“Hello? You still there?” Pete pulled the phone from his ear and stared at the display. It was dead.
“No, no, no! This can’t be happening!” Pete ripped through his bag, searching for the one thing that might make everything okay, but to no avail. The charging cable wasn’t there.
“Fuck!” he cried, drawing stares from several women walking their grocery carts across the street.
“There’s got to be one around here somewhere...” he murmured as he started up the street. Taquerias, Jewelry stores, restaurants; none of them had what he needed. He had to get her back on the line. He couldn’t leave things like that, not without knowing what she’d said.
He ran. Sweat poured down his arms, lubricating his hands. His phone slipped, for just a moment, tumbling through the air towards the sewers, but he caught it, just in the nick of time.
“God, that was almost game over,” he cursed. In the age of technology knowing things for you, he never knew her number. He’d passed her the phone and she put it in. When he called her, or she called him, he only saw her name. He wasn’t sure she even had a number. Numbers were so retro.
“There!” He panted, out of breath. He spied a lonely-looking cell-phone shop.
BEEEEEEEP! Pete looked up just in time to see the cab’s lights surround him. Like a deer in the headlights, he froze. Like a deer in the headlights, he got hit. His body tumbled over the hood and up the windshield until the car slammed to a screeching halt, rolling Pete back down to the ground.
“Jesus Christ, are you okay? Oh God, please let this man be okay...” The driver was out of the car and onto Pete before Pete knew he’d hit the ground. All he really knew was that he was being dragged.
“Please, God, not again…” the driver whimpered.
“What the fuck?” Pete asked groggily, but got no response. He closed his eyes again.
He woke in pain. It wasn’t his battered body, though he’d feel that later; it wasn’t even his dead cell phone wracking his mind, though he hadn’t forgotten. No, it was the chicken sitting on his chest and pecking his face.
“Gettoffame!” he waved at the bird, his arm moving as uncoordinated as his speech. The chicken dodged the brush-off but hopped down, just the same.
“Sir, you were hit. Please lie still, and stop swatting at my chicken” intoned a serious-looking man from behind a counter. Pete saw the shelves behind the man, lined with fresh in-the-box cell phones: pay dirt. All he really needed, though, was a cable, or a fresh battery. A new phone was worthless since he didn’t know her number.
“I will not lie still. This is an emergency!” Pete opened his hand and saw that he was still clutching the phone in a death-grip. “This phone. I need a cable or a battery. Now.”
“This phone? Sir, this phone is two years old. Nobody still has cables for it, much less batteries.” The clerk tsked and set the phone on the counter. Pete narrowed his eyes and read the clerk’s name-tag: Rudy.
“Yes, Rudy, this phone! Are you telling me that there aren’t any other phones that use the same cable? It’s a matter of life or death, man!”
“No, sir. Your phone uses the old standard. Right after its release, all of the companies, including this one’s, switched to the new standard. I couldn’t find a cable for this phone if my life depended on it.”
Rudy looked far more annoyed than Pete felt he deserved. Pete was the one who just got hit by a fucking car. Pete was the one whose life was going to be over if he didn’t get that fucking cable. Pete needed to incentivize a solution.
He picked up the chicken.
“Look, asshole, a life does depend on it, like I already said. I don’t know why you have a chicken in here, it seems kind of unsanitary and it was pecking my fucking face off, but I don’t really care. You’ve got a shop full of cables, find one that fits.”
“Sir, I already said I do not have that cable. And please, put down my chicken. It’s my daughter’s and it’s sick. It may have bird flu.”
“Make it work,” Pete said, thrusting the chicken at Rudy, “or else.”
“Sir, are you threatening my chicken?”
“No, Rudy,” Pete said, suddenly calm. “I’m threatening you. The chicken is just a prop.”
“A prop?” Rudy narrowed his eyes.
“A prop. Make my phone work. Now. Or I’ll be very upset. If I get very upset, I’ll do something like this...” Pete put his hand around the chicken’s neck and twisted the head clean off. There was a slight popping sound and blood began to spurt, turning the white chicken red. Little specks of blood covered Pete’s face and clothes but he didn’t blink. He tossed the limp head at Rudy, curled his lip and finished his threat: “...to you. I don’t think the chicken’s going to recover from its flu.”
Rudy screamed in disgust. “You’re crazy! Get out of my store! Now! I’m calling the police!”
Pete thrust his phone at Rudy. “Go ahead. Call them. Use my phone. Use only my phone.”
Rudy slapped the phone out of Pete’s hands and pulled a gun from behind the counter. Shakily, he aimed it at Pete’s face.
“Just go!” Rudy cried, his eyes stinging from tears and sweat.
Pete roared as he leapt at the gun, taking it easily from Rudy’s hand.
“I said,” Pete murmured as he turned the gun on Rudy, “or else.” He pulled the trigger twice and set the gun on the counter. As Rudy fell, the poster behind him revealed: E-Z SIM card transfer! Keep all your contacts!
Pete leapt over the counter, grabbed the nearest box and ripped it open. He opened his phone and put the card in the new phone, then turned it on and waited while the dancing lights did their thing.
He had voicemail.
Pete listened anxiously to the voicemail; it was her voice, steady and even as always.
“A gallon of 2% milk. Not that fat-free shit or the soy crap. 2%. And ho-hos. And don’t take too long.”
Tears brimmed from his eyes. He knew she wanted 2%. He was right.