Wind Telephone

Donna Steiner

Wind Telephone

Donna Steiner

Japanese survivors of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 visit a local garden where a man has installed an old-fashioned phone booth. He uses it to contact his dead cousin; others travel miles to phone their lost relatives. It’s a rotary phone, and most visitors actually dial a number. Many speak out loud to their dead. They share mundane things, little updates that sew a life together. I got a promotion, it rained today, the kids are doing well in school. They call it the wind telephone, a reference to the lack of cables, the prayer that voices will be transmitted through open air.

Whenever I called my mother, she’d say “I was just about to call you.” When I called my father, he might slur a little, having popped open a beer, regardless of the time of day. If I could call them on the wind telephone, I’d say fall is in the air; the trees are starting to turn orange. I’d tell my mother I bought a new book; I’d tell my father something about the basketball team. Maybe I’d tell him that a pigeon just flew over, remind him of the coop he’d had in the backyard when I was a kid. Maybe I’d describe to my mother the flowers, cosmos and chrysanthemum. Like the other visitors, soon I’d grow quiet, look up at the sky, hold the receiver close. “Okay, well, I’ll talk to you soon,” I’d whisper. Hang up the phone, head home, wonder how my dead will find my new number when they decide, finally, to call back.

“Wind Telephone” appears in Flock 21: Vanishing Point.

Japanese survivors of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 visit a local garden where a man has installed an old-fashioned phone booth. He uses it to contact his dead cousin; others travel miles to phone their lost relatives. It’s a rotary phone, and most visitors actually dial a number. Many speak out loud to their dead. They share mundane things, little updates that sew a life together. I got a promotion, it rained today, the kids are doing well in school. They call it the wind telephone, a reference to the lack of cables, the prayer that voices will be transmitted through open air.

Whenever I called my mother, she’d say “I was just about to call you.” When I called my father, he might slur a little, having popped open a beer, regardless of the time of day. If I could call them on the wind telephone, I’d say fall is in the air; the trees are starting to turn orange. I’d tell my mother I bought a new book; I’d tell my father something about the basketball team. Maybe I’d tell him that a pigeon just flew over, remind him of the coop he’d had in the backyard when I was a kid. Maybe I’d describe to my mother the flowers, cosmos and chrysanthemum. Like the other visitors, soon I’d grow quiet, look up at the sky, hold the receiver close. “Okay, well, I’ll talk to you soon,” I’d whisper. Hang up the phone, head home, wonder how my dead will find my new number when they decide, finally, to call back.

“Wind Telephone” appears in Flock 21: Vanishing Point.

Donna Steiner’s writing has been published in literary journals including Brevity, The Sun, Fourth River, Under the Gum Tree, and Stone Canoe. She teaches creative writing at the State University of New York in Oswego.