Seventy-eight-year-old Oscar has become more convinced than ever that his wife Deloris is just one big nag. It seems that everything he does is met with criticism or correction. What happened to her? When they were first married, she was so polite. “Whatever you think is right, darling.” Or, “Thank you so much for doing that.” Now, it’s “What did you do that for! Are you stupid or something?” Or, “Why do you always have to leave your slippers by the coffee table. I’ve told you a thousand times it looks messy, and someone might trip over them there. You don’t want to break a hip at your age, do you? I know I don’t want to take care of you if you do, so just put them in the closet where they belong, for god’s sake!” On and on about a million different things, it’s just one big constant nag, nag, nag.
Oscar is out for a walk on Saturday morning, and Deloris stays home. She used to love going for walks, but all she does now is nag that he’s walking too fast or too slow. She’ll say things like, “It’s cold out. Why didn’t you wear a coat? Or, “The sun’s too bright. Where are your sunglasses? You should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. I don’t want to lead you around if you go blind, you know.” So, Oscar is glad she stayed home. The last thing she said to him on his way out the door was, “Don’t trip and fall! You’ll break a hip!” He had replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Walking down the sidewalk, he comes across a yard sale and stops to look. He sees a cell phone on the table and picks it up. The sticker on it says ten dollars. Deloris has been after him to get one of these for emergencies. “What would you do if you fell and broke a hip or had a heart attack or stroke or something?” Oscar highly doubted he’d be calling anyone if he had a stroke or heart attack. And he figured that at his age, he didn’t need a cell phone. If someone wanted to reach him, they could just leave a message, and he’d call them back like always. Besides, they cost a bundle of money, but this one was just ten bucks. He calls out to the man running the yard sale. “Hey, buddy, how come this phone is so cheap? Is it busted or something?”
“ Nay, it works.” says the fellow. “It’s just that it is so old that when I bought a new one, the store wouldn’t give me anything in trade for it, so I figured I’d sell it here at the yard sale.”
“Hmm,” Oscar questions. “But don’t I have to get an expensive phone plan to run it? How do I do that if I haven’t bought it at the phone store?”
“No, you don’t have to have a plan. You can buy a phone card that gives you so many minutes for a certain amount of time. I think it’s like ninety minutes of three months or something like that” The man scratches his head. I think if you buy a card at Wal-Mart, they can install it for you so you’ll know how to do it the next time. So what do you think? This is a good buy if you’re just looking for a phone without all the fancy gimmicks.” The man gives Oscar a hopeful smile.
After a trip to Wal-Mart, Oscar returns home. He sits in his favorite chair and tries to figure out how to use it when Deloris walks in.
“What’s that thing you’ve got there?” she asks.
“It’s a cell phone,” Oscar replies a little sarcastically.
“It looks old,” Deloris observes. “Where did you buy that thing anyway?”
“At a yard sale down the street.” Oscar mumbles.
“A yard sale!?!” Deloris barks. Oscar squints one eye and hunches up his shoulders in preparation for the lecture about to come.
“Why didn’t you just buy a new one at the ATandT store as I told you to, one that will work! Do you know if that thing even works? How much did you pay for that piece of junk?” Deloris folds her arms across her chest and sticks out her lower lip angrily. Oscar glowers at Deloris as he punches in his home phone number. He is much relieved to hear the home phone ring. “See, he says smugly. It works. Now I’ll be able to call you when I break a hip.”
One morning Oscar’s son, Bill, stopped by for a visit. Entering through the kitchen door, he finds his mother busy baking.
“Hi, Ma! What’cha doin?” he asks as he receives a hug from his mother.
“Well, you know, I was thinking of you and decided to make you an apple pie because it’s your favorite. So I ran out and bought the apple at the Farmer’s Market. I got Granny apples. They’re the best for a pie. I would have sent your father, but he always buys Cortlands. He never listens to me. I swear he does it just to aggravate me. I truly do. Your father always acts like I’m bossing him around, but I am just trying to take care of him most of the time. He just doesn’t see that.” Bill has heard this story plenty of times before, making him feel bad for both of them.
“Where’s Dad now?” he asks while sneaking a slice of apple.
Deloris frowns. “He’s in the parlor messing around with that cell phone he bought at a yard sale. I wanted him to get one from the phone place, but no, he buys a worthless piece of junk at a yard sale just to aggravate me! So now all he does is complain about it. Why don’t you go see if you can talk him into buying a good one, could you?”
Bill smiles and shakes his head okay, then heads off to find his dad sitting in his favorite chair.
“Hi, Dad! Mum tells me you got yourself a cell phone, uh?”
Oscar seems preoccupied with his phone as he replies, “Hmm? Oh, Hi Bill. Yeah, I got for ten bucks, not bad, uh?”
Bill would like to remain neutral but feels he must follow his mother’s suggestion. “Yeah, it sounds reasonable, but Mom says your having a lot of trouble with it?”
