“Call of Terror”

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ARGENTINA Through Harold’s Lens:

Auburn, New York
4:12 am.
January 9, 1955.

The brass ringer bell on our rotary phone screams and screams and screams outside my bedroom door.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

I’m in deep sleep.

Ring. Ring Ring.

I am only 14.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Old enough to know only bad comes with a call in the black of night.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

I’m into horror movies.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

I am terrified.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Slapping bare feet rip down the wooden hallway.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Total silence.

A mind-piercing scream rips through my bedroom door. I leap from my sheets. I tear open my door. I’m face to face with my Mother. Wracking in tears. Sucking for air. Eyes wide with terror.

“Maudie”, Mom gasps. The hospital. Her five-month old daughter. Dead. I wrap my arms around Mom’s heaving, sagging shoulders. Mom and I cry.

Please Lord. There is an order to birth. An order to death. Our children are not to die first.

A jet black old rotary in an antique store in Buenos Aires evokes a 50 year old painful memory of an ice cold January morning in upstate New York and the value of life.

12 responses

  1. It seems trite to mention it after such a personal story; as a young boy I had a most vivid dream about a black rotary phone. It was sitting on a wooden chair in our bathroom, it was night time, the lights were on and the phone was ringing. No one seemed to notice but me, and it seemed that no one else was in the house. The sound of it ringing chilled me to the bone.
    What made the dream all the more bizarre was that we did not have a phone in our house.


  2. Thanks to all of you who viewed my “Black Rotary Phone” image and read my story “Call Of Terror”.

    Some of you have been so kind as to send me private emails asking if it would be too painful to elaborate on this story. Yes, I can expand on any of my posts. The good. The bad. The ugly. The beautiful. The funny. The painful. I have found that they are all a part of life and foundation bricks in building character.

    It is much easier for me to post my elaboration to the true story of “Call Of Terror” rather than send a host of private emails.

    “Call Of Terror” takes place in the bitter ice cold winter of January 9, 1955. It is the very black of night. 4:12 a.m. The rotary phone in my story is located on the 3rd floor among all the bedrooms inside our warm home filled with children, in the little town of Auburn, New York on the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.

    My sister’s real name is Maud Nye Metcalf.

    Maudie, as we called her, was Mom and Dad’s 8th child. Mom had three sons first, (I am #2), then four daughters. All seven of us were brunettes or blonds. Mom had always wanted a redhead. Maudie was her dream redhead! But, Maudie was born with a very enlarged heart. It covered about 1/2 her chest. Maudie only lived 5 months. She spent most of her brief life in and out of the hospital intensive care unit. She came home a few times. In 1955, I had my first camera and took the only photos of Maudie. Maudie was back in intensive care the morning that Mom got her “Call Of Terror”. This painful memory surfaces whenever I see a rotary telephone.

    On behalf of my little sister Maudie, I personally thank all of you for your warm personal


  3. Poor Nina. During her last summer, when Bart and I visited her in Beaufort, Roslyn and I came across the scrapbook she put together about Maudie, from the birth announcements to the golf ball-themed Christmas card that year to the sympathy notes. MAN, was that sad. Just awful. I can’t imagine the pain she and Grandpa Butch felt.


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