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Short Stories by Max Oberon

Smart Phone; Dumb Life

It was dinner time in the Flannery household and Megan was nowhere to be found. “Have you checked the bathroom?” Meg’s mother Sue asked her husband John.

“Yes dear, and her bedroom, the rumpus and the lounge. I’ll call her cell phone.”

“Don’t bother John, she never answers calls from us, I’ll text her, that’s sure to get her attention.”

Three minutes later Meg stormed in, “What’s the big rush?”

“Your dinner’s going cold dear and it’s your favourite lamb roast. Where were you anyway?”

Meg was eighteen now and didn’t see why she should be interrogated every minute of the day, but not wanting another family row, she calmed down, “I was sitting in my car talking with Jimmy.”

“Is he here too?” asked her dad as they sat down at the dinner table.

“Don’t be stupid dad, we were texting each other!”

“Why don’t you just talk to him, that’s what girls and boys did in my day,” said a bewildered John.

“In your day dinosaurs still wandered around, you need to come out of the dark ages Dad,” said Meg checking her phone screen to see if any messages had come in during the past thirty seconds.

“But you have to be able to communicate normally with people, you can’t just go through life staring at that damn phone screen. Humans have to interact with each other, it’s what makes us civilised.”

Sensing this was rapidly deteriorating into yet another family argument, Sue attempted to blind side the rapidly forming storm clouds. “Tell us about your new boyfriend sweetie, do you know him from school?”

“It’s called a university mother, I’m no longer a silly schoolgirl as you used to say, I’m eighteen and a grown up now.” Meg pronounced as her text message alert sounded. Putting down her knife and fork, she picked up the device, flipped open the cover and proceeded to read the text.

“Can’t you turn that damn thing off for just fifteen minutes whilst we enjoy a nice family dinner?” said an exasperated John.

With that, Meg rose from the table and walked out of the room never lifting her face from the screen. “What are we going to do with her?” John asked his wife.

“It’s just how things are these days dear, everyone’s connected all the time.”

“Well it’s not right, I saw a family of four kids and a mother in the airport the other day, each of the kids had a tablet. Even the mother was glued to the latest Samsung, none of them were talking to each other, hell Sue, these were kids under ten the lot of them and no one was talking or joking or playing a stupid ‘eye spy’ game, nothing.”

“It’s important for young people to become tech savvy these days John, it’s no good fighting it, you just have to go with the flow.”

“People should learn that there are times when the phone should be off, parents interacting with their kids is important, isn’t that how family values are passed down and ideas shared?”

“It’s all on the net now dear. Just yesterday I read on Facebook about how one mother had invented an app that could directly link family members so that family type information could be quickly and easily broadcast to just the members by a speaking message.”

“I give up”, said John rising from the table. “I want to make it a rule in the home that when we sit down for a meal together we don’t bring our phones and we actually talk.”

“Good luck with that one Dear,” said Sue as her text message alert went off.

Meg was excited by her new boyfriend Zack, he was a builder’s apprentice and earned a decent wage, well, decent for a twenty-one year old, but once he had finished his training he could earn really good money. Zack had told her that he was going to buy one of those really fast utility vehicles that all the cool kids had. Meg had already decided she would keep this boy happy, even if she had to do that thing she didn’t really like to do to a boy, but Zac was cute and sent her really naughty messages. If her dad could only see some of the things he texts to her, he’d go wild, silly old sod.

‘Do you want to get together later, maybe have some fun?’ Meg texted to Zack who was sitting with a couple of his mates watching a football game.

“That your new squeeze?” Wazza asked Zack spitting bits from his mouthful of pizza.

“Sure is, she has the best body and such a gentle mouth,” responded Zack with an explicit demonstration.

‘Sure thing babe,’ was the text Zack sent back to Meg feeling his body stiffen.

‘Let’s say thirty minutes, I’ve got an early class tomorrow so can’t be late,’ Meg speedily typed.

‘Do you want to go park somewhere or shall I come round to your place?’ was the reply punched into the keys by Zack.
‘Can’t come here, the old man is home, can I come to yours?’

“Hey guys how about I get the little princess around and she can get down and dirty and you can watch from the other room?” said a sleazy Zack.

“I got me one of them Go Pro cameras. I could set it up over there on the cupboard top and we could get a real good view of the sofa,” said Billy as the three of them burst out laughing.

‘Sure thing babe, see you in thirty,’ went the reply.

Meg strode into the kitchen where her mother was clearing up the dishes, “I’m going out for a couple of hours.”

“But Meg dear, you have a class first thing, shouldn’t you be making an early night of it and get some good rest, maybe have a hot bath and take it easy for a change?” said Sue to her disinterested daughter.

“Mum I really like this guy, you know, I think he could be the one. Hang on,” said Meg reading the latest text to arrive, ‘Bring some beer’ was all it said ‘Will do,’ she replied.

“What does he do dear?”

“He’s doing a trade, he’s going to be a builder and build mansions and office blocks and even shopping centres.”

“Can you bring him round sometime so we can meet him? You know dad likes to meet any young men you are seeing.”

“I don’t think he would like Zack too much, dad’s always telling me I need to find a nice young man from university who comes from a good family.”

“Your dad is just concerned for your wellbeing Meg, we were young once you know and we haven’t forgotten some of the things that go on.”

“Well I think dad must have had embalming fluid in his baby bottle, he’s so uptight and no fun.”

“Meg dear once you become a parent …hang on, It’s Jackie, I’ll just get this I won’t be a minute,” said Sue as her cell started ringing.

