2024 Melinda Wyers
Welcome to Y2KQ!

The Phone

Bryan Vale

It was a rounded rectangle of gray plastic with a tiny pixel-divided screen and below that the classic 12 buttons, 1 through #. It was a Tracfone, a burner, a device giving me cellular network access one prepaid card at a time. And even in the year 2007 it was many years out of date.

This cell phone was in my pocket as I trudged down Concord Boulevard, which is a wide road with a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit and sidewalks but few crosswalks. Therefore I was more or less trapped, for about half of my mile-plus route from the bus stop to home, on a stretch of sidewalk that went past a long chain-link fence bordering a park under construction.

As I walked on this stretch of sidewalk, a large dude with long hair and black baggy pants came towards me from the other direction. Trudging, I scarcely noticed him until he was yards away. I prepared myself to take awkward teenage steps around him, but as he approached I was having a hard time getting out of his way. When we were within feet of each other it became clear this was intentional. He was blocking me.

I stopped walking. I stepped left; he stepped that way. Stepped right; same. Then he said, "Watchu got in your pockets?"

The cars zipped by in the daylight. I had nothing like the energy to run or fight, and I didn't feel up to finding out if he had a blade on him, so I reached into my pocket and produced the cell phone.

He took it, squinted at it, pressed a few buttons. The screen hardly lit up enough to be seen in the sunlight. Phone in hand, he looked back at me.

"Got any money?" he asked.

"Nah," I said.

He put the phone back in my hand. "Keep it," he said. Then went on his way.

That's a true story.

Bryan Vale is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. His fiction and poetry have appeared in several journals, including Quibble, Constellations, All Existing Literary Magazine, and Boats Against the Current. His work has been nominated for "The Best of the Net," and he has read for the memoir journal Five Minutes. Of interest to Y2K fans: he is the creator of Learn more at, or follow Bryan on Twitter and Instagram at @bryanvalewriter.

Back to Issues
Read More by this Author