THE CALLER AT 3 AM • by Lesley Anne Truchet

The insistent ringing of the telephone on my bedside cabinet wakened me from a deep sleep.

Fumbling in the dark, I looked at the alarm clock and groped for the receiver.

“Ullo,” I slurred.

“Hi, you called for a plumber,” a cheery voice answered.

“At 3 o’clock in the morning?”

“I happen to be in your area with some free time. A broken kitchen tap, isn’t it? I could probably fix it straight away.”

“Now?” I climbed out of bed, suddenly more awake.

“Well, yes. I might not be in your area again for some time. We do offer a 24-hour service.”

“Okay.” I called his bluff, convinced it was some nutter making random nuisance calls and having a laugh.

“Good. I’ve got your address. I’ll be there within minutes.” The caller hung up.

I tensed. I hadn’t left my address when I’d made the enquiry by telephone. I didn’t believe anyone would show up, but just in case, I got dressed, located my cricket bat and placed it by the front door.

“This is crazy,” I muttered several minutes later. “If I ever find out who called, I’ll…” I gasped as moving lights appeared outside. I hadn’t heard a vehicle approach.

The doorbell rang loudly in the night silence. I opened it cautiously with my left hand, and gripped the raised cricket bat with my right, my heart pounding.

“Good evening, sir. I picked up your call on my intergalactic interceptor. You don’t need that.” A squid-like tentacle snaked towards me and pulled my weapon out of my hands. Before I could react, the alarming creature was in my house. “Ah, near the door, I can hear it going drip drip splat.” He moved crab-like on his tentacles, dropped a holdall and inspected my tap.

“Look, I…” My voice trailed off; I was way out of my depth.

“Positively antique, I’ve never seen a tap so rusted. I’ll soon have you fixed up with a shiny new one.” He opened his holdall, took out what looked to be the stem of a plant and put it in his mouth. “A Martian smoke,” he said, helping himself to my cigarette lighter. “It helps me think. Turn off the water, will you.”

I watched, fascinated, as he deftly cut the pipe with a strange, bladed tool. Rummaging in his holdall, he brought out an expensive-looking tap and several connectors. Having assembled everything, he breathed fire through his slitted nostrils, sealing the welds. “Right handy that, when plumbing is your trade.” He lowered a lid over one red bog eye in a slow wink.

“Yeah.” Intelligent speech was beyond me.

“All done.” He stood higher on his tentacles and clapped me on the back with a wet squishy sound, making me shudder. “That’ll be ninety quid, sir.”

Dumb, I paid up. He stuffed the cash haphazardly into his holdall as if it was of no consequence and curled a very long rubbery appendage around a couple of six-packs from my beer stock. “For when I get off duty,” he said, crabbing to the door.

Standing in the kitchen doorway, I goggled as he mounted his craft and started it. Pulsating lights illuminated my garden and a quiet humming noise increased in intensity, hurting my ears. The incredibly powerful take-off blast propelled me backwards through the air and I landed in the kitchen sink, breaking my brand new tap.

Lesley Anne Truchet is native English and lives in France. She has been writing for several years and has a number of short stories, flash fictions, articles, blogs and poetry published in print and online. Lesley is an active member of Writers Abroad, an international online writing group for ex-pat writers, and is currently working on her first novel.

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