Michael Morris

Summer Fiction

Your 2021 Summer Reading List: Call Girl

Julia Heaberlin introduces our first piece of summer microfiction.

Hard sob.

“Mom. It’s Sophie.”

“Sophie?” 

“I’ve … been in a car accident. I broke my nose. They are about to X-ray my wrist. They are keeping me overnight in case I have a head injury.”

The gasp is just as wrenching on the other side. 

“Mom, are you still there?”

“Oh, my God, honey.” The voice, frayed. Disbelief that this is happening. “I can barely understand you. Did you say head injury? You’re slurring. … Is there a doctor I can talk to? Which hospital are you in?” 

“I’m at St. David’s. The doctor just left the room. There was a … policeman here, too. He said I might be formally charged.”

“What?”

“The police think it was my fault because I rear-ended the other car. The driver is in surgery. Mom, they don’t know if she’ll make it.” Her choke sounds like that of a drowning girl. “But I pr-pr-promise it wasn’t my fault. The woman slammed on her brakes in the middle of the highway for no reason. I had nowhere to go.” 

“Honey, it’s going to be OK. I’m already looking up flights on Southwest. Can one of your friends come sit with you?”

“I texted my roommate.”

“Does your nurse know you’re diabetic?”

“Yes. They asked me all that stuff in the ER. But I’m afraid the policeman who interviewed me thinks I’m on drugs. They gave me some morphine when I got here and I’m loopy.”

“Your voice does sound a little drunk, but your thinking seems clear as a bell. Adrenaline, maybe. Why weren’t you in class? Were you drinking?”

“Mom. It was 2 in the afternoon. And they took my blood for testing. Won’t that prove I’m innocent?”

“Don’t talk to the police anymore until I get there. I’m looking at a flight out of Dallas that will get me into Austin by 6. Do you have your insurance card?”

“No, my wallet is still in the car and they towed it. So is my phone and all my money. My nurse let me borrow her cellphone. She’s super nice. She said you can text a picture of my insurance card. The front desk asked for a credit card, but I said I’d have to call you.”

“I’ll send pictures of both as soon as I hang up. Please thank the nurse for me. I’ll be there soon.”

“I love you so much, Mom.”

Silence.

“That’s a very cruel touch, honey.”

“What?”

“The ‘I Iove you’ part. And the broken nose and morphine, so your voice doesn’t have to be spot on. I’m sure Steven Spielberg would love to direct you. Do you want to know where my Sophie is? She’s in the cemetery. She died when a drunk driver hit her bicycle two years ago, in her second semester of college. Sophie was a beautiful girl. She had the kindest heart. She’d believe you are better than this. In memory of my sweet girl, I beg you to stop doing this for a living. Will you do it for Sophie? Put the good into the world that she can’t?”

Click.


Julia Heaberlin is the internationally best-selling author of We Are All the Same in the Dark (Penguin Random House). The paperback edition will be released July 27.

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