A Long-Distance Call From Jim

By Bess Streeter Aldrich

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A Long-Distance Call From Jim And how it shook up Centerville By Bess Streeter Aldrich ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLARENCE F. UNDERWOOD

TO ELLA NORA ANDREWS, calm, unruffled, serenely humming a gay little tune, gathering her school things together–her “Teacher’s Manual of Primary Methods,” a box of water-colors, and a big bunch of scarlet-flamed sumac–came the sound of the telephone.

Ella Nora, in her crisp blue linen school suit, shifted her working paraphernalia and took down the receiver. Fate is a veritable chameleon for changing shape and color. This morning she had entered the fat, puffy person of asthmatic Mrs. Thomas Tuttle, and was saying:

“That you, Ella? Have you heard the news? Jim Sheldon is coming here the last of the week. He’ll be here on Number Eight, Friday afternoon. And get ready now for the climax–he’s bringing his bride. Wha’ say? Yes, his wife. He telephoned Pa from Chicago–imagine anybody telephoning clear from Chicago, Ella! He’s waited long enough to get married, I must say. He’s thirty-six, if he’s a day. I know, because my Eddie’s just two months older. Well, we must do something for them, and we’ll have to get busy right away. Wha’ say? All right; I’ll ask Addie Smith and Minnie Adams and Mis’ Meeker–she’s forever thinking of things to eat–” And on and on went the rasping, wheezing voice of Fate, while, through the window, Ella watched the red and yellow and orange zinnias in the back yard fade and run together into a smudge of prismatic coloring.


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