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Jerry W. Engler

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Books by Jerry W. Engler
Crank One Long For Central
By Jerry W. Engler
Posted: Saturday, July 05, 2008
Last edited: Saturday, July 05, 2008
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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Recent stories by Jerry W. Engler
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           >> View all 32
Kids were kids even back in the rural and farm areas in the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's and early 1960's when the telephone service was much different than it is today. The phones were wooden boxes with batteries inside, a ringing crank, receiver on a line and a speaker mouthpiece. The lines frequently were put up with help from the local people on poles cut from local timber. They were more susceptible to weather than today's lines.

Crank One Long For Central




“Hello, Central?

“Hello, hello…..hello, hello. Yes, I can hear you fine, Central. Can’t you hear me? Well, hang on, hang on, I’ll be back in a minute.

“Whew, that was a lot of work. Can you hear me now, Central?

“Well, yes, I am a little out of breath. I had to get the Sears Catalogue and rearrange it on top of the chair with the Spiegel’s and the Montgomery Wards, and then climb all the way back up here again. My Daddy calls the Montgomery Wards the Monkey Wards. That’s funny, ain’t it, Central. Yeah I like that one too. Cracks me up. Sometimes Daddy’s pretty funny. Most times Mommy says he’s just being Daddy.

“I could hear you really good on the receiver, Central, but was tryin’ to stand up here on tippy toes at the mouthpiece so I probably wasn’t quite close enough to it so you could hear me, Central. Now I got all these catalogues stacked on the chair, and I’ve climbed up here close enough so I’m right at the mouthpiece.

“Who am I? Why, Central, this is Jimmy, Jimmy Schleighbottem. Well, yes I am Ned and Sadie’s little boy, they’re my Daddy and my Mommy. No, Mommy doesn’t know I’m up here on all these catalogues, but this is an emergency, Central. Mommy and Daddy aren’t home.  I wouldn’t be allowed to use the phone if it wasn’t an emergency cuz  of some other things I did, of course unless I’m callin’ Grandma. I’m allowed to call Grandma any time I want, and especially if Mommy and Daddy aren’t here cuz sometimes things look a little spooky if they ain’t here, Central. Course, I’m not scared of much anything, been highly beneficial that way, not even scared of sharp knife blades, Central.

“What’s that got to do with it? No, this emergency ain’t anything to do with me getting cut up. You see, Central, the knife blade has to do with me carving on this here telephone, it being such pretty brown wood and all. Tom Bosnick claims his brother carved both their initials in a cedar fence post, and I thought this might be about the same. But it ain’t, Central. Mommy said it ain’t anywhere near the same thing, and I’m never to try to do anything to the telephone again. Heck, I only took a little nitch out of it, maybe scratched it up a little it’s such hard work.

“Know what I think it really might have had to do with, Central? I don’t think Mommy liked it that I used her good butcher knife for the carving, and climbed up on all these here catalogues to do it. There was somethin’ about it that seemed to bother her powerful like I might have hurt the knife or something. Heck, Central, that knife is tough. My brother and I drove it clear through a piece of wood one time with Daddy’s hammer, but I guess we better hadn’t  be doing that she’s so sensitive about her knife. She even put it on a higher shelf. Now I have to get a chair to climb the cabinet to get it, Central. Of course, let’s just let that be our little secret, and not tell Mommy about it. OK? What? You don’t think I ought to be doing that either because I could what? Heck, Central, I’m smarter than that. I ain’t going to stick a knife in my belly.

“The only other thing I ever done with that old knife is stick it in the electric socket, liked to scare me to death, and Daddy said I wasn’t burnt worse because the wooden handle insulated me. Mommy screamed while the fire was sparking.

“Heck, Central, she screamed worse than that cuz of this old telephone. Lightening hit the wires, and came out the phone’s mouthpiece, and shot clear across the kitchen. Whenever it lightenings now I go to the living room, and curl up in the easy chair. Lightening don’t get you in the easy chair.

