Jarren lifted the sheets up over Milli, tucking them in around her as she stared up at him.
“Daddy?” she said.
“Can I have a song?”
He sighed. “I don’t know any of the songs Mommy would sing to you.”
“She would sing songs about going to sleep.”
He took in a deep breath. “Well, I’ll give it a try. Um… let’s see. Go to sleep, goodnight, it’s nighttime little girl… go to sleep, you’re in bed…”
“That’s not a very good song, Daddy.”
“Yeah, I imagine not. How about I just kiss your forehead and then you can fall asleep all on your own, eh?”
She shrugged, and he sighed. He bent down and kissed her on the forehead. She brought her stuffed unicorn tight to her chest as he stood up.
He stepped out of the room, shutting out the lights and closing the door. He was still getting used to life without Margaret. Honestly, he didn’t know if he ever would. Already he was finding it impossible to raise Milli. How had she done it? How had she been able to keep up with the needs of a five-year-old so effectively, while balancing work?
“Margaret, wherever you are, I hope it’s better than here.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I hope it’s better than here.”
He moved to go into the master bedroom where he went ahead and brushed his teeth and disrobed for the night. He climbed into the empty bed, looking at Margaret’s side with a longing in his eyes.
“Goodnight, my love.” He got in under the sheets, pulling the blanket over his head. “My reason for living.”
It was but a few minutes before he heard the door creak open.
“Can I sleep in bed with you?”
He sighed. “You’ve already slept in this room twice this week.”
“But there’s a scary noise in my room.”
“What kind of noise, Milli?” He honestly wasn’t sure if she could understand him, as his head was buried in a pillow.
“There’s a beeping noise.”
“It’s probably just the smoke detector, Milli. It needs new batteries. I can fix it tomorrow.”
“But can I sleep with you?”
He took another exasperated breath before answering. “Yeah, come climb in.”
He heard the pitter-patter of her feet coming in for the bed, followed by the shifting of the blankets. She shifted around for around half an hour or so before she finally fell asleep, and that’s when Jarren was able to follow in her footsteps and do the same.
Jarren awoke with a start the next morning, realizing that Milli was still asleep and not ready for the bus to come and pick her up. He looked at his phone, heart skipping a beat as he saw the time.
“Milli!” he said, rousing her.
“Milli, we need to get up. The school bus will be here any minute. C’mon, let’s go.”
“I know you are, but we have to go. It’ll be here in twenty minutes. You’ve got to eat breakfast, take a shower—”
“I liked it when Mommy would give me a bath at night better.”
“Showers are faster. Come on, you get in the shower and I’ll make you breakfast.”
“I don’t wanna go to school today.”
“Come on, Milli. It’s kindergarten! I loved kindergarten!”
“It’s too boring.”
“Milli! Come on, go hop in the shower real fast and I’ll make you breakfast. Let’s go! Hurry!”
She wormed her way out of bed and began moving towards the door. Jarren got himself out of bed as well, putting on a pair of dirty sweatpants and a raggedy shirt. He walked out down the hallway, checking to make sure that Milli was in the shower. He heard the water running, and he jiggled the handle.
“Milli, I’ve told you not to lock doors! If you get hurt in there I need to be able to come and help you!”
“Sorry!” she shouted back.
He sighed, moving along. He paused when he heard some sort of a screeching noise, looking into his daughter’s room. He waited another couple seconds. A light flashed on the smoke detector and it made another beep.
“I’ll put getting batteries on my to-do list today,” he muttered to himself. He went into the kitchen to fix Milli something to eat, wondering what he might have time for. Eventually he simply gave up and fed her cereal, getting her out the door just in time for the bus to pull up along the curb.
“I don’t wanna go, Daddy.”
“Hey, it’ll be okay. It’s only for a little bit before you’ll be back home.”
“I love you, goodbye!”
She marched up to the curb, climbing onto the bus. Jarren closed the front door, looking down at his own clothes.
“Better get myself ready for the day, I guess.” He sighed, not looking forward to yet another day spent looking for a new job.
He found himself at a convenience store later that day, dropping in to get himself a shot of caffeine to keep him going.
