“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

Casey moved to the edge of her chair, fully aware that all eyes in the Dispatch Center were on her. She struggled to focus on her first call, her mind ruminating on the “we-need-to-talk” text she sent Michael that morning. Her boyfriend had grown distant since starting classes at the community college.

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” she repeated more loudly.


Casey tapped her console, disconnecting the line before immediately calling the number back. She had been trained to expect numerous hang-ups during her shift, yet protocol required her to determine if first responders were needed or not before she could disregard the call.

The phone rang several times.

“Hello?” the voice of a teenage girl answered, clearly flustered.

“This is 9-1-1. We received a call from this number. Do you have an emergency?”

Nervous laughter. “Oh, god! I was just playing with my phone. Then it dialed 9-1-1 by itself. I don’t know what happened. It’s possessed or something—”

A teacher in the background loudly reprimanded her for using an unauthorized device during class.

“Okay, I’ll mark this down as accidental,” Casey said, tapping in a brief comment about the errant call into her console. “Just so you know, if you press the slide button key five times, it automatically dials 9-1-1.”

“I didn’t know that,” the girl whined. “I didn’t mean to. Are the police coming? Am I in trouble?”

“No, you are not in trouble. But next time, stay on the phone and tell the dispatcher what happened. That way, we don’t have to bother you at school.”

“Okay.” The caller had clearly lost interest in Casey.

“You could disable the Emergency SOS feature on your phone. It’s under settings.”

“Fine,” the girl said, annoyance in her voice. “I’ll do that. Thanks. I gotta go now.”

“Have a good day.”

Casey clicked off, looking around the Dispatch Center for approval from her peers, but no one seemed to notice her deft handling of her first solo call.

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

An older woman sobbed over the line. “My Jeffrey is m-missing!”

“Your husband is missing?”

“My husband? My husband’s dead. It’s Jeffrey! My sweet boy…”

“When did you last see your son?”

“My son? My son is at college. He’s a business major.”

“Ma’am, this line is for emergencies only.” Casey had been warned about kooks. “The non-emergency number is—”

“This is an emergency. Someone’s stolen my dog!” The woman’s words turned into a tsunami of tears.

Casey froze, not knowing what to do, unnerved by the woman.

The shift supervisor, Bernice, picked up Casey’s call to intervene. “It’s all right, ma’am. When did you last see your dog Jeffrey?”

As Bernice extracted the necessary information, Casey’s face reddened. Sitting back in defeat, she stared blankly at her monitors.

“That’s another thing you have to learn,” Bernice said, after ending the call. “Pets are more important to people than people.”

Casey bit her thumbnail. “Why’s that?”

“Because people are disappointing. Your line’s ringing.”

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“It’s running!”

Casey’s pulse quickened at the young boy’s voice until she heard other children snickering in the background. Another voice harshly commanded the others to shut up.

“What’s running?” she replied, a smile curling the corners of her mouth.

“I said—your refrigerator is running,” repeated the voice.

“You said it wrong!” interrupted another voice. “Ask if the refrigerator is running.”

“Are you running with a refrigerator?” the young boy tried again. “You can’t run forever!”

“You dumbass,” his partner muttered.

“Boys,” Casey said. “You shouldn’t prank 9-1-1. If you report a false emergency, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Miss who?”

“The punishment for pranking 9-1-1 could be up to one year in jail and/or a $1000 fine.”

The young boy whispered to his friends. “We’re going to jail.” Then she heard them whimpering.

“You are not going to jail. Just stay off the emergency lines, all right?”

“Are the police coming?

“No,” Casey reassured him. “We’ll let this one slide today.”

“Okay,” the young boy replied. “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”

Casey hung up, deciding if she did marry Michael, they would have to think long and hard about having children.

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“My friend’s trippin’ balls!”

Techno music blared so loudly that Casey ripped off her headset to lower the volume. She quickly adjusted them. “Could you repeat that? You injured your testicles?”

“No! My friend and I were partying in his mom’s basement. One of his girlfriends showed up, scrolled through his phone, and freaked out. She took his fucking dog!”

“Were there any weapons involved?”

“No, only a bong.”

“What type of drugs has your friend ingested?”

“All of them.”

Bernice intercepted Casey’s call for the second time. “Sir, what is your current location?”

“Um. Four Oh Seven Maple Street. It’s the house with a ton of dog shit in the front yard.”

Casey’s eyes widened when Bernice repeated the address aloud. She looked nauseated and bent over her trashcan to retch.

Bernice muted her line before leaning over to Casey. “You okay?”

Casey swallowed hard as her eyes watered. She managed to nod.

“Good. Your line’s ringing. Pick it up.”

🜋 🜋 🜋

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“Not in my car, Jeffrey! Oh, you little shit!” Sharp yapping drowned out a young woman’s shrill voice. “My boyfriend’s dog nipped me. It’s actually his mother’s dog, but I think I’m bleeding!”

Casey shouted into her mic. “What is your location?”

“Never mind,” the woman continued. “The skin isn’t broken. I’ll just wait for Michael.”

The line went dead.

Bernice ate a doughnut as Casey clicked on the two-way radio.

“We’ve got a 10-16 at Four Oh Seven Maple Street. A female suspect is in unlawful possession of the homeowner’s dog. The homeowner’s son is in the basement, tripping balls. His name is Michael.”

Tossing the radio aside, Casey sat back in her chair and crossed her legs.

Bernice passed her the box of doughnuts, and they both chewed thoughtfully.

“Love triangle?” Bernice finally inquired, an eyebrow raised.

Donning her headset, Casey grinned. “Not anymore.”

“You know,” Bernice remarked. “I think you’re getting the hang of this job.”

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