It Goes Both Ways

It Goes Both Ways

A Story by Piper Sullivan

Burned bridges and phone booth ponderings.


"Your mother's dead." I could hear him breathing on the other end of the phone, as if he had ran halfway across Manhattan just to tell me this. He hadn't. It happened four days ago; I read about it in the newspaper long before my family saw fit to tell me.


"Why did you call me this morning?" I said, chipping at the plum polish on my nail. I never answer my cell phone.


"Your mother is dead," he said. Each word was pronounced with more space between than was necessary, like I wouldn't understand it otherwise. At least he wasn't screaming.


"I know."


There was a pause. He was piecing something together, like the puzzles he had loved to assemble when I was young. He would scatter the pieces on the dining room table according to size, shape and color, slowly working his way from the outside, in. I stole one once, knowing with pleasure that his puzzle would never be complete without it. "The funeral is tomorrow at seven."


"In the morning?"


"Don't f**k with me!" His voice rose and just as quickly shrunk back. He hissed through his teeth and I pulled the phone away from my ear to dull the noise. It was an innocent enough question, wasn't it? "You just…" he sighed. " 72 East 1st Street. She would have wanted you to come." The last sentence was muffled and rushed and I still don't know if he actually said it but I would like to believe so. Everytime I replay it in my mind, the more I'm convinced it is what he said.


He was scrambling to hang the phone up. "Hey dad." I didn't even know what I was going to say, but I didn't want him to hang up just yet. "Hey dad," I said again.




"Trevor died. Two months ago."


More heavy breathing on his side of the line. Now I was starting to wonder if it was interference from his or the pay phone rather than his breathing. I had never known him to be a heavy breather.


The receiver clicked and the sound of static silence rippled from the earpiece. I hung the pay phone up and wiped my fingers on my pants, still unsure if the funeral was in the morning or the evening. Seven o'clock is uncommitted. It goes both ways.


I hate phone booths. This one was like every other one I had been in: it was clammy inside and an uneven layer of condensation clung to the walls. Each side of glass was riddled with amateur graffiti and crude drawings: a penis, random names looping in bastardized cursive, 'Mike wuz here.' Mike is everywhere. In the corner, the words 'F**k me,' were written in bold black marker, with the latter word crossed out and replaced with 'you,' which was also crossed out and replaced with 'God.'


I shrugged the accordion door to the side and stepped out, pulling fingerless gloves from my coat pocket and thrusting them on in a single, practiced motion. The cold was getting to me, but then again, my fingers and toes are always cold no matter what the season. Bad circulation. It's in my genes.


Washington Square Park wasn't too far from there. I used to go there with Trevor on the weekends when he didn't have class and I wasn't working. I could see the Hangman's Elm from the phone booth. It stood naked, lesser trees covering their master with barren, empty embraces. Decaying and ripped leaves lined the ice-ridden pathway. It had been too long. I looked both ways down the street like my mom used to tell me and then crossed into the park, head bowed from the cold. The worn tread of my shoes scraped against the concrete as I walked, rivaling the ravens' cackles from the branches. Otherwise it was quiet.


There were dead people beneath my feet; at least, that is what Trevor had told me once as he concealed a grin. He knew I loved macabre and horror s**t.


"You're kidding?" I said, kicking at the ground with the tip of my shoe in fascination.


"Dead serious." He was.


© 2008 Piper Sullivan

Author's Note

Piper Sullivan
As of now, this is stand alone. It is possible that I will add on to this to create a complete short story/novel(a), but as for now, this is all I have. :) Interpretations welcome!

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I remember you showing me this a while ago. I still have my own interpretation... it's probably not right, but I'm going to tell you anyways because that's how I roll.

I think that the narrator has obviously done something which his parents (or at least dad) have disowned him for... and I'm thinking this has to do with Trevor. Trevor is obviously not related to the narrator, since he had to tell his father he died, so I'm thinking he was a partner which the family did not approve of, for whatever reason. Either because the narrator is also male or he was someone his parents didn't like. Also seems like the narrator maybe doesn't want to get involved with his family again or feels like he can't, because even though Trevor died several months ago, he didn't inform his family or try to repair the relationship between them. Though he might not have felt he wanted to...

Anyways, I really liked this and I hope to find out more about what's going on!

Posted 15 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


Short, yet mind blowing with its ferocity. Have you tried to get this published?