“Oh, you’re in a hurry cuz you got other stuff to do? That’s just the way with all you grown-ups, always hurrying. You ought to dig around with us in the dirt in the back yard sometime, Central, then you’d find out what real work is. That’s what Daddy said after we showed  him his  tools we buried. That was one of the times he was only a little bit funny.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you say I either got to tell you what the emergency is or hang up cuz someone else might need to talk to you. Well, Central, I was just trying to be nice to you, and talk to you a little first. I didn’t know you wouldn’t like talking to me. Oh, you say you do like talking to me, it’s just that you might have to work?

“Well, Central, one reason I thought you might like to talk to me is because Mommy says you must be awful lonesome being an old maid who likes to listen in on everybody else talking on the phone. No,

Central, I don’t think that’s insulting.

“Heck, that’s the other reason my brother and I are in trouble when it comes to this old telephone. You see, we like to get up here, and listen to the Bohunk sisters talk their gibberish. Central, they talk English like you and me unless someone listens in on them, and they switch to the gibberish, ‘Gib, gib, gib, yippy, yippy, yippy.’ We just like to hear’em talk it, Central. Mommy says we shouldn’t even call them Bohunks like Daddy does, but call them Checks (Czechs). That’s silly isn’t it, Central? What do they have to do with banks? Silly old Mommy. Sometimes she’s funny too, but not very often.

“No, no, just wait a minute. I don’t want to hang up. I really do have an emergency, and yes, OK, OK, I know you want me to get on with it. What? First you have to transfer another call, do you, Central? You say just hang on? You’re not too terrible excited about a kid with an emergency, are you, Central?

“Oh good, you’re back, Central? I was afraid you might not come back on, and then I’d have to ring you again. Really, you mean the phone company wouldn’t let you hang up on a kid that says there’s an emergency.? Why, they’re just a pretty good phone company, ain’t they, Central?

“OK, OK, I’ll get down to it, Central. Lordy, you don’t have to throw a tizzy like Mommy says that Ginette Cooper does.

“Why I don’t know the difference between gossip and gospel, Central?

“Well, I would have if you hadn’t interrupted me. You need to be more courteous, Central. Mommy’s always telling me that too.

“Now, listen, here’s my emergency. I think you can help me. What, you have to transfer another phone call right in the middle of my emergency? Don’t that beat all, Central?

“Oh, you’re back. You’re getting quicker, Central. Me too. Daddy says I just get quicker all of the time, like the time….. What? Oh yeah, the emergency.

“Well, Central, Miss O’Brian, my new first grade teacher, that is I’m new, she’s old. Anyway, she says today that we all have to give her our home phone number this very day. When it comes my turn to tell her my phone number, I was really proud cuz I’ve known my phone number since I was lots littler. She bends over to me when my turn comes, and says, lookin’ over the tops of her glasses and smellin’ pretty good, ‘Now, Jimmy, what’s your phone number.’

“So, Central, I comes right out with it, and tells Miss O’Brian that my phone number is two shorts. Well, Central, she tilts her head down even further giving me that ‘stupid little Jimmy look with her thick, curled lips,’ and she says ‘Now that ain’t your phone number,’ only she don’t say ain’t cuz Miss O’Brian don’t ever say ain’t, I know that already. She’s a real proper acting sort of a grown-up except  for when she slapped me for telling her she stole my crayons.

“Then she says to me, ‘So, Jimmy, what’s your Grandma’s phone number?’ Ain’t that some piece of hell, Central? She even knows my Grandma. So, I tells her, my Grandma’s number is three longs. Then I tell her the one Bohunk sister my Grandma talks to a lot is one long just to show her I know lots of numbers. She romped me then for callin’ the sisters Bohunks. Heck, Central, them Bohunk sisters can’t help it if they’s Bohunks. Live and let live my Daddy says.

“Yes, yes, go ahead, and transfer your next call. Too bad you can’t let a few of those calls go so we can get this finished up, Central.

