“Do you read me? Over.”
“Loud and clear. Over.”
She put her finger back on the message
button, pressed it down and said, “What are you
doing? Over.” She lay back on the bed, staring at
the white ceiling, listening to the static against her
ear, until the plastic talked again.
“Not much. Over.” From inside the
red house next door, her friend’s voice was
traveling through the magic of walkie-talkies.
Beulah held the machine back to her
mouth. “We should do something. I’m going to
pretend my bed is a boat. Over.” She sat up and
stared out the window facing the ocean. The gray
waves rolled out for thousands of miles towards
Japan, a long way for the mattress to row.
“I can see you out my window,” the
voice in the toy said. “Over.”
There was her neighbor, framed in
Beulah’s other window, waving to her from another
Beulah chopped up and down on the
bed, springing back and forth, letting the invisible
waves get really bad before she picked up the
walkie-talkie again. “The storm’s hitting,” she
A loud pirate voice crunched out of
the little speaker, “What are you doing?” It hollered,
“Get off this channel!”
“Why should I?” Beulah snapped and
crouched, waiting for the reply.
It didn’t take long. “Listen, Buckethead.
“You shut up!” Beulah’s friend
Beulah bounced and joined in, “You
His answer was garbled with curses.
From somewhere far out at sea he swore through
their children yells. They were both laughing,
cursing back at him, unleashing their vocabularies
and inventing new words to get him.
Beulah stared at the sea.
Then the music began to play, spinning
out of her walkie-talkie.
Her feet started tingling, Beulah felt
the sound filling her up inside like poured in water.
The window facing the Pacific flew open and the
drapes blew out like leaves disappearing fast
across the ocean. She clawed at her walkie-talkie
but couldn’t turn it off. The music got louder and
louder, even with it jammed under the pillow.
Screaming didn’t stop it either. The sound
danced inside of her, freezing, rattling her bones,
Just like balloons, her feet rose off
the covers, lifting her legs up. The blankets were
dragging loose. She pinched the edge of the
mattress, doing a headstand, struggling to hold
onto the headboard. Her body tied itself in knots
around the metal spokes, fighting the musical
Looking over her shoulder, Beulah
could see the frothing ocean, waves like hands
pulling a line to her. And through all the loud,
she could hear something else.
With terrible kicking and shouting,
Beulah’s friend levitated out of the red house,
over the lawn, the picket fence and steep
blackberried cliff and sailed out of sight.
A mouth closing, the window shut
slowly and all the hungry pull gave way to
quietness as the music stopped, returning
the room to stillness.
Beulah fell back onto the softness,
shot a hand under the pillow and smashed the
walkie-talkie into pieces all over the wooden
This story was written in 1993
and appeared in my magazine
PIE IN THE SKY, #21.
It was inspired by a real life
episode in Maine when
my cousin and I tuned into
a lobster boat with our walkie-talkies.
For the past year I've been compiling
a book of short stories, already 250 pages,
hopefully a publisher will soon appear.
(My friend Aaron Gunderson
drew the scary title page tough,
sad to say I made the cowboy cover,
1993 was a rough year.)