Fiction from The Future: “The Prank Caller” by Will Musgrove

The Future:

The Prank Caller

Door flopping like an unknotted robe, Mrs. Robinson’s refrigerator sprinted past my living room window. Two human-esque legs powered the appliance down the street. The screams on the other line faded, and a few seconds later Mrs. Robinson herself zoomed by, collecting her milk and eggs as she gave chase. I hung up the phone. Somehow, I’d developed a superpower. I could bring prank phone calls to life.

That night, a helicopter landed on my lawn. Government agents spilled out of the chopper and ordered me outside. I refused to go with them until one of the agents handed me a can. It was Prince Albert, trapped too long.

“You could go away for a long time,” the agent said.

I had no choice.

Wasn’t like I was doing anything with my life.

Have you ever been so bored you got in your car and drove to the big-box store in your area (in this case, Walmart), where you’d wander under the fluorescent lights looking at cheap crap you don’t need but buy anyway? I made this trip at least once a day. It served two purposes: as a time killer and as a metaphor for my life.

I lived in Podunk. I worked a dead-end job at a gas station. I shifted between two states of being: bored and more bored. That was why I liked prank calls. Unlike watching television or surfing the internet or those wasteful trips to Wally-World, prank calls felt like you could be anyone, could do anything. Imagine, dial, and believe. Prank callers are dreamers. I was a dreamer.

Now, I was a member of a black-ops unit.

What was I doing?

World peace.

Using a clandestine red phone, I dialed a totalitarian government. The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General So-and-So, whispered each secret number into my ear. “I think I hear you being overthrown,” I said to the dictator on the other line. “You better go check.” Through the receiver: mumbling, chanting. I waited for the punchline, but General So-and-So hung up the phone before whispering to me a new string of digits.

Fresh democracies sprouted across the globe. At least that was what I was told. My own government kept me hostage in an underground bunker, fearful of what would happen if word of my abilities leaked to the public. “You’re safer here,” guards would say, leading me back to my phone-free room. I wasn’t allowed to deviate from their script, to be anything but what they wanted me to be. They’d turned prank phone calls into a job, into paperwork—oh god, the boring paperwork.

To remedy this, I swiped the Secretary of Defense’s cell phone and pranked our Commander and Chief.

“Look out the window. I think I see compassion out there on the Rose Garden. You better go catch it.”

I was freed. John Lennon’s “Imagine” rang out. Planet Earth came together as one. At my award ceremony, the president, pinning a medal to my chest, claimed he wept when he gazed out at the Rose Garden, at my prank. Everyone celebrated, but I was ready to get back to prank calling, real prank calling.

Soon, however, I was asked to call Monsanto to end world hunger. I called hedge fund after hedge fund to end corporate greed. I called OPEC to end pollution. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. People had me prank call them to help find their misplaced keys. “You better check your coat pocket. I hear jingling.” People had me prank call them to help decide what they should have for dinner. “Uh, I don’t know. How about hamburgers?” Even when I prank called people the old-fashioned way, they’d laugh and thank me for all I’ve done. Is a prank call still a prank call if the person thanks you after?

I was everyone.

I did everything.

But I’d lost what I loved: prank phone calls, real prank phone calls.

The anonymity.

The thrill.

The inkling of belief that if you looked out the window you might see a refrigerator running down the street before checking and remembering it was all a joke.

That’s why I’m prank calling myself. From a landline, I dial my cell number. I answer and put my cell phone up to my other ear, trading a life full of empty plenty for one full of hopeful boredom.

“Remember when you could dream?”

The words echo in my ear, and I’m inside Walmart examining a Friends coffee mug and practicing the voice I’ll use to prank call Mrs. Robinson when I get home.

Will Musgrove is a writer and journalist from Northwest Iowa. He received an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in TIMBER, The McNeese Review, Oyez Review, Tampa Review, Vestal Review, and elsewhere. Connect on Twitter at @Will_Musgrove or


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