Another text arrived on Meg’s phone, ‘and some Nacho chips and salted peanuts.’

‘No worries, I’m on my way, be ready for me.’

‘Sure thing babe, already am – smiley face’ was the reply.
“When she gets here you guys keep out of the way okay, no laughing or making rude sounds from the next room, I don’t want to spoil the experience if you know what I mean,” pronounced Zack to his mates.
“Maybe we could share in the experience, once you have finished that is,” suggested Billy with Wazza nodding agreement.

“I’ll see if she’s up for it when I’m done.”

“Maybe we could play a little tying up game, you know, just for fun, do you think she’ll be up for that?” said Wazza feeling flushed at the thought of actually getting to play with a real female rather than being handy with an imagined one.

“Easy boys, she’s a real looker and I don’t want to scare her off, I’ll see what she says, after I’m done okay. Anyway, if she says no you’ll be able to take care of each other as you replay the video.”

“That could work” said Billy. ”Bugger off” said Wazza.

“Good choice of words Wazza,” they all laughed.

Meg decided she couldn’t wait for her mother to finish the call as she wanted to get going. Besides her mother was deeply engrossed in a conversation about what she should wear to the coffee shop after tomorrow’s yoga class, it looked like it would be a long phone call. After a quick look on Facebook, she flipped her phone cover closed, went and kissed her mom on the cheek and headed for the door. Meg was about to shout out goodbye to her dad, but thought better of it as she knew he would give her some sort of lecture. Anyway, he was still reading that stupid book about personal development crap.

Jim Watson had spent the past twenty four years as a professional truck driver and had worked his way up and now owned his own chrome covered, shiny new Kenworth Prime Mover and three trailers. The trip from Melbourne to Brisbane is a long one at almost two thousand kilometres and if he could just keep going for another couple of hours, he would be home with his childhood sweetheart in time for a late dinner. Jim would be nudging close to his maximum fourteen hour driving period but the coffee he had picked up at his thirty minute stop had given him an alertness boost which he felt sure would see him home.

Megan hadn’t driven too much at night since getting her license but she felt okay as she reminded herself that she was now an old hand with almost six months experience to her name. Backing out her little Toyota she fastened her seat belt and placed her phone within easy reach. Megan had been taught to drive mostly by her dad who had been a real pain always going on about safe distances and speed limits. Didn’t he know that young people have much better reaction times than old people like him, anyway all her friends knew it was stupid to leave so much space from the car in front, some other car would just jump into it and fill the gap.

As she drove towards the highway Megan decided that the radio station she was listening to must have got trapped in a time warp as it was all old stuff from the nineties. It was only about ten kilometres down the highway but she needed some good tunes to listen to so as she gathered speed to join the highway, she decided to find a better radio station. A quick look at the phone, no new texts or Facebook alerts, where were all her friends tonight, press a few buttons on the radio, ah, there was something decent to listen to. Safely on the highway now and travelling only fifteen kilometres per hour over the limit, she’d be at the exit in about ten minutes, a quick trip to the bottle shop and then another five minutes round to Zack’s. Oh Zack, he was so handsome and worldly wise, he’d even been to Bali and was going back later in the year with his mates, maybe he would take her, as long as she kept him happy.

Jim heard on the two way that there was extensive road works ahead and one of his mates heading down the highway in the opposite direction thought he’d be up for about a ten minutes delay. Jim just turned up the Country Music on his radio and sat back to deal with whatever delay presented itself, ‘no use getting upset’ he said to himself.

Megan could see a few vehicles in the distance, where was everyone going this time of the evening and why were they all going so slow? ‘I’ll just whip past them and they’ll be surprised at what a good driver can do. Another text, what did he want now?’ she thought picking up her phone with her left hand. ‘Cigarettes’ it read, ‘American ones …like last time.’

Jim had slowed his truck down from the one hundred and ten speed limit and was down to forty now as the bright flashing neon sign showed, he could also see the flashing blue police lights way ahead near where the road work action was and knew that sometimes they waved the speed camera around in these zones. Jim hadn’t had a ticket in over ten years and he certainly didn’t want one this close to home. Anyway it looked like the traffic up ahead had stopped to let some heavy machinery do whatever it was doing.

Some of Meg’s friends were good at one hand texting, but she still needed both, taking her right hand off the wheel she was thinking of some smart reply about ‘anything else as I’m almost there’, when something from her subconscious spiked into her brain and told her to look up.

Jim’s truck was sparkling and new, the tyres polished and there wasn’t a mark on it, until now. The Toyota slamming into the back of the rear trailer at one hundred and twenty five kilometres per hour made a hefty bang that was felt all the way up in the cab. The only thing that stopped it going straight under the truck and cutting off the car from the dashboard up was the heavy crash bar hanging down from the rear of the trailer to prevent such an eventuality. But even so, there wasn’t much left of the little blue car. With a police car only two hundred metres away at the road works, the emergency crew were alerted and into action very quickly, but not quickly enough for poor Megan.

As the paramedic sifted through the carnage of what was so recently a beautiful, vibrant young woman with her whole life ahead, he spotted what was disturbingly familiar at such road crashes. Reaching over the bloody mangled mess he picked up Megan’s smart phone and handed it to the female police officer standing shaking her head. “Texting” was all the paramedic said. “Will these kids never learn?” said the officer fighting to hold back tears brought forth by another wasted young life.

The End

Copyright © 2016 Max Oberon

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