Contest #235 shortlist ⭐️

50 comments

Bedtime

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” 

Casey moved to the edge of her chair, fully aware that all eyes in the Dispatch Center were on her. She struggled to focus on her first call, her mind ruminating on the “we-need-to-talk” text she sent Michael that morning. Her boyfriend had grown distant since starting classes at the community college. 

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” she repeated more loudly.

Click.

Casey tapped her console, disconnecting the line before immediately calling the number back. She had been trained to expect numerous hang-ups during her shift, yet protocol required her to determine if first responders were needed or not before she could disregard the call. 

The phone rang several times. 

“Hello?” the voice of a teenage girl answered, clearly flustered.

“This is 9-1-1. We received a call from this number. Do you have an emergency?”

Nervous laughter. “Oh, god! I was just playing with my phone. Then it dialed 9-1-1 by itself. I don’t know what happened. It’s possessed or something—”

A teacher in the background loudly reprimanded her for using an unauthorized device during class. 

“Okay, I’ll mark this down as accidental,” Casey said, tapping in a brief comment about the errant call into her console. “Just so you know, if you press the slide button key five times, it automatically dials 9-1-1.”

“I didn’t know that,” the girl whined. “I didn’t mean to. Are the police coming? Am I in trouble?”

“No, you are not in trouble. But next time, stay on the phone and tell the dispatcher what happened. That way, we don’t have to bother you at school.”

“Okay.” The caller had clearly lost interest in Casey.

“You could disable the Emergency SOS feature on your phone. It’s under settings.”

“Fine,” the girl said, annoyance in her voice. “I’ll do that. Thanks. I gotta go now.”

“Have a good day.”

Casey clicked off, looking around the Dispatch Center for approval from her peers, but no one seemed to notice her deft handling of her first solo call. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” 

An older woman sobbed over the line. “My Jeffrey is m-missing!”

“Your husband is missing?”

“My husband? My husband’s dead. It’s Jeffrey! My sweet boy…” 

“When did you last see your son?”

“My son? My son is at college. He’s a business major.”

“Ma’am, this line is for emergencies only.” Casey had been warned about kooks. “The non-emergency number is—”

“This is an emergency. Someone’s stolen my dog!” The woman’s words turned into a tsunami of tears.

Casey froze, not knowing what to do, unnerved by the woman.

The shift supervisor, Bernice, picked up Casey’s call to intervene. “It’s all right, ma’am. When did you last see your dog Jeffrey?” 

As Bernice extracted the necessary information, Casey’s face reddened. Sitting back in defeat, she stared blankly at her monitors.

“That’s another thing you have to learn,” Bernice said, after ending the call. “Pets are more important to people than people.”

Casey bit her thumbnail. “Why’s that?” 

“Because people are disappointing. Your line’s ringing.” 

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“It’s running!”

Casey’s pulse quickened at the young boy's voice until she heard other children snickering in the background. Another voice harshly commanded the others to shut up. 

“What's running?” she replied, a smile curling the corners of her mouth. 

“I said—your refrigerator is running,” repeated the voice. 

“You said it wrong!” interrupted another voice. “Ask if the refrigerator is running.”

“Are you running with a refrigerator?” the young boy tried again. “You can’t run forever!”

“You dumbass,” his partner muttered.

“Boys,” Casey said. “You shouldn’t prank 9-1-1. If you report a false emergency, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Miss who?”

“The punishment for pranking 9-1-1 could be up to one year in jail and/or a $1000 fine.”

The young boy whispered to his friends. “We’re going to jail.” Then she heard them whimpering. 

“You are not going to jail. Just stay off the emergency lines, all right?”

“Are the police coming?

“No,” Casey reassured him. “We’ll let this one slide today.”

“Okay,” the young boy replied. “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”

Casey hung up, deciding if she did marry Michael, they would have to think long and hard about having children. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“My friend’s trippin’ balls!” 

Techno music blared so loudly that Casey ripped off her headset to lower the volume. She quickly adjusted them. “Could you repeat that? You injured your testicles?”

“No! My friend and I were partying in his mom’s basement. One of his girlfriends showed up, scrolled through his phone, and freaked out. She took his fucking dog!”

“Were there any weapons involved?”

“No, only a bong.”

“What type of drugs has your friend ingested?”

“All of them.”

