Diary of an Answering Machine

Submitted into Contest #139 in response to: Format your story in the style of diary entries.... view prompt

50 comments

Fiction Coming of Age American

July 18, 1985

“You’ve reached Matt Nicholson and Buddy. Buddy say hi: Woof! We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks!”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom. Are you still at work? It’s nearly seven thirty; you should be home by now. It’s time you settled down; you’ll be thirty in two weeks-you’re too old to be barhopping and galivanting around. Anyways, it’s Kelsey’s baby shower tomorrow and I wanted to know if you’d like to carpool with me and dad. No use in taking two cars all the way to Manchester if we only live two blocks away from one another. Call me back. Love you.”

BEEP

“Matt? Um, this is Lauren. We met last night at Oliver’s Taphouse? I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me since you looked like you had a few drinks. Um…well… I know we exchanged numbers and you said you would call, but I noticed when you left the bar, the piece of paper I wrote my number down on must have fallen on the floor. So, I’m calling you to just let you know that it was nice to meet you…and…I wanted to see if you would like to grab a coffee or whatever…well…I’d like that too. My number is 555-3745. Oh, did I say this was Lauren?”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s Kelsey. Can you pick up two bags of ice for the baby shower tomorrow? Jon says he’s going to do it, but you know how he is. Also, please try to keep mom away from me if you can. If I hear one more remark on how she only gained fifteen pounds when she was pregnant with us, I’m going to scream. Love you.”

BEEP

May 3, 1988

“You’ve reached Matt, Lauren, and Buddy Nicholson. If we didn’t answer, that means we’re on our honeymoon! We’ll call you back in two weeks! Get down Buddy! Woof!”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom. I just wanted to say how beautiful your wedding was. I can’t believe the rain held out and Lauren just looked stunning. Uncle Freddy’s speech wasn’t too embarrassing, was it? Anyways, I know you won’t listen to this until you get back from Italy, but I have all your wedding gifts at my house, and you’ll need to come get them as soon as you get back since I’m hosting a garden club here on the fifteenth. Buddy is doing fine here; we’re feeding him some chicken and gravy as a little treat although he did have some diarrhea on the carpet which we can’t seem to get out. Do you know where we can get a good carpet shampooer? Anyways, dad is coming to get your mail every day and making sure no one breaks into your house. Have fun and be safe. Love you!”

BEEP

“The Nicholson’s! It’s Kelsey your favorite sister and sister-in-law. I hope you’re both having a fabulous time on your honeymoon; you deserve it! Listen, I know this is a little too late to tell you, but Lily just came down with the throw up bug which means she was probably contagious at your wedding two days ago. Lauren, I know you were holding her a lot on the dance floor, so I hope she didn’t get her germs all over you! I really hope your honeymoon isn’t ruined! Love you lots!”

BEEP

“Ciao Mr. Nicholson. This is Andre dell ‘Hotel Marmot. Siamo sending a bill per le soiled sheets poiché Signora Nicholson vomitare on le bed. Mi dispiace molto. Sorry.”

BEEP

September 28, 1994

“You’ve reached Matt, Lauren, Thomas, and Buddy Nicholson. Say hi, Thomas. Hi, my name is Thomas. Haha. Leave a message and we’ll call you back!”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom. Are you guys home from the hospital yet? We can’t wait to meet Thomas’ little sister! How’s Lauren feeling? I can’t believe she pushed for eight hours, poor thing!  I bought baby Megan the cutest little dress, you wouldn’t believe it. Is Lauren going to try breastfeeding this time around? You know I really think that formula made Thomas fussier. I think you should try the breast. But what do I know? I’m only your mother. Call me when you get home. I made you a casserole to heat up. Love you.”

BEEP

“Lauren, it’s Katie! Congratulations on baby number two! I’m stopping over to drop off all my leftover formula that you had asked for. I’ll put it on your side porch!”

BEEP

“Hello Nicholson’s, it’s your favorite sister and sister-in-law, Kelsey! Thomas is doing great over here with us, and Lily is begging for another brother or sister after having him here; it’s too cute! Let me know when you’d like me to drop him off or if you want me to keep him an extra night or two, that’s fine with me! Jon is loving having a boy around the house-he needed some male energy! Love you both!”

BEEP

February 15, 2000

“You’ve reached the Nicholson’s: Matt, Lauren, Thomas, and the coolest and prettiest girl in the world, Megan. Leave a message and we’ll call you back when we can. Mom, I did it! Press end, Megan. Give me the phone! Stop!”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom. Call me back immediately.”

BEEP

“This is Bella’s mom, Tammy, just calling to see if Megan would like to come over for a playdate next Saturday. We’d love to have her for the day. Thanks!”

