Surprise Caller

Funny how things happen to us sometimes. As for me, I don't get much happening, not living so far out of town, stuck at home all day with a baby to keep. But when something does happen, it sure has the ability to knock your socks off, doesn't it?

I knew that he was in town. He was here for a convention. What I didn't count on though, was him turning up at my house. I wanted more than anything to go to the convention, of course I did, but there was no way that was possible. For one, the tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, so Mrs. Greene from the post office told me- she was on the committee organising the catering, you see. And second, what would I have done with baby Ritchie? There's nobody who'll babysit for cheap in the middle of the day, not when they could be at work earning bags more for their time. And I couldn't have taken him with me, what with the fuss he makes around strangers all the time. So basically, I couldn't go. Sure, I was upset. More than a little. It's not everyday he's in your home town, after all. But instead, I comforted myself with reading one of his books. My favourite, the one about the guy escaping from jail after befriending all the guards. Love that one. Saw the movie too, but it wasn't any good- left too much out, you see. There's a saying that no good book can be a good movie as well, or some such thing like that.

Anyhow, Ritchie had just been napping, and I brought him downstairs in his little sleeper suit. He's just adorable when he first wakes up, balling his little hands into fists, and rubbing his pretty little eyes… I can't believe he's almost a year old now. So, I was just getting him his juice whilst he threw his toys all over the floor, as they do, when I hear a knock on the door. Funny, I think to myself, who could it be at this time in the afternoon, unless Ritchie's daddy is home from work and forgot his keys again. Men always manage to lock themselves out far more than women do, in my (not very wide) experience of them. So I go to the door, picking up my purse on the way, thinking maybe it's one of them charity workers collecting for sick kids or the elderly or something like that. Can't stand it when they beg, me, but I'm happy to donate a couple of quid now and then. It's my bloke's money anyway, because I can't work, not with Ritchie to look after all day long, and there's no way we could afford a childminder, not at those rip-off prices. They must enjoy looking after kids, else they wouldn't choose it as a career, so why they ain't cheap is beyond me. Still, I suppose everyone's got to find a way to make a living. Some folks though, they don't know how to stop taking, do they? So I open the front door, and there he is. In the flesh. The guy who's books I've read like they were the Bible almost since I was old enough not to have nightmares from them.

"Hey there," he says, in his American drawl. "Mind if I use your phone? Car's out of gas, and my cell phone's got no signal all the way out here." Cell phone? Gas? I just love the words they have for them over there.

"Sure," I say, without hesitating. "Come on in." He smiles that dreamy smile at me- the one from the author photo on the inside cover of all his books. Then I step back, and he follows me through into the living room. "Cute kid," he says, looking at Ritchie, and to my embarrassment, Ritchie looks up at him, and starts to cry.

"Don't mind him," I say, shushing the little boy. "He's not used to strangers. We don't get many folks out here to visit."

"You are pretty far out." He says. "Is it just you two?"

"No, no," I say, "there's my man, but he's off working. Won't be back until gone twelve." I pause, whilst he looks around the room. It's messy. There's toys everywhere, laundry in piles on the sofa waiting to be folded and taken upstairs, old coffee mugs congealing on the windowsill. "Pardon the mess." I say quickly, not wanting to put him off being in my home. "I haven't quite had time to get myself together today. Ritchie here's been playing up since this morning." I lie, not wanting him to know my home is permanently in this sort of state.

"I would much rather be in a house which feels lived in." He says, and I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not, but I smile anyway.

"The phone is just through there," I say, pointing to the dinning room, not wanting to make him think I'm some mad old housewife who won't stop jabbering to her guests. I'm always going on at my bloke about how we should use the dinning room and stop eating off our knees in front of that darn box, but I guess it's good that it's never used, because at least it was clean for my famous visitor. "Would you like a hot drink?" I call, as he goes through. "It is rather chilly out there."

"A cup of coffee would be great ma'am." He says, as I hurry to the kitchen to make it. He finishes using the phone, then comes back through for his nice warm drink, telling me it was his agent he had to speak to (and ask to come and fetch him) about how the convention went, how many books he signed, that kind of thing. I ask him how it went, and he tells me fantastic.

"Wish I could have gone." I say, wistfully.

"You're a fan then?" He says, looking at my bookcase lined with books- all by him.

"You could say that." I say, smiling, not sure whether to be embarrassed by this or not. We talk for a bit longer, him telling me about his next book.

"Not out for three more months," He tells me, "but I might have a copy in my car you can have, to thank you for your hospitality." I feel faint. Not only is he in my house, drinking my coffee and chatting to me like he was my old friend, but now he's giving me a book that no other fans of his have even read yet! I tell him thank you, that would be amazing, wonderful, and he laughs and says it's nothing. His agent pulls up outside, and he says goodbye. He tells me it was nice to meet me. Maybe he was just being polite, maybe he thought I was as mad as a hatter, but I don't care. I watch from my porch, holding Ritchie in my arms as his agent fills up his car with petrol- or should that be gas?- from a can. Then his agent get back in his car, and he comes back up waving a book at me. It is brand new, not like any of the others I have. Can't afford new books at seven or eight quid a time, not the amount I read, and besides, why bother when you can get them for a quid down at the second hand shops? He says goodbye, and I say goodbye, then he chucks Ritchie under the chin, and drives away.

It might not sound like much to you, but that's about the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me. Perhaps I'm just sad, lonely, easily pleased.

I flip open the book he gave to me, and find it's signed. "To a very kind woman," it says "best wishes, Stephen King."