An Odd Thing To Say

Bobby Lindstrom was napping on his ratty old couch when he got the call. Whenever he talked about it later, which was often, that was how he always referred to it: “The Call.”
+++++“Hello, who’s this?”
+++++“It’s Bobby, Charlie. What’s up?”
+++++“So, you know me, right? Is that who I am? ‘Charlie’?”
+++++“Just a sec,” said Bobby. “I just woke up and either you’re talkin’ nutso or I’m still comin’ around. Now let’s start again. What’s up, Charlie?”
+++++“How did you know it was me before I said who I was?” asked the person on the other end.
+++++“Well, my ringtone started playing its really cheesy rendition of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” the little Caller ID box said ‘Charlie,’ and ‘Bango’, I said to myself, ‘that’s Charlie.’ Have you been smokin’ somethin’ that you should have shared, ol’ buddy?”
+++++“I just picked the first number on ‘Recent Calls’ and it said ‘Bobby.’ I’m in some kind of trouble; I don’t know who I am. I woke up and don’t know who I am or where I am.”
+++++Bobby let that sink in for a bit before he answered. “You’re puttin’ me on, right? I think that I was right the first time: You’re at your place with Eddie smokin’ somethin’ and you guys decided it’d be fun to mess with me. How’m I doin’? Pretty close, right?”
+++++“If this is my phone and you’re Bobby, then you must know me. But I don’t know me and I don’t know you. And another thing; sittin’ on the couch next to me is a guy who looks like me.”
+++++“Ya mean like your brother, Tommy; he kinda looks like you.”
+++++“No, not kinda; I mean exactly like me. Before I called I took a piss. When I looked in the mirror over the sink, I didn’t recognize my own face. But this guy next to me on the couch has that same fuckin’ face. He looks just like me.”
+++++“Put him on,” said Bobby. “Let me talk to him.
+++++“I don’t think he can talk. He’s just sitting there with his eyes closed.”
+++++“Ya mean like he’s unconscious? Or like he’s dead? He ain’t dead, is he, Charlie?”
+++++“Not dead; more like he’s not powered-up.”
+++++“Not powered-up? Now that’s an odd thing to say….”
+++++“What? What did you say, Bobby?”
+++++“Nothin’, nothin’. Sit tight; I’m comin’ over there.”
+++++“Over where?” said Charlie, his voice rising a little at the end. “I don’t even know where I am.”
+++++“Look at the coffee table in front of the TV. Are there a lot of beer bottles and empty pizza boxes on it?”
+++++“There’s beer bottles, but no pizza boxes. There’s some empty Chinese take-out boxes, though.”
+++++“You’re at your place; I’ll be right there.”
+++++It took Bobby about ten minutes to drive over to Charlie’s. When he knocked on the door, somebody answered. Bobby always says “somebody answered” when he’s telling the story.
+++++“Hi…, um, Bobby. How are you?” the somebody asked.
+++++Bobby nodded, and after stepping into the apartment’s small living room, he pulled up short when he saw the coffee table. The usual mess was gone and the table looked like it had been polished. There were two magazines on it that were positioned like they’d be if the table was on the cover of “House Beautiful.” The magazines, however, were cheap sex magazines; not “Good Housekeeping” or “Reader’s Digest.”
+++++“I’m really busy right now; you can’t stay.”
+++++“I’ll just make sure that you’re all right; you didn’t sound so good over the phone,” said Bobby.
+++++The Somebody Charlie grabbed one of Bobby’s biceps and started to lead him to the door. When Bobby tells this story, usually at a bar with somebody else buying the drinks, he swears that this Somebody Charlie had an iron grip; there was no resisting him.
+++++“I don’t know,” said Bobby. “You don’t seem like your old self.”
+++++“Why, Bobby, what an odd thing to say.”
+++++Having been ushered out into the hallway, Bobby stopped and looked back at the closed door. He tried the knob and found that the door was now locked. He knocked for a bit but nobody answered. Then from inside the apartment, he heard Charlie scream, “Bobb-eeee!”
+++++Bobby lifted his right leg and was just about to kick in the door when he heard something hit it on the other side so hard that it loosened the woodwork. Plaster dust drifted down from the ceiling like snow. Bobby lifted his leg again but stopped when he saw blood start to seep out from under the door into the hallway. Then, as Bobby stared transfixed, leg still in the air, the blood no longer seeped, but actually flowed for a few seconds. Two teeth that were mixed into the blood sailed out from underneath the door like two tiny ships on a placid crimson ocean. Bobby slowly lowered his leg and quietly started down the hall toward the stairs.
+++++When he got down to the street Bobby used his cell phone to call 911. “Send some cops to 1452 Elm Street right away; I think somebody’s gettin’ murdered.” The 911 operator asked him to stay on the line trying to get more details, but it wasn’t very long before Bobby could hear the wail of the sirens so he hung up. Three black and whites pulled up in the street and six officers ran up to Bobby.
+++++“Upstairs, fourth floor, apartment 3; my friend Charlie’s in trouble. He’s either hurt real bad or maybe even dead.”
+++++Four of the officers ran into the building with their guns drawn. The other two stayed with Bobby and started asking questions. While they were talking to him, something happened that Bobby never mentions when he’s telling the story. The cops had their backs to the building and Bobby saw himself walk out the front door, down the front walk, and then turn to go down the street. As this Somebody Bobby walked past Bobby and the two cops, he nodded and smiled at Bobby giving him an exaggerated wink. Blood was spattered all over his face and all over the white T-shirt and jeans that that Bobby had last seen Charlie wearing. The cops never missed a beat; they just kept talking to Bobby like they never even saw the Somebody Bobby.
+++++“There’s a helluva lot of blood up there by the door, but there’s nobody in that apartment,” said one of the returning officers. “The other guys are starting with the apartments on the first floor and moving up. They should come up with something.”
+++++“Is there a back door to this place?” asked one of the officers who had stayed with Bobby.
+++++Bobby wanted to yell at him, “He walked right past ya, asshole!”, but instead just mumbled, “I don’t know; I don’t live here.”
+++++The cops took Bobby downtown, listened skeptically to his story two or three times for an hour or more and finally told him not to leave town. Right then, there was nothing Bobby wanted to do more than to leave town. Something very strange had happened at Charlie’s place and he didn’t want that “something” to happen to him. Just by the action of grabbing his biceps the Somebody Charlie had been able to morph himself into Somebody Bobby.
+++++He kept the story to himself for a couple of weeks, but gradually came to see that it could be good for a few beers and now he tells it every chance he gets. But when Bobby gets to the end of the story, he has his own reasons he doesn’t tell the part about the Somebody Bobby passing him and the two cops on the street. To him, that would be like tempting fate; jinxing himself. He ends it with the cop saying that there was nobody in Charlie’s apartment. Bobby then throws in some dialog that could have come right out of The Brothers Grimm.
+++++“…..and I never saw my buddy, Charlie, again.”

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Roy Dorman
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction published recently in Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Theme of Absence, Near To the Knuckle, Bewildering Stories, Flash Fiction Press, The Story Shack, Spelk, Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals. Roy is currently the submissions editor at Yahara Prairie Lights, which puts him in the enviable position of sometimes being able to accept his own work. That site is at yaharaprairie.wordpress.com
Roy Dorman

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