BEEP

“Anyone there? It’s me again. Matt? Lauren?”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom again. Dad’s in the hospital in surgery. He fell over in the shower this morning and I’m calling you from the nurse’s desk. Can you come to Kennedy hospital emergency room when you get this, please?”

BEEP

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson, this is Patricia Bedford, Thomas’ piano teacher. I wanted to let you know that we are highlighting Thomas in the concert next month and giving him two additional pieces to play. He has a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing him blossom into a young musician. I’ll see you all at practice on Thursday. Thanks.”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s Kelsey. I’m with mom at Kennedy Hospital now. Listen, it doesn’t look good for dad. You need to get over here soon if you want to say goodbye. Hurry.”

BEEP

April 16, 2007

“You’ve reached Matt, Lauren, Thomas, and Megan Nicholson. Leave a message and we’ll call you back when we can.”

BEEP

“Thomas, it’s grandma. I know you’re grounded, which is why I’m leaving a message here instead of your cellphone. But I wanted to say congratulations on getting into NYU! I can’t believe my grandson will be in college in the fall, how time flies! I’d like to take you out to lunch this weekend to celebrate. Anywhere you want. You’re choice. How about Penelope’s Kitchen over on Main Street? They have a Waldorf salad there that’s to die for. Yes, why don’t we go there? You can pick me up from my old lady community at noon on Saturday. I don’t care if your dad likes to call it a retirement community. It’s all old ladies in here. Love you and sending love to Megan.”

BEEP

 “Hi this is Mike Sampson from Auto Direct. We just finished repairing the dent and damaged headlight; the total is $786 with tax. It looks like when your son backed into the garage, he also spilled some liquid on the leather seats so if you want that cleaned up, it’ll be $200 more. Give us a call back to let us know if you want that taken care of as well.”

BEEP

“Hi Lauren, it’s Emily down the street. Just checking to see if Megan wants to come over before Girl Scouts on Thursday? We are going to have pizza. Talk you soon!”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s Kelsey. I heard about Thomas and the car. Do you think he was drinking? Anyways, Lily is having a going away party here next weekend before she moves to Dallas for her nursing job. I’d love for all her cousins to come send her off. Jon is bringing his first girlfriend over since the divorce so Lauren, if you have any single men to bring for me to flirt with, that would be a bonus. Love you all.”

BEEP

October 5, 2014

“You’ve reached Matt and Lauren Nicholson. Leave a message and we’ll call you back when we can.”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s mom. When are you going to visit me? I haven’t seen you in ages and they added a new restaurant to the retirement home that has outdoor seating I want you to try out. Their tuna fish is to die for. Call me.”

BEEP

“Mom, it’s Megan. Can you please call me back? I need help requesting a new roommate. Mine keeps locking me out of our room with her boyfriend and I can’t get any studying done. My RA smokes pot all day and doesn’t seem to care. Can you call the dean of the school or something? This isn’t how I thought my sophomore year would start out. Call me.”

BEEP

“Mom and dad, it’s Thomas. I have someone I want you to meet. Someone special to me. Can we do dinner sometime soon? How about next Saturday downtown? Let me know. Love you.”

BEEP

“Hi Nicholson’s! It’s Kelsey! Wesley and I had such a great time with you both at dinner last week. Lauren, I need to get that Salisbury steak recipe from you, it was so good! Did you both like Wesley? He is so nice. Not too attractive though? What do you both think? Call me back.”

BEEP

June 7, 2018

“You’ve reached the Nicholson’s: Matt, Lauren, and Cody. Woof! Leave a message and we’ll call you back when we can.”

BEEP

“Mom, it’s Megan. I’m picking up the flower arrangements for Thomas’ rehearsal dinner this weekend, but I need you to grab the place cards from the stationary shop. Dad, can you call me back to go over your speech again? We need to work on that last paragraph one more time to get it right. Love you.”

BEEP

“Hi, Lauren, it’s Robert’s mother, Shirley. I know we were both going to wear coordinating mother-of-the-groom dresses, but I just tried mine on again and I can’t zip it up the back. I swear I lost two pounds since we tried it on in the store; I think the seamstress took it in too much. I’ll have to wear my navy-blue dress instead, but at least now you’ll be the only lady in red at the wedding. See you soon.”

BEEP

“This is Blue Bonnet Confections calling for the Nicholson’s. We have your cake ready for pick up, but the decorator made an error and made the grooms both fishing on top of the cake when I explicitly wrote in the directions to make them both playing the piano. I’m terribly sorry about this inconvenience and will offer you a ten percent discount on your next cake purchase at Blue Bonnet Confections. Thanks.”

