Genre: Science Fiction
Short Story Type: Flash Fiction
The little boy breathed heavily on the phone as he talked. "Hello, is this McDonald's?"
The president paused from emptying out old files from his desk. "This is the president of the United States speaking." He cleared his throat meaningfully. "On an unlisted number."
"Oh." The little boy exhaled loudly for a moment. "I guess I called the wrong place. I thought I was calling McDonald's."
The president clicked a button to record their conversation. He had his doubts about that. "Where did you get my unlisted phone number from?"
The voice sounded puzzled now. "I don't know anything about numbers. I just pressed the name on Mommy and Daddy's list."
"List?" The president sat up, suddenly alert. "List of what?"
"List of people I should call in case someone came in when they weren't home and I was, and my sister just came in, and they haven't come back with my Happy Meal yet."
There was a long pause. "I -- see. A Happy Meal, you say."
"The kind with toys in it."
The president took a deep breath, trying to work out whether the child was sincere, or if this was a crank call. The latter was much more likely. "Happy Meals usually do. Do your parents leave you
"Not when my sister's here."
"Other than that."
"Well, she wasn't here before."
The president leaned back in his chair, trying to calm down. He had more important things to do; the sooner he cleared this mystery up, the better. "No supervisor?"
"I don't need one."
"Little children shouldn't be left in the house alone."
The boy sounded puzzled. "If they didn't leave me, they couldn't go anywhere."
The president was feeling distinctly irked. "They could take you with them, couldn't they?"
The boy panted into the phone for a minute, probably considering a response. "I'm not allowed out of the house until I metamorphose."
The president struggled to keep his temper in check. "Why don't you hang up and try not to dial my number next time?"
The president snatched at the phone on his desk. "Hello?"
The voice was familiar. "Oh, I guess it's you again."
The child's voice sounded amazed. "Is it still you?"
The president clenched his teeth. "It's still me." And three calls couldn't indicate a wrong number. The president pressed the recording button again. Why on Earth weren't his calls being screened?
The little boy spoke in a confidential whisper. "I think Mommy and Daddy programmed the caller wrong, 'cause I keep pressing the McDonald's name, but I'm not getting McDonald's."
The president fought to control his temper. The crank call was no longer funny. "Where did your parents get my number from?"
There was silence for a moment, punctuated by heavy breathing. "Dunno. I guess from those files."
"The ones they find all the numbers from."
The president's mind raced. A child whose parents worked in the White House? Or who were hackers? Either was a possibility. Of course, it was always more likely that the caller was a hacker who
thought crank calls were exceedingly funny.
The president tried to keep his voice level. "May I speak with your parents?"
"They're not home right now."
The president struggled to avoid sounding annoyed. "Yes, you mentioned that. Where are they now? Do they have a cellphone?"
"I don't know what a cellphone is."
"Tell me their names, then, and I'll have them paged."
The little boy breathed into the phone for a minute. "What's paged?"
"It means I call their names on a loudspeaker."
The president fought his temper under control again. "Just tell me their names and where they are."
"They're Mommy and Daddy, and I dunno where they are."
The president ground his teeth. "An estimate."
"I dunno. Probably halfway between Alpha Centuri and Sol, if the lines weren't long." The little boy added, in his confidential whisper, "I don't like it when the lines are long. I get hungry, and
then I go into hibernation and it takes forever to wake up, and when I do, my food's all cold."
This joke had gone far enough. He put a tracer on the call. "Where are you?"
"In my house."
The president sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. He'd forgotten how maddening little boys could be. He could deal with congressmen, but little boys were something else. "What's the address?"
"I don't remember. It's too long."
The president tried to sound patient. "It's not good to forget your address. What would you do if you got lost?"
"I'm not allowed out of the house until I metamorphose."
The president's temper broke free. "This is no longer funny! I want to know where your parents are and how you found my private, unlisted number!"
The little boy breathed heavily into the phone as he thought. "Mommy and Daddy left it on the list, right next to the universal translator."
The president ground his teeth. "How did they get it?"
There was a high-pitched scream, and a series of thumps. The
president heard a pair of angry voices at the exact moment the tracer
came up negative.
"Hey, sis, get your tentacles off the caller! That's mine!"
Then the line went dead.
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