The musical notes of his cell phone pierced his sleep.
Frank sleepily picked up the phone next to his bed, expecting another call from work. "Mr. Jackson?" The voice was quiet, yet sultry. Frank thought it probably belonged to a slim, athletic brunette. He smiled at the image in his mind.
"Yes, this is he. How did you get this number? It’s unlisted." He tried not to sound sleepy, pitching his voice a little lower than normal.
"Actually, I knew it was you, sir. This is the Psychic Hotline calling."
Frank gritted his teeth and almost ended the call, but being awakened by a crank call, regardless of the voice, was just too much. "Listen..." he growled into the phone.
"Please, Mr. Jackson, don’t be angry. This is not a crank call." The voice sighed quietly. "Haven’t you always laughed at the commercials for the Psychic Hotline and said ‘If they were really psychic they would call me?’"
Frank bit back a retort, realizing he thought that quite often.
"So we’re calling you today, sir, because there is some urgent information we feel you need to have."
"And that would be?" Frank was wide-awake now, sitting up on the edge of his bed. He glanced at the clock and realized it was almost time to get up anyway. Another early morning in his cubicle.
"Well, sir, just to assure you that this call is legitimate, we’d like to point some things out. Firstly, that we called you on your unlisted number. Secondly, I am brunette. Finally, your dog will whine to go outside in about two seconds."
Frank’s German Shepherd whined and headed for the back door.
"That could have been a lucky guess. Maybe you’re stalking me and know I have a dog." Frank walked down the hallway to let Toto out.
Her voice was still quiet and soft, almost like pillow talk, though Frank tried not to think that too loudly, just in case. "Well, sir, you’ll want to get your robe and slippers. When you open the door, you’ll get chilled, but Toto will like the cooler weather." The voice paused. "Toto is certainly an odd name for a German Shepherd."
As Frank unlocked the bolt on his back door and let his dog out, a chill gust of air swirled around his bare ankles. He shivered as he pushed the door closed. "You have my full attention. What is it that I need to know?"
"Well, sir, I’d love to just tell you, since it was such a strong impression on me and if I don’t tell you it will bother me for days. That’s actually the way it works, you see. Once I tell you, or at least contact you, then it won’t bother me anymore. However, we do have expenses, so I’m afraid it will cost you $19.95. I take most major credit cards."
Frank shivered and headed back to his bedroom, closing the room door firmly. "I’m not paying you a penny. If you were really psychic..."
"Then I’d know your credit card number? Please, Mr. Jackson, if it worked that way I’d buy a lottery ticket and take Valium to make the dreams go away." Frank slid his feet in his slippers and thought about putting on his robe, but he’d be going to work soon. For just a moment he thought of his small cubicle and all the documents he had to review for the maintenance crew. A small throbbing started behind his left eye, and he inwardly sighed, sitting back down on the edge of the bed. He felt tired already. "It was a joke, sort of."
"Sir?" the voice was quiet, but seemed interested.
"Toto. When he was a puppy he was just this tiny ball of fur and legs and he’d jump into boxes and things and stick his nose out. I thought of the picnic basket and Toto, from Wizard of Oz and the name stuck." Frank rubbed his eyes with his right hand. "Doesn’t really fit him now, though." He chuckled briefly.
"It seems perfect. Frank Baum wrote The OZ books. You’re the writer of your own life, Mr. Jackson, just like Frank Baum." The voice was quiet for a second. "I’ll tell you what, Mr. Jackson. I know you’ve been thinking about going back to school and finishing your Master's degree. I have a strong impression that this decision will lead you to a job with one of the leading companies in your area, in a real office, not a cubicle. Something will happen today that will allow you to choose to pursue that path, something important and unique - opportunity knocking, if you will. Normally, you'd overlook what's about to happen, but I'll tell you what you're supposed to look for. If it doesn't happen, then you can call the number on your phone and we'll refund your money." Frank glanced at the local number on his caller-id and put the phone back to his ear. Her voice was soothing, transporting Frank to a place in his mind where he could feel the tension drain from him, some purpose filling his bland life.
"Mr. Jackson, I feel you’ll be able to pay off your outstanding bills, including your house, within five years of finishing your degree, if..." Her hypnotic voice trailed off.
Frank stood frozen in place, slippered feet resting on the hardwood floor of his bedroom. The pain behind his eye receded slightly, and goose bumps traveled down his bare arms. "If what?"
"I’m afraid I’ll have to ask for that $29.95, sir. We do have a business to run and bills to pay."
Frank stood and moved toward his dresser. "Let me get my wallet."