BEEP

“Mrs. Nicholson, this is Dr. Hormel calling about your blood results. Give our office a call back to schedule an appointment to come in as soon as you can.”

BEEP

“Nicholson’s it’s Kelsey and Wesley! We are picking up Lily from the airport at six and then will head over to your house to help put together the wedding favors. I also have one of mom’s handkerchiefs for Thomas to use as his something borrowed. I found it when I was going through the last of her boxes. That reminds me, we need to meet with the lawyer to go over her will; we can’t keep stalling, it’s been a year. Anyways, we’ll be over in a little bit. See you soon!”

BEEP

July 2, 2020

“You’ve reached the Nicholson’s: Matt, Lauren, and Cody. Woof! Leave a message and we’ll call you back when we can.”

BEEP

“Dad, it’s me. Rob and I are going to drop off a lasagna for you to heat up. I wish we could come in, but until there’s a vaccine, we don’t want to bring you any of our germs. Geez, this really sucks we can’t go visit mom at Kennedy. She’ll be ok right?”

BEEP

“Dad, it’s Megan. I’m driving down now since flying is too risky. Did they say why mom’s levels dropped so low, so fast? No one can go see her? How can we reach her in the hospital?”

BEEP

“Matt, it’s Kelsey and Wesley. We just called the hospital to find out about Lauren, but they won’t give us any information since we aren’t immediate family. Can you call us back to let us know what the prognosis is? Where are you anyways since everything is shut down? Call us back!”

BEEP

“This is Dr. Winston from Kennedy hospital calling for Mr. Nicholson. Please call the ICU at 555-8362 when you get this. Thanks.”

BEEP

“Dad, it’s Megan. Why aren’t you answering your phone? How’s mom? I called the hospital, but they said they were waiting on you to call them back. Can you call me?”

BEEP

January 8, 2022

“You’ve reached Matt Nicholson and Cody. Woof! We can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks.”

BEEP

“Dad, its Tom and Rob. We will be over in an hour with the baby. Can’t wait for you to meet her, she’s just the sweetest. Love you.”

BEEP

“Dad, it’s Megan. Can you help me write this resume for an upcoming job I’m interested in? You’re always so good at resumes. Are you meeting baby Laurel today? Will and I are stopping by to see her when Thomas gets there. Can you let me know when they’re coming over? He’s not answering. Love you.”

BEEP

“Hi Matt, It’s Kelsey and Wesley! Congrats grandpa! We can’t wait to meet your adorable new granddaughter! Love you!”

BEEP

“This is Purrfect Dog Groomer reminding you of your appointment next Monday at 9 am for Cody.”

BEEP

“Dad, it’s Tom and Rob again. We’ll be there in two hours; Laurel is still asleep, and we don’t want to wake her. Love you.”

BEEP

March 28, 2022 20:06

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50 comments

Jay Mc Kenzie
06:21 Apr 05, 2022

Kathleen, I loved this. It's wonderful that we feel so close to Matt and want to hug him for all his losses without ever meeting him. The true story of a life is the impact on others, right?

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Kathleen Fine
17:38 Apr 07, 2022

Thanks Jay!

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J.C. Lovero
22:11 Apr 02, 2022

Kathleen, What a wonderful story. Your interpretation of the prompt is just amazing. It has been so long since I've had an actual answering machine, but reading the messages in between beeps brought back a special nostalgia. When I started paying attention to the dates and the recorded greetings a bit more closely, I was immediately invested in the story. Subtle hints you dropped throughout to foreshadow things to come, as well as allowing us to fill the gaps in between with words unwritten. Simply beautiful. Also, thanks so much for Thom...

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Kathleen Fine
17:38 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you J.C.! :)

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Ezmari Trevano
22:49 Jul 02, 2022

Woah! This is such a captivating story and such a creative interpretation of the prompt! I'm so impressed with the way you were able to develop interesting and relatable characters while writing only messages on an answering machine!

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Daria White
02:42 Apr 08, 2022

I don't know how pepper got in my eye while I was reading this at my desk. I love your spin on the diary entry prompt. My emotions were a roller coaster for Matt. Brilliant how you made us root so much for a character who we only really know through the messages on his machine.

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Kathleen Fine
22:58 May 22, 2022

Thanks Daria!

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Jess A
22:07 Apr 07, 2022

How captivating and creative. So much life and personality. Love this one!

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Kathleen Fine
22:58 May 22, 2022

Thank you Jess!

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Kate Winchester
18:27 Apr 07, 2022

I loved this! Very creative!

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Kathleen Fine
22:58 May 22, 2022

Thanks Kate!

