The Telephone Bill [Guest Post]

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Also, the girl in the story being named Sarah is purely a coincidence 🙂

“This is bloody unacceptable!” The bellowing voice was so sudden for the secretary that he almost dropped the PDA from his hands.

“I do not pay these goddamn good-for-nothings to talk over the phone and waste my money! I cannot afford these huge telephone bills. Look at all these numbers. And take a look at this one … who the hell has got this one?!”

The voice belonged to a man who had never taken anything in his life for granted. Born in a lower middle class family as an orphan with seven siblings, he had left his studies early to work and support his family.

Starting as a labor at a car parts manufacturer in his teenage, he had taken the higher path to become a small owner of his own company in the same industry, with a staff of 18 employees. Now pushing 60, he had grown a beard (which had nothing to do with religion) and was almost bald headed.

Gawky, with a short height, he was the sort who would not take no for an answer. If something was to be done then well … it had to be done. By hook or by crook. That had been the modus operandi and the formula of success throughout his life.

Today was no exception.

At the moment, he was not only angry but abusive over the telephone bill in his hands. He had called in his secretary and was now demanding answers.

The secretary leaned over the boss’s shoulder and fixed his eyes, first, on the paper the boss was holding, and then on the middle finger placed on that paper right underneath a cellular phone number. Middle, because the index finger got chopped off as a result of a drunken night. But that was another story. He can not be thinking about it right now. What he needed to do at the moment, as it seemed obvious by the choice of words by the boss, was to look concerned. The tone did the rest.

Before he could mutter anything, the voice bellowed again.

“I need everyone who has access to this damned telephone right now in my office!”

Very wisely, the secretary did not waste another second to march out of the room to fulfill the order.

As soon as the little group of ‘suspects’ filled the room, the proceedings began. The secretary took the job of dialing the cursed cellular phone number, in order to find out whom it belongs to. As soon as the first bell rang on the other side, the call was put on the speaker so that the boss can listen. Nobody noticed a pair of hands, having bright red nail polish on the nails, fiddling with a pencil in nervousness.

It was 09:37 am. The voice that answered the call was male, heavy, and sleepy.


“Yes … hello. Who is this speaking?” The secretary tried to sound as polite as possible.

“Who are YOU speaking? You called ME. Who do you want to talk to?” The voice had an obvious crankiness to its tone.

“I’m calling from CS&W. I just needed to know if you are associated with us. Are you?” The secretary could not remember any other moment in his life when he sounded more polite than this.

“Well, no, I am not.” The reply raised some eyebrows.

“In that case, do you know anyone who works here, sir?”

“Yeah, a friend of mine works over there.”

The secretary looked at the boss, as if asking for that final nod which would lead to the final blow. Needless to say, he got it instantly.

“May I know the name of your friend, sir?”

The pair of hands which was nervously fiddling with the pencil earlier, was now getting its nail bitten.


And with that, the word ‘suspects’ reduced to the singular form.

“He is lying. I do not even know this guy.” A female voice was heard in the room, not needing a second guess as to whom it belonged to.

“Oh, hey Saaru. How are you? What’s happening?” The male voice on the phone said.

“Stop it! I’m not some Saaru. You are making it up.” The female voice was shaking a bit now.

“Man! What the hell is going on? Is this some kind of a joke or a prank you’re pulling on me Saaru? You know, it’s not a really good time. I was sleeping dammit!”

The secretary had all the experience to know this was the time to take control again. He spoke immediately.

“We are sorry Mr. …”

“Ahsan. The name’s Ahsan.”

“Yeah, we are sorry Mr. Ahsan for disturbing you while you were sleeping. Actually, we got a really heavy telephone bill this month and we are trying to track down unnecessary calls made from our office. Your number seems to be leading the list by quite some margin.” The secretary had a business-like tone now.

There was silence for a few seconds on the other line, followed by,

“Ohh! Oooo! So .. erm .. errr .. should I stick to saying I’m friends with Sarah or should I deny it?”

Unlike the fiddling of the pencil or the biting of the nails, which went unnoticed, the sound of the pencil getting broken was loud enough for everyone present in the room.


 This post was written by  © Sumair Aftab on March 29th, 2008



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