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The police were always at our building, shaking down suspects, and belting out questions. Where did you get the drugs? Why did you leave the scene of the accident? He said you started it, and hit him first.
Grownups are really stupid. Always barking about us kids, when they’re the ones lighting up the ghetto. Why not party like me and my friends, dishing out crank calls?
When the phone rings, we’re that menace looking to rat you out. Posing as the police, teachers, the parent of a chick you have the hots for. By the time your mama hangs up, she’s in a twist. That’s when we call back, and go on laughing.
Rainy day mischief meant random pizza deliveries, calling in taxis for the lady down the street. Hooting in the hallways as traffic piled up, horns honked their brains out, confused pizza boys rang the bells of empty houses.
Once the sun broke us free, we’d sneak off to the pool at Rockaway Gardens. Most folks at that apartment complex didn’t swim. So friggin’ old, they didn’t do anything, except sit around and complain. Others played cards and dominos, unfazed by the hooligans splashing around.
Our clowning and jeers always shook the super out from his office. Or was it one of my buddies with a cell phone? Either way, some fat guy chomping a cheap cigar would appear waving a folded newspaper as if we were flies. He’d chase our tails, and threaten to call the cops. Boo him. The police around here don’t respond to this kind of chaos.
Later on we started goofing about the prank calls. The one with the taxi cabs came to mind, spitting up another round of laughs.
“That’s not funny. Those guys work on commission and tips, plus they pay for their own gas. You start running them around, it’s a waste of time. We need that money to live,” Kevin Callahan said. His old man drove a cab on the graveyard shift for Apollo Taxi.
Kevin Callahan was a cry baby who needed to loosen up. I thought he was a phoney and a mooch who I never liked. Kevin only tagged along when his so-called real friends left him behind. And once they reappeared, he’d ditch us like days-old fish. Boo him too.
That night was my turn to place a funny call. Something to brag about and dare the bobcats to step up and beat.
After midnight, I left my bed to use the bathroom and the phone. I snuck into the parlor, and dialed the number for Apollo Taxi. I also punched star-six-seven on the keypad before the digits in case those stooges had caller ID.
I slurred and slowed my speech just like a drunk. The bartender announced last call at Barney’s Pub, and I needed a lift home. The dispatcher bought my act and told me ten minutes. I hung up, muttered sucker under my breath, and returned to bed.
When I woke up, I learned Kevin’s dad was killed by a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Mr. Callahan had responded to a phantom call, what the cabbies call a goose. Barney’s Pub told the cops nobody called a cab, fueling their investigation. The phone company jumped in the game, handing over the call records from both Apollo Taxi and Barney’s Pub.
That’s when the police showed up to the building and knocked on our door. The detectives had questions for me and my family. One of them was who called Apollo Taxi in the middle of the night.
Phil is a fiction writer from northern New Jersey, right outside New York City.