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Kate Winchester
23:00 May 23, 2022

You’re welcome ☺️

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02:11 Apr 07, 2022

When writing in this diary (or voicemail) style, it takes skill to make sure information is clear without sounding fake and you totally nailed it. I followed this story and every life change, and never felt like any of the entries were out of place. Great story!

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Kathleen Fine
17:39 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you so much Jaden!

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Mark Linsky
23:00 Apr 06, 2022

Kathleen, you had me from the first 'beep'. Wonderful, realistic, and how you indicated the passage of time (and lives) without hammering the reader over the head was subtle and professional. This could be a staged reading as well as a story, hope you do still more with it! Keep writing. Mark.

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Kathleen Fine
17:39 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you Mark!

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L.M. Lydon
21:49 Apr 06, 2022

I like the various transitions/life changes in how Matt's family grows, changes, shrinks, continues.

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Kathleen Fine
17:39 Apr 07, 2022

Thanks LM!

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Kevin Broccoli
20:38 Apr 06, 2022

This is so detailed and so fantastic in how clearly I can see these people. Well done.

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Kathleen Fine
22:58 May 22, 2022

Thanks Kevin!

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Becca Ward
18:55 Apr 05, 2022

Brilliant idea and execution. I really cared about these characters!

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Kathleen Fine
17:39 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you Kevin!

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Chris Campbell
04:32 Apr 04, 2022

Kathleen, Great way to tell a set of life stories in under 3,000 words. Enjoyed in immensely. Well done!

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Kathleen Fine
17:39 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you Chris!

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03:07 Apr 04, 2022

This was so funny!!! These people who leave messages are giving way too much information! I guess I am just a New Englander but it makes for fun reading! Where did you get your inspiration? I rarely leave messages, mostly I hang up.

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Kathleen Fine
17:42 Apr 07, 2022

Thanks Kathryn! Yes, I don't leave message much either, but back in the 80s and 90s (Pre cell phones) people did a lot more. The story idea came into my head when I was listening to a Podcast last week and the host was saying how when she was a little girl, she had a funny answering machine message where she sang the recording and it brought back some nostalgia for me with answering machines. That started getting my brain wheels working and I incorporated that into the diary/growing prompt. :)

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22:24 Apr 02, 2022

This is such a unique take on the prompt. Your story made me want to laugh and cry all at the same time. You did such a wonderful job telling a story through voicemails.

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Kathleen Fine
17:42 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you Katelin!

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Michał Przywara
16:03 Apr 02, 2022

Brilliant! This is a cool idea for a "diary" story, and the entries are fantastic, a great way of telling a story indirectly. As I read along, I started paying attention to who was in the answering machine recording, and who left a message. I got a shiver on June 7, 2018, when Mom wasn't the first to leave a message. You capture all the ups and downs of life with this story. It's funny and endearing, with ominous foreshadowing. Love it!

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Kathleen Fine
17:44 Apr 07, 2022

Thank you Michal! I tried to have the reader infer when certain people died (the mother, Laura, and Buddy) without telling them directly!

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Clare Knock
00:22 Apr 02, 2022

It wasn't until the Cody message that I realised Buddy was gone! What a roller-coaster!! So much life packed into so few words!

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Kathleen Fine
17:44 Apr 07, 2022

Thanks Clare! I had to do some math thinking about how long dogs live for, etc! :)

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15:30 Apr 01, 2022

Kathleen, this was BEAUTIFUL! and such a creative way to take on this prompt! I loved the changes in the voicemail opening, it really made you stop and think about WHY it had changed and what it meant for the larger story. The life events were touching, and jarring, and everything in between. This was amazing <3

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Kathleen Fine
18:53 Apr 01, 2022

Thanks so much Hannah!

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Lavonne H.
02:38 Apr 01, 2022

Ahhhh, Kathleen! You hit all the highs and lows along my life with your story. Beautifully crafted and sensitively told. I admire how you conveyed so much emotion with so few words. And I was so proud you ended with the gay couple bringing the granddaughter to visit. The old cliche of "the circle of life" but related in a fresh way. Well done! Excuse me while I see what messages I have to save on our machine! Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Kathleen Fine
18:54 Apr 01, 2022

Thank you for seeing my vision Lavonne! I wanted to subtlety show the full circle in a unique way!

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Lc Garnet
21:48 Mar 31, 2022

A poignant passing of time in a brilliant format.

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Kathleen Fine
18:55 Apr 01, 2022

Thanks so much for your kind words LC!

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Drew Andrews
20:52 Mar 31, 2022

Well done. I was waiting to see someone answer. Not sure why now that I have finished reading it. I guess I was seeing it going else where.

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Kathleen Fine
18:55 Apr 01, 2022

Thanks Drew- that could have worked as well with someone picking up the phone at the very end!

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