Hello Grandpa/Hello Grandma

by Willard Manus

Graham made his first call of the day. Taking on the voice of an anguished young man, he spoke to someone in Spokane, Washington.

“Hello, Grandpa. It’s your grandson.” He choked back a sob. “Can you hear me? Yes, yes, it’s your grandson. I’m in Phoenix...and I’m in a bit of trouble. You do know that I’ve been traveling, don’t you?

He listened for a bit. Then:

“I’m surprised to hear you say that because I sent you a postcard, telling you I was on the road for work.”

Graham took a sip of coffee and continued, staying in character. “Here’s what happened. I was in a bar, just having a drink and a bite to eat, when someone picked my pocket and stole my wallet.”

The coffee was hot and bracing. Brazilian, he concluded.

“Of course I reported it to American Express and cancelled the card,” Graham said, adding, “Luckily my cash was in another pocket, but it only amounts to about a hundred bucks.

“So here I am, stuck in Phoenix, with no way of paying my hotel and food bill. The hotel called the police on me. Can you imagine that?”

Graham used all his acting skills to conjure up a young man on the verge of hysteria and tears.

“I tried calling my boss, but he’s ill with Covid-19 and can’t be reached. Same with my best friend, Irv. So you’re my only hope, Grandpa.”

He finished his coffee, wiped his lips, and went for the kill.

“The police won’t release me until I’ve paid my bill. I need you to do me a favor and wire two thousand dollars to cover my expenses. I’ll pay you back as soon as I get home.”

As Graham listened, a smile spread across his face.

“Oh thank you, Grandpa! That’s wonderful to hear. I’m so grateful to you! Now do you have paper and pencil handy? Good! Write down these instructions so that your bank can wire the money safely and swiftly.”

* * *

An hour later found Graham still working the phone. A fresh stack of file cards sat at hand as he started another pitch.

Moments later, he broke off, frowning with displeasure at the profane reception he received. Then stubbornly, doggedly, he picked up the phone and made another call. A woman’s voice was heard.


“Hello Grandma, it’s your grandson.”

There was a silence. Then the woman, obviously frail and elderly, replied in a thin, wavery voice, “This is such a nice surprise, darling. But you sound different.”

He was ready with his reply. “I’m in Phoenix-–on a pay phone, a lousy connection.”

“Phoenix? Why Phoenix? I thought you were living in Denver.”

“The company sent me here to help launch a new product.”

“Oh? Just what is it?”

“I can’t go into detail right now. It’s all very hush-hush.”

“I see. But how come they picked you for the job? Aren’t you in charge of your company’s janitorial department?”

Graham felt a stab of anger. Why was the old biddy being so ornery?

“Well, yes...that’s true. But last month I was transferred to another department. It was a promotion,” he added, smugly.

“I’m surprised to hear that,” the old woman said. “Last time we talked you said you hated the company and were thinking of leaving it.”

Start tapping, he told himself. Start tap-dancing like your life depended on it!

“That’s true, Grandma. But then new management came in and made all kinds of changes. Things have greatly improved.”

“I’m delighted to hear that. Now tell me why you called.”

He went into his pitch about losing his credit card, being arrested and needing two thousand bucks to avoid jail time.

“You poor boy,” she sighed. “You’ve had some dreadful luck, haven’t you?”

He stifled a sob, admiring at the same time his own potent acting skills.

“They’re going to put me in a cell filled with criminals and drug-addicts,” he wailed. “Those convicts will beat the hell out of me!”

“We musn’t let that happen!” she cried. “Just tell me how I can help.”

He told her how to wire him the two thousand dollars. She replied, “I’ll be happy to take care of that. But there’s a little problem.”


“I’ve been feuding with my bank lately. They froze my account, said I was overdrawn. It’s a mistake on their part, caused by a computer malfunction–-I hate those machines, as you know.”

“Right. Yeah. I’m aware of that.”

“I spent an hour on the phone this morning, trying to clear this matter up.”

“Were you successful?”

“Only partially. They still insist I owe them money and won’t let me access my account until I pay a late fee.”

“How much is that?”

“A hundred dollars.”

“That’s an outrage. How dare they give you a hard time over such a measly sum?”

“You’re so right. But trying to win argument with a bank is like begging a dead horse to get up and run!”

“Calm down, Grandma. Don’t make yourself sick over this.” “What really troubles me is being unable to help you, my darling. But wait a minute–-didn’t you say you still have a bit of cash on you?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“That’s the solution to our problem. Why don’t you wire me a hundred dollars? Once it arrives, I’ll go down to the bank and free up my account. That will enable me to send you the two thousand dollars you so desperately need.”

Graham took a sip of coffee and said, “Wait a minute. You want me to send YOU money?”

“Is that such a shocking idea?”

Graham sat back and mulled things over. Then, a few moments later, he gave a whoop of laughter and addressed the woman in his own, natural voice.

“You are good,” he said. “My hat goes off to you. You are one skillful worker. You almost took me for a hundred bucks!”

There was a silence on the other end. Then the woman giggled and replied in her own distinctive voice.

“You’re pretty damn good yourself. I was on the verge of wiring you the two thou-–even though I don’t have any grandchildren.”

He had to laugh at that. “So you knew all along that I was doing a number on you.”

“Indeed. But you still almost managed to fool me. Excellent acting job. Superb timing and delivery. Very believable.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re a real credit to the profession.”

“So are you. How long have you been in the game?”

“About five years. You?”

“Ten years now,” he said. “What did you do before?”

“I was a high-school teacher, theatre arts. You?”

“I’ve been in telephone sales all my life,” he said proudly. “Diamonds, time-shares, Swedish porn. You name it, I’ve pitched it.”

“That explains your expertise. How is business these days?”

“Can’t complain. You?”

“Things are a bit on the slow side,” she admitted.

“Hang in there,” he said. “Things will pick up. You just need to hit one mooch to make your day.”

“You’re right about that. Luckily, the world is full of mooches. Well, I’ll say goodbye now. Good luck to you, my darling grandson.”

“You too, Granny. You too!”