“Hi, you’ve reached Ana and Jeff Winston. We can’t take your call right now, but please leave your message at the sound of the beep, and we’ll get right back to you.”
April 1, 4 p.m. Jeff, I know what you’ve been doing. You’re helping yourself to my trust. And that wasn’t too smart. That is against the L-A-W. You can’t just take my money. I’m going to call the IRS on you. How do you think you’ll like prison? You won’t have all your fancy friends, will you? They’ll desert you like the dog you are. April 1, 4:30 p.m. Jeff, it’s your little brother Johnny again. I’m calling to tell you that you can’t just steal people’s money and get away with it. You fucking asshole, you thought you were pretty smart getting control of my trust. That’s what a big brother is for, right? To watch over you. Like you’d ever help me. April 1, 4:40 p.m. You thought you could do whatever you wanted, didn’t you, Jeff? Just take your poor brother’s money. So what if I don’t have the cash to buy gas or food. What do you care, you in your fancy house in California? April 1, 6:30 p.m. Hi, Ana. It’s Jeff. I’ll be home in about an hour. The meeting with Southwest Mortgage went long. We still can’t come to an agreement about how to proceed with the shopping center tenant closures. I listened to our messages—sounds like my brother is on a rampage again. Shit, just what we need. Okay, talk to you when I get home. Love you. April 1, 11:30 p.m. Jeff, I got your message. Just because you told me to stop calling you doesn’t mean that I will. I’m not afraid of you, big shot. I’ll call you any fuckin’ time I want. I don’t care if it’s upsetting Ana. Tough shit. You give me back my money so I can go out—then I won’t call you.
April 2, 9 a.m. This is a message for Mr. Jeffrey Winston. I’m calling from Calabasas Cardiology. We need you to come in and redo part of your nuclear stress test. It’s nothing to concern yourself over. It’s just that the results in one section were unclear. Call Rhonda to make an appointment.
April 2, 2 p.m. Hi, Ana. This is Robert from Guardianship, Inc., returning your call. I haven’t talked to you since you moved to California. Well, anyway, you guessed it. John is off his meds. He needs to be hospitalized, but you know we can’t commit him unless he proves a danger to himself or someone else. I know how annoying John’s calls can be. Try to get your phone company to block him out. Here’s another piece of advice. Never answer his calls. Never return his calls. He lives for that. Believe me, I know. We had to change our number at the office and at home. Ana, you and Jeff can call me anytime. Bye for now. April 2, 3 p.m. Hey, Jeff. It’s Max Montez from the high school. I got your call, and yes, I’ll make sure the boys aren’t wearing cargo shorts tomorrow for their match. I really want to thank you again for volunteering to be the golf coach this season. It’s made a big difference, and not just in the way the guys are playing. I can see they’re listening to your advice about getting ahead in life. You tell them like it is—and they hear it. See you tomorrow. April 2, 3:30 p.m. Hello, Jeffrey. It’s me, John. You’ve got a big problem—ME. And there’s only one way to get rid of me, Jeff. Kill me. Yeah, why don’t you kill me. You know some guys who could do it. Just call one of them and say you have this problem with your brother. Yeah, put out a contract on me. Have one of your goons murder me. April 2, 5:30 p.m. This is Verizon returning your call, Mr. Winston. Unfortunately, in the state of California you cannot block one person from calling your number. Call Intercept will intercept every call made to you. If you would like to add this service to your account, call us back.
