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"Calling Cards" • Neko Case (by Thad DeVassie)


When broadband came to our rural outpost, when cell towers poorly disguised at trees were finally planted, the last of our telephone booths were retired.


They said things would be different. Which is to say they’ll never be the same, or at least this way, again.


To say I built a twin phone booth would be misleading.


I took two freestanding booths and drilled them together, making a twin phone booth separated by a glass partition, each maintaining its own red hinged door.


I wired the cut cables between the two telephones together for reasons that made no operative sense. I felt there needed to be some sort of connection.


After fenagling them onto the pickup’s flatbed, I drove them a few hundred feet off a dead-end road, then dragged them beyond brush-thickets and groves of ash trees on a bluff overlooking the town and vicinity.


For months I would escape there nightly, picking up the phone on the right booth, as if answering an urgent call. No calls ever came.


Not a crank call, never a curious inquiry from the townsfolk below to the broken beacon on a hill, and realizing the calling cards buried deep in my wallet were now without value.


But the view from my single side of the twin was magical, offering reasons to linger a little bit longer, in case someone misdialed.


After untold nights without any connection, I attempted to call the company-issued number for the booth on the left. The line picked up.


A voice on the other end of the line identified herself. She never spoke another word, but sang as if she were a lone voice in a vacant cathedral.


Every evening thereafter she would take my call and I would slide my back down the glass wall of my booth until reaching the floor, staring through an empty adjacent booth and into the final embers of a dying sunset, awaiting her angelic but distant voice to sing over static-tinged AM signals for as long as the moon and the stars were rising, becoming known to an ever-changing world.



Thad DeVassie is a writer and artist/painter who creates from the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of three chapbooks, most recently THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA (Cervena Barva Press, 2023). He was awarded the James Tate Poetry Prize for SPLENDID IRRATIONALITIES in 2020. Find more of his written and painted work at www.thaddevassie.com.

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