John C. Mannone
It rings a hellish ring, and then it talks to me: everyday those eyes would stare while glowing in their plastic sockets. I do not want to answer, not even do I dare but something in the ringing, something in its eyes, compels for me to pick it up and put it to my ear. The voice, at first it gently says Fear not but I cannot help my trembling anyway. It then demands I listen to what it has to say unless some hurt would come to mommy. So I obey and play along. It hopes I understand the promises it makes to me each day. It hums a love, it claims, much more than mother ever can. I don’t believe its lying eyes, that licorice look, the lull of mesmerizing words, the way it always spoke. But then one magic day it gives to me the doll I’ve always wanted, not like the Raggedy Ann I broke, but the costly one of porcelain my mommy could not afford to buy. In even softer words it tells me, I will give you anything you want! All I’d have to do is
sneak into her bed at night and slip the phone to mommy’s ear as she lay sleeping. Next day, my mommy says that she must go and find a way to make my playmate sister. She leaves the house, but doesn’t bother coming back in time to cook or tuck me in, not ever. I’m all alone; I weep.
Now the phone just rings and rings—I just want to throw it back into the dark and dingy attic, to lock it in the closet there. But sheepishly I answer, I must never think like that again, it scolds and mocks. All I want, I cry, is mommy to come back somehow. But the clownish phone growls that It is my mommy now.
John C. Mannone has poems accepted in North Dakota Quarterly, the 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, Foreign Literary Review, Le Menteur, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020) and the Carol Oen Memorial Fiction Prize (2020). He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, Mannone lives near Knoxville, Tennessee.