Posted 14 Years Ago

This is really good. Great attention to detail. Would love to see more, or some flashback of what caused the fall out between her and her father....and know whay happened to trevor.

Posted 14 Years Ago

This is a very powerful write, lots of emotion and pain, a well written piece.

Posted 15 Years Ago

This is so powerful.

This is Kate by the way. Do you remember me? It's been so long. :)

Posted 15 Years Ago

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I like the tone you've developed, a somber, almost detached tone. It seems that the speaker has become almost detached from the concept of death� Her mother, which it doesn't appear she was close to, and Trevor, someone she was obviously close to, and with whom she was apparently in a relationship.

Is she detached? Does it bother her? That's sort of up in the air. Her internal discussion of the time of her mother's funeral is both humorous and yet also ambivalent as to the amount of her emotional involvement or response:

"Seven o'clock is uncommitted. It goes both ways."

So does her response.

Then there's the issue of Trevor, and the speaker's relationship with him. We, as readers, infer a lot from her father's refusal to acknowledge his death in words. I take that to mean that he doesn't care, or at least doesn't find that to be in the same league as the death of his wife. So� what does that mean? That his daughter took off with the guy? Even though we don't know, it's compelling.

"Each side of glass was riddled with amateur graffiti and crude drawings: a penis, random names looping in bastardized cursive, 'Mike wuz here.' Mike is everywhere. In the corner, the words 'F**k me,' were written in bold black marker, with the latter word crossed out and replaced with 'you,' which was also crossed out and replaced with 'God.'"

I love the depth and skewed angle of her thoughts and asides. That really helps move the story, and, while it seems off-topic to the story, it also provides a serious insight into the speaker's mind and why she reacts the way that she does.

That's it� I'm sticking with my whole original idea. She's lost by the death of her boyfriend, while her father id lost by the death of his wife. That causes the disconnect between them, the disconnect that will grow larger instead of healing. And she's not going to the funeral.

Compelling glimpse that makes the synapses fire. Mmmm� Dopamine. You could expand this, or leave it the same, and it's still damn fine writing.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Did I tell you before that this is quite possibly your best work ever?
"Seven o'clock is uncommitted. It goes both ways." is the line that most stood out to me from all the brilliant description. For some reason that line seems so incredibly powerful. It's like a person really. You personified time.

You asked me once what I thought the gender of the person in this story was and I said "boy" right away.
I thought about it this time through and I decided that at the beginning of the story, during the phone call I see a punk-style girl in a short pleated skirt who works as a prostitute and is wearing too much lipgloss. But after the phonecall ends I see a skinny boy whose living as a hobo and wearing torn jeans and an oversized coat. The ambiguity is almost the best part of the story, but that is my professional opinion on the matter. XD Offically.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Y'know I dig this story so much I almost don't want to criticize or give suggestion. But, since I said 'almost', I will now proceed to.
First, the phone booth, to me, is alive, it's another character so maybe, "the door shrugged and I stepped out"' like that.
Second, I think leaving off "He was." from the end would be more powerful.

Again, I really loved this story and really no changes NEEED to be made (outside of some corrections in punctuation). It's a solid piece that makes me happy I read it.
Thanks for posting Piper.

Posted 15 Years Ago

Aw, it's over?
That's it?
I'd like to see more, actually.

Your writing style remind me of Holly Black, although much better written, I think. (If you don't know her, pick up Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside-- in that order).

The only part that caught me off guard was where Trevor came in. It was a flashback, right? Because it's little unclear. Perhaps try to find a good transition in there? Hm...

But ignoring all of what could be my own late-night confusion, it was a really nice piece and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Posted 15 Years Ago

Nice. I liked. It kind of started the way I stared my one story a few years back but it didn't work out. I liked and I hope you might be able to review my stories somtime. Thanks.

Posted 15 Years Ago

This is really amazing... it just leaves me wanting to read more.
I love the underlying intensity... the unsaid... the unheard but you can feel it... sence it.
Please write more ~grins~

Posted 15 Years Ago

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17 Reviews
Added on May 28, 2008
Last Updated on June 10, 2008


Piper Sullivan
Piper Sullivan

On the Mountain, AZ

Excuse me while I kiss this guy/the sky. Greetings! I don't have much to say but I guess I shall start from the beginning. I go by Piper around these parts and I'm 20 years of age. While I always f.. more..


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