And there it is, the hardest part of the conversation, getting them to pick up the phone, except now it is time for
— Who is this?
— My name is Rose. I am a representative of the Pacific Family Estate. Is this Patricia
That is a dangerous part of the conversation, because my name is not Rose and the Pacific Family is nothing more than a joke between friends and because I need Patricia Wendell to stay on the phone.
— Yes, this is Patricia. Sorry, who did you say this is? The Pacific Family Estate?
I cannot let my voice stray off or my attention wane as my coworker perches herself on the edge of my desk and begins to hum, quietly at first, as if only to herself, but it is difficult to stay focused when everything about her song is meant to drag at the listener’s attention.
— How can I help you?
This is a nicer response than I am expecting. Most phone calls end after my introduction, if the person on the other end bothers to pick up at all. But my coworker's humming is picking up in volume, her legs swinging to match the rhythm of her song. It is a haunting melody, one made to carry more than to be enjoyed, and I tilt the phone towards her as she studies her nails.
— We are calling because it appears that the late Mr. Marlon Pacific has left you
something in his will.
Sometimes I add a sniffle here, for effect, to really sell that I knew this Mr. Marlon Pacific well, except of course Mr. Marlon Pacific is entirely made up and I am a liar. Patricia Wendell, however, gives a soft gasp, maybe because it is sad that someone died and maybe because the words “estate” and “will” carry an image of wealth and she is already imagining herself in her new diamond necklace, and I know that I have her.
— Did you know the late Mr. Marlon Pacific? Do I have the correct Patricia Wendell?
I do, of course, because any Patricia Wendell will do, so long as they stay on the line long enough for my coworker to lean in, bringing the salty scent of the sea with her as she brings her humming closer to the phone.
— I— Yes, that is me.
My coworker and I exchange a smile, both at the blatant lie and at the slur of Patricia Wendell’s words, at the way her voice has turned from formal and crisp to light and dreamy.
— We would love to meet with you to discuss the contents of the late Mr. Marlon
Pacific’s will. Would you be available to meet sometime soon?
— Yes. Yes, of course. I’d love to meet as soon as possible. Where would we meet?
— Our office is near the west port.
I can barely hear myself over my coworker’s humming as I give some made-up company name, some cheesy play-on-words like Cyrus Renegade’s or Sybil Reverend’s that we workshop as we wait for the phone to stop ringing, and the address for our dumpy but invaluable hut that hugs the rundown, unused port. Patricia Wendell does not comment on my play-on-words, the people we call never do, but instead loudly fumbles her phone as she scrambles for something to write on.
— Do you have any openings today? I would love to get closure with- with the late Mr.
Marlon Pacific’s death as soon as possible.
— Of course, Ms. Wendell. Come down as soon as you can.
We exchange some half-hearted pleasantries and a hurried goodbye as Patricia Wendell hangs up her phone and immediately begins to make her way to the western port. Without the human rambling in my ear, I can now hear the dozen songs, discordant but pleasant, that fill our makeshift office as my coworkers reach across the city for whoever will claim the fake contents of the fake will of the late, fake Mr. Marlon Pacific, latching onto the listeners’ empathy or greed or whatever will make them listen to us long enough to be convinced to pay us a visit.
My coworker and I glance at each other, weighing if we have time for another call before Patricia Wendell arrives, but the desperation in her voice tells us that she is already on her way, humming my coworker’s song to carry her through the trip.
My coworker and I rise together, check Patricia Wendell’s name off of our list, and head outside. Our skin has grown dry and flaky from spending so long outside of the water, and so we gratefully drop into the dingy port and wait for our prey to arrive.
Emmanuelle Knappenberger is a senior college student from western New York majoring in English and minoring in creative writing and communication. When she is not enthralled with a book or a new story idea, she enjoys exploring a spectrum of activities from Irish dance to tabletop role-playing games. Her work is forthcoming from The Agapanthus Collective.