April 3, 2 a.m. Hello there, Jeffrey. How come you’re not answering your phone? This is Frank—Frank Sinatra. Your brother tells me you’re singing at the Copa with my friend Sammy. Hey, Jeff, you used to buy my records, and I liked you. But if you keep up this singing, I’m going to cut off your fucking balls. April 3, 2:23 a.m. Sammy is dead, and so is Dean. Look in the fucking mirror, Jeff. You aren’t Frank. You can’t sing worth shit. April 3, noon Hi, Jeff. This is Robert from Guardianship returning your call. I also left a message on your cell. As I told Ana and your sister Louise, we can’t do much right now. John’s never easy, even when he does take his meds. And schizophrenia is always a weird deal. You can call me on my cell when you get home, and I’ll take the call. April 3, 2 p.m. Hi, Ana. It’s Steve. It sounds like Jeff’s brother is really bad this time. Those phone calls day and night can’t be easy to take. You’re sure something can’t be done to hospitalize John? God, I remember what a great kid he was. What was he, thirteen, when you got married? He was such a sweetheart. Life can be such shit. Oh, well. What can we do? Call your brother. April 3, 5 p.m. Jeff. Jeff, are you there? Answer the fucking phone. You think you can just ignore me? April 3, 6 p.m. Jeff, it’s Louise. I got your message. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You moved away from Portland so you wouldn’t have to deal with any problems. You left, and I have to deal with Mom and our crazy brother. I have such a bad cold, but Mom calls me at 8:00 this morning saying she’s having a stroke. I have to get out of bed and take her to the emergency room. We sit there for three hours, and she’s fine. So I’m not in the mood for your bullshit. If you don’t think Robert and the Guardianship are doing a good job, move back here and take over. April 3, 6:20 p.m. Jeff, I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to block my calls. I’m really bugging you, aren’t I, big man. I think you have a problem—John’s the problem. What are you going to do about it? April 3, 6:45 p.m. I ain’t quitting, Jeff. I’m havin’ way too much fun. I guess you may want to have me assassinated, huh? I better stay away from windows. April 3, 8 p.m. Jeff, goddamnit. You blocked 10 of my calls. But now I’m back on track, and I have all the time in the world. Here’s the deal, asshole. I’m not stopping. Your only choice is to attack John. Have me murdered. Step up and beat the Lord, tough guy. Call your man, Mr. Sinatra, and have me shot.
April 4, 9 a.m. Hi, Ana. It’s your brother Steve. You make me laugh. I can just see you picking up the phone and putting it down as fast as you can. How many times did you say Johnny called in 10 minutes? Eight? At least he finally stopped. Call me. April 4, 1:30 p.m. Mom, it’s Kim. I’m just having an awful day. Everything is going wrong. Sorry for crying, but I can’t help it. I hate going to work. I hate it. And I hate that I have to put Leo in day care every day. Call me, okay? I love you. April 4, 3 p.m. Thanks for the call back, Mom, but I’m tired of sucking it up all the time. My boss is just a jerk. He came in with a hangover this morning and started yelling at everyone. I can’t take it anymore—I’m going to start looking for another job. Talk to you later. April 4, 8 p.m. It’s Kim. I got your call, Mom. You don’t need to tell me I’m a single mother. I’m very aware of that. Maybe you and Dad think I can’t afford to quit my job, but I can’t afford to be this stressed. You just don’t understand. I thought if I moved back to Portland, it would be easier for Leo and me, but it’s not. I never thought I’d be in this position. April 4, 10:10 p.m. Howdy, Jeff. It’s your brother John again. I know you think you married Kim Novak like you’re one of the Rat Pack. But Ana ain’t no Kim Novak. She looks like shit. April 4, 11:30 p.m. I hate you so much, Jeff. I wish you were dead. As a matter of fact, I’m going to say a prayer for your death. Yeah, right now. Dear God, listen to my prayer. My brother has already had two heart attacks. One of them almost killed him. His heart is weak. Do the job, Almighty God—give him another heart attack. Do this for me, your faithful servant John, and I will always be in your gratitude.
April 5, 10 a.m. This is Calabasas Cardiology again. Dr. Martin wants Mr. Winston to redo the nuclear stress test as soon as possible. Again, don’t be overly concerned. He just wants to make sure that the results are clearer. Call the office today.
April 5, 5 p.m. Hi, Mom and Dad. I just picked Leo up from day care, and we wanted to say hello. Call us. Love you.
April 5, 10 p.m. This is John. Goddamnit—stop fucking around, Jeff. You better start answering my calls, Jeff, or I’m going to hurt you real bad. You think you can just ignore me, Jeff, but I know how to get to you. Just you watch, asshole.
April 6, 1 p.m. Hello, Ana and Jeff, this is Robert from Guardianship. I really think you’re worrying unnecessarily. In our business, there is no 100 percent, but John has rarely been violent. Yeah, I do remember that time he tried to run Jeff over with his car, but that was 20 years ago. John likes to make threats, that’s all. I can’t say anything positively, but I’m sure your daughter and your grandson are safe. Please call me back if you want.
