portion of the artwork for Tiff Holland's fiction

Tiff Holland

I can hear the phone ringing as I slip the key in the lock. I’ve been staying with Mom since Matt and I separated. I’m balancing groceries. I set the bags down in the hall, head for the kitchen.

“Hello?” I answer, out of breath.

“Ha, ha, Chrissie.” My grandmother’s husky voice.

“Oh, hi, Gram,” I answer. I can hear a radio in the background.

“Have you been listening?”

“To what?” I stretch the cord, grab the bags, start putting the groceries away.


On the other end Gram turns the radio up. The voice sounds familiar but I can't place it. After a moment, Gram guffaws loudly on the other end of the line.

“What is it, Gram?”

“Can't you tell, child?” Gram asks. “Matt Jones is on Dial-a-Date.”

“Wha …?!” It does sound like his voice, only tinny and far away. I can feel my throat tighten.

“You OK?” Gram asks.

“What channel?” Everything actually looks red.

“Now …” Gram tries to calm me down.

“What channel?!!”

“WKXY.” Her voice softens. “Now, you know he’s a fool, child.”

“Goodbye, Gram.” I drop the phone trying to hang it up. I get tangled in the cord. Finally, I kick it across the room. There’s a radio on the sill. I take it down and flip the dial until I hear his voice.

It’s Matt Jones telling the greater Akron area about my alleged infidelities.

“She can suck a golf ball through a garden hose,” Matt is telling the announcer, who quickly shushes him and breaks for a commercial. I start shaking for what seems like forever. Then the commercial is over. The announcer asks Matt to introduce himself to the listening audience.

“Well,” Matt starts, “I'm five-six, sandy hair, green eyes.”

I hear myself snort. Matt is only five-four, five-five tops. What do I care what he says? Who listens to this, anyway?

“We have a caller,” the announcer says. “Do you want a date with Matthew?”

“Oh, yes,” says the voice, all sex and promise.

He is such an ass. “You’ll be sorry,” I warn the caller as I wipe at my face. How long have I been crying?

“Introduce yourself, caller, and tell us where you're from.”

“My name is Ann from Ellet.”

Shit. It’s Mom! She must be calling from her beauty shop. Her voice. He’ll know … I sit up. Mom’s middle name is Ann. Her first name is Betty.

“Say hello to Matthew, Ann,” the announcer instructs.

“Hello, Ann,” Mom says, still syrupy.

“You’re Ann,” he corrects her. “Now say hello to Matthew.”

She tries again. “Hello, Matthew, honey,” she says, stretching it out, her voice still dripping. It’s the “honey” that does it. How can he not know?

“Hello, Ann.” He pauses, sounding confused.

“Ha!” I shout.

As if he could hear me, he continues, “Oh my God, it’s my mother-in-law.”

The announcer jumps on “mother-in-law,” challenges Matt. “I thought you were divorced.”

“We’re separated.”

“Hmmm …” The announcer is quiet for a moment. “Is that true?” he asks Mom.

“Oh, yes, and let me tell you …” Her voices rises and then there’s a second of dead air. The announcer has cut her off. Again, he goes to commercial. I can imagine the women in the beauty shop, hooting, cackling. The globes of the dryers lifted up so the women under them can hear, scissors stopped mid-snip. I swear to never step foot in the shop again. Then the show is back.

“OK, let’s start again.” The announcer recognizes there’s an opportunity here. “Introduce yourself, Matt.”

“OK, my name is Matt. I’m separated. I’m five-four with sandy hair …”

“Wait, a minute ago you were five-six! What are you, the incredible shrinking man?”

Matt sputters.

“If you want a date, you have to tell the truth!” the announcer admonishes. “Now, do you really have sandy hair?”

“Yes.” Matt sounds tired. “And green eyes.” The announcer asks for more callers. Only one other woman calls in. They chat for a few minutes, but when the announcer asks if she’d like a date she says, “No, I think I’ll pass.”

“Sorry, man,” the announcer tells Matt. “Maybe next time.” There’s a levity in the guy’s voice that belies his condolences. Then another caller is up, looking for a date, a woman who says she’s just like Cyndi Lauper, she just wants to have fun.

For once, Mom comes home from the shop early. She flips off the radio just as the announcer is telling Matt to try another time. Mom doesn’t care about the groceries still sitting on the counter, the sugar I dropped on the floor. She gathers me up.

“Come on, we’re going to Gram’s. She’s got the whole thing on tape,” Mom says.

In the car, Mom turns on the radio, wags her cigarette in tempo, checks her lipstick while she steers, things that usually drive me nuts.

“We're taking off the gloves now,” Mom tells me, laughing. I know she’s thinking about her own air time. I stare out the window wondering who might have heard. Who do I know who listens to Dial-a-Date?

“I hope you’ll forget about him now,” Mom says, sucking hard on her Marlboro. Why did he do it? He knows I was faithful, if only physically—and that golf ball thing!

Later, Gram and Mom play the tape over and over, rewinding and laughing, and I slip away. I drive to the high school and run laps in the gym the way I used to after basketball practice. After nine or ten, my stomach pulls itself up through my ribs and I slip off to the locker room and puke, go back, empty, but comforted by the sound of my high tops slapping against the wood.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 31 | Winter 2011