The Phone

The phone.

I can’t find the handset; most probably, I left it in the bathroom. Maura called the moment I was going to shower. So I must have left it there.

It’s not in the bathroom.

The phone is unrelenting.

The big con of today’s phones: They are too tiny, and if you hate hanging things round your neck, then you’re bound to spend half your life looking for them.

Ah, yes, it must be on my desk. I was writing a poem at 4 a.m. about this poem I was writing one morning around 4 o’clock; I was totally immersed in it when, suddenly, the phone rang.

The phone keeps ringing. I meander toward my study, moving through the piles of books lying all over the place.


—Who is this?

—I thought you left. Was just checking. You’re still there.

—Who are you?

—Does it really matter?

—Oh, yes, it does. Who is this?

—But does it really matter?

—Are you some freak?

—I might be one of your characters. One of those you blog about.

—You read my blog-now?

—Do I?

—Do you?

—So I wanted to check that you are still there. I looked up your name in the directory and called.

—In the phone directory? is my name there?

—Well, the online version has it.

—The online version?

—Yes, of course, the online version. I looked up your name, and your number came up.

—And what do you want?

—Nothing. I want nothing. I simply wanted to check that you are still there.

—What’s your business?

—I read your last chapter, the one you uploaded yesterday, the one describing your elopement. I wanted to check if you went away for real.

—I went away for real?

—Yes, I thought you did. I read your last chapter online an hour ago.

—Why should I follow my characters? It’s fiction. I thought it was clear.

—I know, but. …

—Listen, I don’t intend to discuss this with you over the phone. You can always—

—I did already. I discussed the soliloquy in your comments section. I even proposed an alternative version.

The man on the phone proposed this alternative version. He explained it to me over the phone while I was reading pretty much the same thing from the comments he wrote in my journal. And I couldn’t resist reading the replies to the comments, too. They were all there for all to see, including me. Interesting comments, interesting alternative version.

Friday, Sept. 12th, 2025

Dear Manda, I read the last part of the fiction. You want to know something? It sucks.

Friday, Sept. 12th, 2025

Dear Manda, Never mind what the guy above wrote. The last part is the most intriguing so far.

Saturday, Sept. 13th, 2025

Dear Manda, Do you think your last chapter sucks? Don’t you think that writers, especially those of your stature, should not stoop so low as to have peoplesome evidently stupidtainting their works with banal comments?

Saturday, Sept. 13th, 2025

Well, some 20 years ago, when online publication was still at its dawn, no one would have written you about your last chapter. But this is 2025, and what philosophers, even earlier on in the last century, have written about readerly and writerly texts, and what they have written about the death of authors, is now being actuated. I hope you are not dead though!

Saturday, Sept. 13th, 2025

Hi, Manda. Did you read my alternative version of the ending? What do you think?

The phone again.

I dig through a pile of books that have accumulated on my desk, trying to haul out the handset. I remember I left the handset on my reclining chair; that’s where I sat when I was talking to the guy about the chapter I uploaded last.

It’s not there. Ah, yes, it must be on the table out in the garden where I was continuing the poem I was writing at 4 a.m. about this poem I was writing one morning around 4 o’clock.

I spill the coffee that I left in the cup while getting the handset.


—Manda, baby, I thought you weren’t home.

—Where else would I be?

On your way to. …

—Yeah, right. So, what news?

—Great news. The publishers would like to print the whole thing. They’ve had some requests to get a hard copy of the fiction. How many chapters do you still have to upload to finish it?


—So you should have it uploaded within two months, right?


—OK, there needs to be some editing, of course; it seems they have already identified an editor for you.

I light up a cigarette.

—Listen, Jake, I really don’t see it.

—See what?

—Why this obsession with having a soft and a hard copy of the fiction.

I sit down on the reclining chair. I hear my agent blabbing about this and that, contracts, contacts and tours. And book signing sessions, of course. í really am not sure about this. All this seems so passé. And yet. …

About the Author

Immanuel Mifsud

Immanuel Mifsud wrote several books of short stories in Maltese. “Happy Weekend” is a collection of stories translated into English. He also writes poetry, and in 2005, he published “KM,” a collection of travel poems in a bilingual edition, and “Confidential Reports,” translated into English for Southword Editions, Ireland.

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