April 6, 5 p.m. Hi, Dad. It’s Kim. I got your message. Yes, I’ll make sure the alarm system is on. I think during the daytime is a little paranoid though, don’t you? Uncle John isn’t going to hurt Leo and me. Remember I’m the one who went to visit him when he was in the care facility. Talk to you later. Love you.
April 6, 8 p.m. You asshole—you’re threatening to charge me with harassment? Harassment? I know what you’re up to, Jeff. You want me behind bars. Then you’ll get all my money right away. Why don’t you just go suck your cock, Jeff. It’s the only thing you’re good at.
April 6, 9 p.m. It’s your sister Louise calling back. Jeff, like I said before, you left me with all this shit to deal with. The least you could do is not threaten John with a restraining order. It just gets him all riled up and makes life more difficult for me. Take your phone off the hook, go play golf or whatever it is you do down there.
April 7, 10 a.m. Hello, Jeffrey. It’s your mother. I want to talk to you about harassing John. Please stop. Have a nice conversation with him. Well, okay, then. Good-bye.
April 8, 8 p.m. Hi, Ana. It’s Steve, your brother. Glad John has stopped calling you. Jeff’s threat must have worked. Hope Jeff is feeling better. Call me later. Love you.
April 9, 1:35 a.m. Ana, I woke you up earlier, didn’t I? And you forgot to screen the call. See, I’m very smart. You’ll have to be on guard all the time. I’ll make sure of that. Now you’ll always be wondering if I’m going to call you in the middle of the night. And you can tell my stinking brother I know what he’s doing. I’m calling the FBI, the IRS, and the CIA. You are both screwed. April 9, 1:55 a.m. Ana and Jeff, did you think you could go back to sleep? Did you think John would let you alone? I’ll never let you alone. You make me want to puke.
April 9, 10 a.m. Hello, Jeff? Ana? Are you there? It’s Mother calling. Oh, I wish you’d answer. Please pick up the phone. I wanted you to know that I talked to John, and he won’t call you any more. So don’t harass him anymore, either. Oh, I just wish this wasn’t happening. Okay, I guess I’ll hang up since you’re not answering. Good-bye now. April 9, 11 a.m. Hi, Ana. This is Carin at the museum calling to remind you about the scholarship meeting tomorrow at 12:30. See you then.
April 10, 4 a.m. Here I was thinking I was going to fuck someone tonight, but you must have called and cancelled Ginger. Can’t I even get laid, Jeff? You fuck Ana all the time. Why can’t I have a little fun? April 10, 11 a.m. Hi, this is Robert at Guardianship returning your call. I’m sorry, Jeff, that you’re upset. We’re doing the best we can. I’ll be in the office until five p.m. April 10, 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Winston. Please call Calabasas Cardiology as soon as you get this message.
April 10, 2 p.m. Mrs. Winston, this is Rhonda at Calabasas Cardiology. I tried your cell and left a message. Please call us as soon as you get this message. April 10, 2:15 p.m. Hi, Dad. It’s Kim. I know I didn’t talk to you or Mom yesterday, but I had to work late, and then Leo had open house at school. Lisa from across the street said you called because you were worried. I’m fine. Stop worrying. If it makes you feel better, I will keep the alarm on all the time. Call me later. Love you guys. April 10, 2:20 p.m. Mrs. Winston, this is a nurse at Calabasas Cardiology. We’ve been calling you and calling you… Oh, my God, I don’t know what to say… Look, the paramedics had to take Mr. Winston to East Valley Hospital. Don’t bother calling us back. Just get to the hospital as soon as you can. You need to hurry.
-- A former English teacher, Cyndy Muscatel has published many short stories, children’s stories and memoir pieces. She has written for several magazines in the Palm Springs area, specializing in interviewing celebrities, sports figures and politicians. She writes two blogs, A Corner of My Mind and Writing Do’s and Don’ts. Muscatel also teaches creative writing to adults, and is proud that many of them are now published writers. She is working on a memoir, titled Radio Days.