“ Your mother doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It works fine,” Oscar growls. “It’s just that it never stops ringing. I keep getting calls from places claiming my car warranty is about to run out or they have medicine for my diabetes, my ED, and miracle hearing aids! It just goes on and on. I wish I could stop them somehow.”
Bill takes the phone from his father, “Here’s one thing you can do. See this little switch on the side with the red line next to it? If you push it this way, it will stop the phone from ringing. Now I‘ll go into settings here, see? Under setting, I can set the phone to vibrate when you get a call instead of ringing. It will also show you who’s calling, and then you can decide if you want to answer it or not. Pretty cool, uh?”
Oscar is impressed that his son knows all this. “Yeah, that’s neat, alright. But when I push the phone icon, I see that I have a long list of calls under the word Recents. How do I get rid of all that? I pay for the phone by the month, and that stuff’s taking up all my space!”
Bill smiles, “No, it’s not, Dad. It all goes away in thirty days. But if you want to get rid of it all at once, you touch this button here, see Edit? It opens another little sign on the opposite side of the phone that says Clear. Now here’s where the magic happens.” Bill pushes the Clear icon, which opens another icon that says Clear All Recents. “Go ahead, Dad, push that icon.”
Oscar looks at Bill and then pushes the icon, and low and behold, every call disappears. Oscar’s eyes sparkle with delight. “You mean that they’re all gone? So I never get those calls again?”
“Oh no,” Bill replies and goes on to explain. "All that happened here was you just removed all those calls from the Recents list. So it sort of deleted them for now, but there’ll be new ones as the day progresses. That’s how these people make money. And they pay the phone company to do it. So you can never get rid of them for good, see?”
Oscar frowns very disappointedly. I was hoping to stop them. Delete them for good once and for all. I’ve always believed that if I wanted something, I’d go to the store and buy it. I hate to be hounded.” Oscar sighs and says, “Oh well, thanks, Son.”
Over the next few days, whenever Oscar would push the sequins, he would add a vigorous, “Now go to Hell and stay deleted for good, damn you!” Sometimes he would mutter how he wished, truly wished that he could cause them to go away forever. He hated them that much. Then, one night, Deloris is watching the six o” clock news when a news story makes her ask, “Did you hear that, Oscar? The reporter just announced that there’s something strange going on. It seems that some businesses are disappearing, I mean literally disappearing, and no one knows how it’s happening.”
Oscar, who has been reading his newspaper, says, “Hmm, that’s nice,”
“Oscar!” Deloris snaps. “This is why you’re always in trouble with me. It’s because you just don’t listen! You don’t listen when I tell you to put away your slippers, when I tell you how to arrange the silverware in the draw, or hang up your wet facecloth instead of leaving it on the bathroom counter! I mean, really, YOU JUST DON’T LISTEN!”
Oscar folds his newspaper in half and calmly answers Deloris, “I do listen. You just said something about something disappearing or something.”
Deloris’s eyes grow firey as she snarls through clamped teeth, “See! That’s what I’m talking about! I said these call-up companies like Super Senior Discounts or American First Auto Repair Warranty are just vanishing into thin air! One family said that their daughter worked from home for one of these places, and “poof,” she disappeared right before their eyes. What do you make of that, Oscar? What do you think of that?”
Oscar was silent. He was thinking of the Recents on his phone. At first, the list of calls was always just listing them as a Spam Risk, but lately, they’ve been giving their names, and those two Oscar recalls. As a matter of fact, the list did seem to be getting shorter as well.
“Oscar, I asked you a question,” Deloris demanded. “ What do you make of all this business?” Oscar stares at Deloris dumbfounded for a second before he replies, “I don’t know what to think. I really don’t know what to make of it. It’s too strange, you know.”
The next day, Oscar writes down all the names on his phone before pushing the Edit, Clear, Clear All Recents. Several of those names were reported on the evening news as having been added to the other companies that have disappeared. Oscar sits back in his chair and stares at his ten-dollar phone, thinking, “Could my wish have come true?”
Oscar is in Goodall’s grocery store, picking up a few items for Deloris. He has already gotten the riot act from her about reading the labels and comparing them to the grocery list.
“Just read the list, Oscar. I’ve written down everything by name and size needed. So if you read the list and cross-check it to the item, you should get everything right this time. Okay?” Oscar had responded, “Yeah, yeah, got it.”
As Oscar was about to put a thirty-two-ounce can of stewed tomatoes into the shopping basket instead of a sixteen-ounce can of peeled tomatoes on the grocery list, he became aware of his phone vibrating in his pocket. By the time he got done wrestling it out, it had stopped.
“Ah, it’s just Deloris calling to tell me something else.” he thought. I’d better call her back, or I’ll get yelled at for never answering my phone.” As Oscar looks a Recents, he sees Deloris’s name listed as a missed call. A strange light shines in Oscar’s eyes as a realization enters his conciseness. He stares intently at the Edit icon in the corner, and a faint little smile finds its way across his face. Then, with a trembling finger, Oscar touches the icon.