The Obscene Phone Call
by Erma Bombeck

The other night I nearly fell off my chair when a voice said, “MOM! TELEPHONE!”

I wandered through the house shouting, “Where! Where!”

“IN HERE!” shouted my daughter. “IN THE HALL CLOSET!”

I crawled in under a topcoat and felt my way along the cord to the phone.

“Are you going to talk long?” she asked.

“I don’t even know who it is,” I answered.

“I didn’t ask who it was,” she said, “I asked if you were going to talk a long time.”

“I won’t know until I know who it is,” I said firmly.

I grabbed the receiver and said, “Hello.”

“Who is it?” she asked impatiently. .

“An obscene phone caller,” I whispered.

“Are you going to be long?” she persisted.

“I don’t know,” I said, listening intently.

In the small bit of light that was available, I saw my daughter dance up and down in front of me, grabbing her throat while her eyes bugged and her tongue began to swell.

“Pardon me; sir,” I said to the caller. “Could you hang on just a minute? My daughter, Karen, is in front of me and is trying to tell me one of three things: (a) Her pantyhose are too tight and have cut off the blood supply to her kidneys, (b) she is thirsty and is asking permission to split a soft drink with her brother, or (c) she will die if she does not get the phone within the next minute and a half.” Covering the phone I said, “Karen, what do you want?”

“I have got have to call Celeste,” she said. “It is a matter of life and death.”

“In a minute,” I said and returned to my caller.

The closet door opened and my son poked his head in and pantomimed, “Who is it?”

“It’s an obscene phone call,” I mouthed back. “What do you want?”

“Do you have a no. 2 tomato can? Fifteen jelly beans? Four buggy wheels? And a box of cocktail toothpicks?”

“Not on me,” I said.

Another figure crawled into the closet. It was getting crowded. “Mom, who are you talking to?”

“An obscene phone caller.”

“The dog wants out,” he said. “What’s obscene mean?”

“Get a dictionary.”

“You want the dog to go on the dictionary?”

“I want you to look up obscene.” Into the phone I said, “Really, I am too paying attention. It’s’ just that. . .”

My daughter crawled in the closet with a poster that read, “FIVE MINUTES WILL BE TOO LATE.”

My son persisted, “It can be a no. 2 can of orange juice if you don’t have the tomatoes.”

“PLEASE!” I said aloud.

Finally, my husband poked his nose in the closet.

“Is that Grandma from Florida? Why wasn’t I called?”

“It’s not Grandma,” I said. “It’s an obscene phone caller.”

“Oh. We really oughta call Grandma now that we know where the phone is. We haven’t talked with her since Christmas.”

Finally, I said to my caller, “Look, the timer on the stove is going off because I have been on the phone ten minutes now, my daughter is demonstrating right here in the closet, my son is forcing me to drink down a no. 2 can of orange juice, and my husband wants me to call Florida. If it isn’t too much trouble, could you call back?”

There was a silence on the other end, then a curt, “Forget it, lady,” before the click.

[from the book Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own! ]