“Ah, good, you’re back. That time it sure took you a while, Central. I even got down, and went to urinate while you were gone. Yes, I can use big words like urinate cuz Mommy says that’s the proper way to talk, not like Daddy does. Oh, you knew I was gone cuz you left once more for another call. Gosh, Central, you are getting busy.

“Well, no, listen here, the best part of my phone numbers was you. I told Miss O’Brian that you crank one really long ring for central.  I thought that might set her back. But she said, ‘No, Jimmy. You have another number. You get it right away when you get home, and you let me know what it is.

“So, Central, you being the expert, I figured you know if I got another number, and you’d know how to get Miss O’Brian, so we could give it to her. See, it’s really her emergency, and not mine. I’m plenty happy with two shorts. And, Mommy ain’t here, so I can’t ask her, but I don’t suppose she knows there might be another number anyway because she always says two shorts too.

“Well, no, Central, I didn’t know it would cost Mommy and Daddy an extra dime to call Miss O’Brian. You’re right. That is a lot of money. And you don’t think you ought to place a pay call for me without them here to say OK? I see your point, Central. You’re thinking ahead. I’ve heard Mommy even say that sometimes Daddy can be an old tightwad.

“And just for my information I do have another number? Well, go figure. It’s 1922. Hold on, Central, I got to climb down, and get a pencil and paper to write that down. What do you mean you don’t have time? After all the time we already talked, you don’t have time now for me to write the darned phone number down? You think Mommy will know the number anyway? I don’t know about that, Central. She always seemed to figure two shorts was good enough for me. I don’t really think Mommy knows numbers, Central. You better hang on while I get my pencil.

“Now there’s no need to get cranky with me, Central. Huffy, huffy, but if you like, yes I can have Mommy call you back if she needs too. I’ll even tell her just crank one long for central, Old Crank.”


Copyright 2008, Jerry W. Engler

Web Site: Jerry W. Engler  

Reader Reviews for "Crank One Long For Central"

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Reviewed by Elizabeth Price 7/28/2008
this is funny. Liz
Reviewed by Richard Orey 7/21/2008
Seems just like listening in on a party line conversation in my wife's mid-Western home town, complete with lots of Bohunks in town and Monkey Wards catalogues. Of course, the surest place to find the Monkey Wards catalogue was in the outhouse, you know. No, of course it ain't for reading. No light out there.

What I liked best about "rubbering" in on the phone calls of others on the party line is that the more people that were rubbering, the weaker the sound got. When it got so you could hardly hear at all, someone would tell everyone else to "Get off the line, will ya?" And you'd hear about eight or nine clicks, and then suddenly the line was all clear again. Yeah, that's one reason why there's no secrets in small towns.

By the way, Jerry, I've got one of those old wooden crank phones mounted on the wall in the entryway of my California home, now. Catches everyone's eye. Me? I just use the long mouthpiece for a hat rack, myself.

Yep, "Crank One Long For Central" sure takes me back. You're the acknowledged master of "Takes ya backs," Jerry.

Love it!
Reviewed by Gianetta Ellis 7/18/2008
This is adorable and I must confess that my grandmother always called Montgomery Wards "Monkey Wards" too! I remember those old, giant catalogs - especially Sears. It's been years since I've seen one. You've taken me back beyond the point where my memories begin and it has been grand!
Reviewed by Cryssa C 7/7/2008
hee, hee, hee....
The knife stories really had me laughing! I must admit that I am that protective with my kitchen knives... But I have to protect them from my husband. Because of his use of my long, thin, deboning knife as a screwdriver and a crowbar I now have a short (as in less than two inches long) and slightly pointed "green pepper" knife. I must admit that it is perfect for cutting the core out of green peppers, and it is unique...I don't know anyone else with a green pepper knife...
But a woman can only have so many green pepper knives before she has to take action and protect the rights of her knives!

hee, hee...

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