Bernice intercepted Casey’s call for the second time. “Sir, what is your current location?”

“Um. Four Oh Seven Maple Street. It's the house with a ton of dog shit in the front yard.”

Casey's eyes widened when Bernice repeated the address aloud. She looked nauseated and bent over her trashcan to retch.

Bernice muted her line before leaning over to Casey. “You okay?”

Casey swallowed hard as her eyes watered. She managed to nod.

“Good. Your line’s ringing. Pick it up.”

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” 

“Not in my car, Jeffrey! Oh, you little shit!” Sharp yapping drowned out a young woman’s shrill voice. “My boyfriend’s dog nipped me. It's actually his mother's dog, but I think I’m bleeding!”

Casey shouted into her mic. “What is your location?” 

“Never mind," the woman continued. "The skin isn’t broken. I’ll just wait for Michael.”

The line went dead. 

Bernice ate a doughnut as Casey clicked on the two-way radio.

“We’ve got a 10-16 at Four Oh Seven Maple Street. A female suspect is in unlawful possession of the homeowner’s dog. The homeowner’s son is in the basement, tripping balls. His name is Michael.”

Tossing the radio aside, Casey sat back in her chair and crossed her legs.

Bernice passed her the box of doughnuts, and they both chewed thoughtfully.

“Love triangle?” Bernice finally inquired, an eyebrow raised.  

Donning her headset, Casey grinned. “Not anymore.” 

“You know,” Bernice remarked. “I think you’re getting the hang of this job.” 


January 26, 2024 19:23

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50 comments

Michelle Oliver
00:52 Jan 27, 2024

I love the full circle here, and the subtext is brilliant. The whole story is a jigsaw puzzle, where seemingly random pieces come together to tell more than what is written. That, “Not anymore” speaks volumes. It’s not sad, it’s kind of proud. She has put together the puzzle and is smarter than her jerk of an ex. She has grown as a character, and we can see that through her confidence in her job, and also in her self as a person. At the beginning she is “on the edge of her chair,” uncomfortable and self conscious. By the end she is confident...

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02:35 Jan 27, 2024

This is the perfect comment. I'm stealing your "posture of confidence" for a red bow to put on the finale. More so than the doughnut and Bernice's respect, our girl deserves some peace. Thanks, Michelle. Artful commentary.

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02:36 Jan 27, 2024

Tossing the radio aside, Casey sat back in her chair and crossed her legs.

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Trudy Jas
21:23 Jan 26, 2024

I'm showing either my age or my general ignorance. I understand tripping, I understand balls. Together, though ... Loved the nuisance calls, especially the little boys. :-)

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22:36 Jan 26, 2024

Right with you, Trudy. I picked it up from my high school students' slang: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/trip_balls The etymology is interesting.

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Wendy M
19:35 Jan 26, 2024

I love how the story goes full circle, she's definitely better off without Michael.

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22:37 Jan 26, 2024

Michael is straight-up trash. Casey can do much, much better. I wish her well.

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08:33 Feb 26, 2024

Great job on this story Found myself reading each encounter wanting to know what was going to happen! Appreciate this creative story!

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13:58 Feb 26, 2024

That's Deepika! It was a lot of fun to write. I can't image what 911 operators have to put up with...(or maybe I can haha).

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Helen Anderson
20:19 Feb 07, 2024

Great story. I was a little confused at first. When it all came together in the end I was pleased. Very clever.

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21:02 Feb 07, 2024

Hooray! I'm glad it wasn't the other way around :)

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Mary Bendickson
07:07 Jan 27, 2024

Lucky she found out the truth about Michael. Thanks for liking 'All for Science ' Do you think I should try to shorten the intro as Jonathan and Tommy suggested? Congrats on the shortlist.

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10:40 Jan 27, 2024

As Shakespeare famously wrote: “The truth will out.” 🤓

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A.R. Eakle
22:33 Apr 24, 2024

Working in law enforcement myself, this is a fairly accurate representation of an operator. I like how you brought it around at the end. Ah, the subtle art of the short story. I'm a bit behind getting to this one though haha.

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Crystal Wexel
18:46 Apr 13, 2024

Amazing job telling a complete story in someone’s life with so few words. It kept me intrigued and flowed so well . What is that they say ? “ well that escalated quickly !” lol Great job !

