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Can You Hear Me Now, Hollywood?

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A loud sneeze sent a nose full of snot onto the steering wheel and the windshield. James pushed the phone away from the explosion and the rain of mucus.

“Are you gonna be all right?” Sally snickered through the phone.

“Damn ragweed.” James looked around for a tissue. He also tried not to run his hand through the sticky mess on his steering wheel. “I’m blowing my nose or snorting up salt water.”

He dug through the console for a napkin or any kind of paper. He found nothing to wipe his mess.

James clicked on the speaker button and dropped the phone on the passenger’s seat. He moved his left hand through the snot on the wheel. James shook his hand onto the floor and yelled into the phone.

“I don’t have time for this crap.” The snot now covered his pant leg. “Email Mike the job, call my doctor, and find me a box of tissues.”

James turned his convertible onto Mulholland Highway and headed north. The other end of the line was silent.

“I’m in a hole,” he said. “I’ll pop out in a moment.”

The cell towers often dropped calls and Sally waited. She figured he would always call back.

The sun was shining through the dried yellow mucus on the windshield to create a rainbow on his dash. He looked at the light and ignored the bungalows and exclusive homes of Beachwood Canyon.

James turned a few more times up the winding road. He reached for the phone and caught static. After a few more turns, a voice came through.

“He says he won’t do it this time.” Her voice sounded distant.

“What does that mean?” he shouted. “Of course, he will. There’s no one else.”

“I think it will cost more this time.”

“It shouldn’t cost more than last time.” He looked at the screen. “The job hasn’t changed.” He slapped the phone on the wheel and turned the car to the right. He corrected before he clipped two bikers on their way to the Hollywood sign.

“Email him again and make it clear,” James yelled.

He pulled into a far parking spot at Lake Hollywood Park and stopped the car.

James fell out of the car along with a stack of bent coffee cups. A wadded up napkin followed the empties and blew off toward the grass. He stumbled up grabbing the wad and ripped it apart. With the paper remains, he dabbed at the steering wheel.

“You still there?”

He made out a silent sigh.

“Good, we can iron this out.”

He explained how Mike had no excuse to refuse.

“It’s easy.” James talked with his arms. He waved his left hand in the air.

“He parks on the fifth floor under the camera.”

“Uh, huh.”

“No one will notice him get out.”

“Uh, huh.”

“He takes the box with him and inches along the wall.”

“Why doesn’t the camera see him?” she said.

“It’s pointed out at the cars and not the wall.”

“Oh,” she said. He could tell she did not understand.

“The camera points across the garage,” he explained. “It doesn’t pick up on things too close.”

“I get it.”

He lost track of the next step. James thought he should do it himself.

“No one will see him coming,” he said, while pushing his finger toward the ground.

“I’m not sure everything will fit in the box,” she said.

“They came in the box.” James clinched his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Why is there a problem?”

“The canisters are too big and he can’t put his mask in the box with everything too,” she said.

“Have him wear the mask and carry the box.”

A small boy and man passed him in the parking log carrying a kite. James looked up at the sky. A few clouds floated up from the ocean. It was a nice day for playing in the wind.

“Canisters?” James asked. “They’re cupcakes, for crying out loud,” he shouted. “Just have him carry the cupcakes, wear his superhero mask, and surprise her.”

“Cupcakes?” she asked.

“Yes, a dozen red velvet with the yellow baby bottle sugar decorations.” Sometimes she exasperated him.

“Do you think you can pass this on Mike?”

James detected dead silence on the other end of the phone and he wondered if Sally understood him. He raised his head and stared at the clouds. He shook his head dumbfounded. James wondered why everything with her required so much energy.

“Sally?” he asked. She had to know her own name. Sometimes she drove him nuts. He looked around the park for a closer cell tower.

“Sally? James enunciated to make sure she understood him. The pause lasted a long time.

The voice on the other end of the line cleared her throat.

“This isn’t Sally.”

He pulled his phone away and brought it back to his ear. What did she mean, this isn’t Sally? James listened to a man in the background tell the woman to shut up and the phone went dead.

© 2016 – 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.


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