, “Just stay in the house and don't let anybody in that you don't know.”
As soon as they left, Terry and I made a beeline for the kitchen. He popped popcorn and I made a double batch of chocolate fudge.
Afterward, we gathered in the living room, digging into our dishpan of popcorn and meat platter of fudge as we discussed how to spend our afternoon.
"We could play some baseball,"Terry said, "If it quits raining." He tossed a popcorn kernel in the air and caught it in his mouth.
I grabbed a piece of fudge. “Oh, let's have some real fun, do something different."
I gazed around the living room, stopping at the phone. “I know!” I said, “Let's get on the phone and get the party-liners all up in the air!”
“We could act like some mean old man is calling and scaring us.”
Patsy and Mary Ellen were all for it, but Terry had reservations.
“Ahh...I don't know.”
“Oh, come on, it'll be fun!”
After a while, Terry gave in, and we were soon planning our strategy: We would ring ourselves several times (to make sure party-liners had a chance to get to their phones), and then one of us would answer and carry on a conversation with a mean old man on the other end. The mean old man being Terry, of course.
When it was time to begin, I cranked our ring: two longs and one short. As predicted, several party-liners picked up. One was Miss Ora; I heard her sick rooster crowing in the background.
“Yeah,” Terry said in a deep, threatening voice, “Who's this?”
“What are you doing?”
“Who is this?"
“Ain't none of your business!” yelled Terry.
He hung up, and I quickly picked up again. I heard four clicks.
“Four party-liners were listening!” I said, “One was Miss Ora!”
We all began giggling and cheering and digging into more popcorn and fudge.
After we calmed down, I cranked out two longs and one short again. I waited for the party-liners to pick up, and then I gave the receiver to Patsy.
“Well, hello there, little gal,” Terry said, “How would you like for me to come on over to your house?”
“Who is this?” Patsy said.
“Don't make no difference who I am,” Terry growled, “I'm coming!”
Patsy squealed and hung up.
I grabbed the phone and listened. There were five hang-ups.
We laughed harder. “You did good, Patsy!”
We celebrated by eating more popcorn and fudge, and then I rang again.
“Act like you're scared to death,” I said as I handed the receiver to Mary Ellen.
“Hello?” she said in her tiny voice.
“I'm coming over there, little gal!”
“Ohhhh!” she screamed, “Who IS this? I'm scared. What are we gonna do?”
Terry took the phone. “I'm coming now! I know where y'all live...right out there on Laketon Road!”
He hung up, and we all congratulated Mary Ellen. “You really did sound scared to death!” Patsy said.
Suddenly, five-year-old Ted stood up. “It's my turn." He had fudge all over his mouth.
“No,” I said, “You're too little.”
He looked up at me, blue eyes solemn, “I'm gonna tell...”
Terry gave him a stern look. “You. Better. Not.”
Ted grabbed more fudge and returned to his seat.
When I picked up the phone again, several eavesdroppers were in deep discussion.
“I saw Tommy and Evelyn go by today when I went to get the mail,” Gertie said, “So those kids are all by themselves over there.”
“I saw them go by, too,” said Aunt Mary, “Who do you think that man could be?”
“Ain't no telling.”
“I don't like the sound of it,” said Miss Ora, “Not one bit.” Her rooster gave a guarded crow.
“I'm sure they'll be back soon, but I'm going to call Miss Muriel,” Gertie said, “If she isn't home, I might better go ahead on over there myself. Those kids are scared to death!”
I quickly hung up. “Gertie's gonna call Maw Maw!”
“Uh oh,” Terry said, “We're in for it now.”
It didn't take long for Gertie to spring into action. The phone sputtered out two longs and two shorts: Maw Maw's ring. We had no desire to listen in on that conversation. I was feeling very guilty by then, and I knew Terry felt the same way.
We arranged ourselves in a line on the sofa and prepared to await our fate.
Not long thereafter, Mother and Daddy arrived home. Lucky for us, Daddy went to his workshop behind the house.
Mother rushed inside.
“Maw Maw Wilson flagged us down," she said, "Gertie was there and they were getting ready to come over here. What has been going on?"
“It's okay now,” Terry said, gazing at his feet.
“Yes, it's okay,” I said, “That old man didn't call anymore.”
“Everybody on the line was worried to death,” Mother went on, “Maw Maw and Gertie were beside themselves.”
She looked at Terry, but he was still staring at his feet.
She looked at me.
I tried staring at my feet, too, but she kept looking at me. "Well," I said, "What were they doing listening, anyway?"
"Y'all ought to be ashamed," she said, "They were just concerned and worried."
She turned and headed to the kitchen, Ted at her heels.
"I didn't do nothin'," he said.
Mother never mentioned the incident again, and we were on our best behavior the rest of the evening. We had my favorite spare ribs for supper, but I didn't eat much. I had a stomach ache. From the looks on their faces, I think my siblings did, too.