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Aidan Romo
01:31 Mar 10, 2024

Oh, do I love this story. Such simple, yet innovative storytelling to portray the slice of life of an individual through nothing but a series of hilarious yet real feeling 9-1-1 "calls. Even though you don't get much monologue or introspective peeks into Casey as a person, she feels so real through dialogue, reactions, and that final moment of hers. As an aspiring writer myself, this was such a pleasant, breeze of a read. I want a whole novel about Casey just from this little excerpt of her job alone. Commendable work here.

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10:59 Mar 10, 2024

What a wonderful comment 🥹 Thanks, Aiden.

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Tommy Goround
01:49 Feb 18, 2024

Yep. Clapping

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17:15 Feb 18, 2024

Bowing...

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Tammy Haskins
19:49 Feb 14, 2024

Loved your story!

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Story Time
06:41 Feb 13, 2024

The Maestro of Dialogue! I could hear it so clearly in my head. I want you to launch a podcast so I can voice some of these characters. They're brilliant every time.

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17:01 Feb 13, 2024

Oy, podcasts... I'm ready for some new challenges. BTW, your talent laps mine every day of the week. I'd love to write a short script for you. One man stage play. Theater of the absurd? #futuregoals

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Mike Panasitti
01:09 Feb 13, 2024

Slimy guys, resilient girls. How have you been Deidra?

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17:04 Feb 13, 2024

You make a good point. I'm going to have to write some slimy girls, resilient guys for the sake of parity. Life is good. Work gets in the way of writing, though. One day, I'll be fully retired with a houseful of cats and endless time to write. How's the left coast?

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Mike Panasitti
17:12 Feb 13, 2024

Time, cats, and wordplay. There's little more a writer could look forward to. The left coast is...well, left and when I'm not catastrophizing about it, I'm trying to pave some kind of middle path by writing poems. I'm also still contemplating the MFA. I'll know by next winter whether I take the leap and actually apply to programs. Take care.

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20:07 Feb 13, 2024

Fortune favors the bold! I'd love to see a book of Panasitti Poetry :)

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Mike Panasitti
06:30 Feb 14, 2024

When it goes to print you will get a complimentary copy, oh Lady of Letters.

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Jonathan Page
20:51 Feb 10, 2024

Congrats! Some great craftsmanship in this story. Masterfully taking the reader by the hand and leading them through your tale. I liked the POV/Voice of the narrator which made the story work.

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21:32 Feb 10, 2024

Thanks, Mr. Page. You are quickly becoming the hardest working man on Reedsy! May I suggest competing in Writing Battle, Not Quite Write, and NYCMidnight as well? We have a tribe on Discord that shares contests, offer beta reads, and general moral support. Link is in my bio. You'll recognize some of the Reedsy finest. :)

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David Cantwell
15:47 Feb 10, 2024

Wow, loved it. Good job.

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21:32 Feb 10, 2024

YAY - Thanks, David!

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Philip Ebuluofor
07:43 Feb 10, 2024

Congrats. I like the storyline. While in China years back, many people including adults do this kind of thing. They will pick up the phone and call the police emergency line and then hide behind the blinds peeping to know how the officer who answered is dealing with his confusion. Congrats.

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21:32 Feb 10, 2024

Yep, kids are jerks :)

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Trudy Jas
17:16 Feb 09, 2024

Congratulations!

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21:33 Feb 10, 2024

Thanks, TJ! This was a lot of fun to write.

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Ken Cartisano
06:54 Feb 09, 2024

Very good. Very clever.

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13:45 Feb 09, 2024

Thanks, Ken. It beats the alternative :)

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Kathryn Kahn
16:33 Feb 06, 2024

What a fun, perfectly crafted story. This is what a classic short story should be in terms of interesting characters and events, but a small arc that can quickly be wrapped up. Nice!

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18:35 Feb 06, 2024

Woo hoo! In the words of the leader of the A-Team John 'Hannibal' Smith: “I love when a plan comes together." Thanks so much for the read.

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John Rutherford
07:54 Feb 06, 2024

I enjoyed this story, these are the type of stories that make the reader imagine, with lots of hidden meaning, the writer drawing a picture in black and white for the reader to colour in whatever way they like. Good read.

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13:49 Feb 06, 2024

This may be my favorite comment of all time. Thanks, John.

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