Word Count 500
Greater Atlantic Switchboard
By Sam McManus
“Greater Atlantic Switchboard, this is Quinn,” proclaimed the slim girl behind the reception desk, headset protruding from her left ear, microphone poised at her lips.
“Hi Quinn!” the man on the other end of the line replied, rather loudly. “I’m calling to report otters building a dam across the road down Loving Lane, you know, where the Peavy Farm used to be?”
“Mr. Hanson?” she asked, adjusting her headset even though it was unnecessary.
“Yes, ma’am!” he screamed back at her. It was obvious he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids, and it wasn’t the first time he had barked at her, but Quinn still found it sad.
“Mr. Hanson, there are no otters building a dam across the road down Loving Lane,” she assured him, but the man’s mind was stuck on autopilot, as it always was.
“Damn straight they are,” he said, a rustling sound gaining momentum in the background.
“No, sir,” she tried again. “Otters don’t build dams, Mr. Hanson.”
“Well, tell that to these two who are damn sure building a dam across the road,” he replied, gruffly. “I can see them outside my window, having a grand old time. Someone’s going to have an accident.”
“Do you have your glasses on, sir?” she asked, trying hard to stand her ground.
“Well, no, but…” he began, immediately defensive.
It was her daily exercise in using kid gloves, humoring the old man without embarrassing him, which was a thin line indeed. Their call center was inundated with real emergencies from morning to night, so she couldn’t stay on with him forever. Some days he was convinced possums were playing dead in that selfsame road, others he would swear to an earthquake rocking the foundation of his home, so the story of otters wasn’t very unique as far as his tales went.
“Now, I’m not saying you’re seeing things, Mr. Hanson,” she cut in. “But we both know there were no possums that time, and there was no earthquake, so… can you at least entertain the possibility that there are no otters building a dam across Loving Lane?”
“Hell no,” he said. “They’re there, and if you don’t send someone out I will take care of them my damn self.”
“Sir, there is no need for that,” she quickly replied, knowing he meant to get his shotgun out of mothballs. The last time Ed Hanson pulled out that gun he shot up Millie Gray’s peach garden. There had been peach juice running down the road for several hours, and poor Millie didn’t sleep right for a week.
“Good,” he said, properly placated. “Tell them to hurry, because it looks like these otters are fixing to have relations right next to that dam, and hell if I’m going to sit here and watch otters have relations.”
He hung up with a great clattering, as he always did, leaving Quinn with the disgusting mental image of otters having sex in the road. She sighed and switched over to the next call.