“Just the coffee for you sir?” the cashier said, ringing him up.
“Yeah. Oh, and these batteries.”
The cashier bobbed his head, punching some keys on the machine.
“There’s your total on the screen, will that be cash or card?”
“Uh, card. Yeah.”
He pulled out his wallet to complete the transaction, swiping his debit card.
“Have a good day, sir.”
“You too,” he responded, walking out the store. He took a few swigs from the afternoon coffee, looking at his phone. “Oh shoot,” he muttered. “Milli will be home in like ten minutes.”
He got into the car, clutching the batteries in one hand and the coffee in the other. He went ahead and set down the former, starting up the engine and pulling away, back towards home. He spent the majority of the drive muttering to himself about how frustrating it was to not be able to afford a daycare without a job. Even before he got fired after his wife’s death it was still her extra paycheck that allowed them to afford it in the first place. Now, with no paycheck, it was impossible.
He pulled into the driveway just in the nick of time to greet Milli when she came home. She ran up to him from the bus, going straight for the legs where she gave him a hug.
“Hey, you miss me, angel?”
“How was school?”
“I didn’t like it.”
“What? Why not?”
“I missed you too much.”
“Hey, you’ve got to go to school. How else are you gonna learn?”
“Can’t you teach me?”
“No. I’ve got to find a new work, remember? I’m busy all day.”
“Hey, I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Her eyes lit up. “What?”
He flashed the battery, trying to feign a smile. “A new battery for your smoke detector! Now that beeping sound won’t keep happening, huh?”
“Yeah. That’s good,” she muttered, obviously disappointed by the content of the surprise.
“Come on, let’s go and get you an after-school snack.”
He took her hand, guiding her into their home.
Jarren found himself being violently awoken the next day, Milli jumping on his bed.
“Daddy, Daddy, can I watch a show?”
He groaned, rolling over in bed. “So you’ll get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday for television but not on a school day?”
“Ugh… yeah. Go ahead.”
“Thanks! Can you make me pancakes too?”
“Uh, sure, angel.”
She sprinted out of the room, and just a few moments later he heard the television going. After another minute or so of contemplating his life while he lay there he was dragging himself out of bed, putting on the same raggedy morning outfit as the day before to make his daughter some pancakes. He walked down the hall, yawning and stretching his arms when—
He paused. He looked into Milli’s room, up at the smoke detector. After just a few more seconds, it beeped again.
Jarren stared at it with a raised eyebrow. Had he not replaced the battery yesterday? Surely he did, he had a clear recollection of doing it. He was standing on a kitchen chair while Milli watched and asked questions. It took all of twenty seconds, but he remembered doing it.
He walked out into the living area, which was adjacent to the kitchen. He opened up the cupboard with the griddle and pulled it out, plugging it in to let it warm up.
“Hey Milli?” he said. No response. “MIlli, I don’t want to have to make you turn off the TV just because you’re not talking to me.”
She paused it, looking back at him. “Yeah?”
“Was your smoke alarm beeping at you again last night?”
Her eyes widened, her lips seeming to get tighter. After a moment she spoke. “No.”
“Why did you say it like that?”
“It wasn’t beeping, Daddy.”
He raised an eyebrow. “If you’re lying to me, Milli, there are going to be consequences.” Then again, why would she lie about something as trivial as this?
She sighed, finally speaking again. “Yeah, it beeped again last night.”
“Why did you tell me that it wasn’t beeping?”
“I don’t know.”
“I just didn’t want to. It wasn’t scary last night.”
“But you could have told me it was beeping and that you weren’t scared. I would have been proud of you. That means you’re turning into a big girl.”
She shrugged. “Can I watch my show again please?”
“Yeah, go ahead, I guess.”
He began pulling out the ingredients to make pancakes, which consisted of some Bisquick mix and water mostly. Plus an egg and some oil, but that was it. He began stirring them, looking earnestly at his daughter. What was that look in her eyes? Why did she seem suddenly frightened by him asking a simple question? The look on her face seemed too intense, too sincere, to be chalked up to just a five-year-old being an odd little kid. It seemed to be full of genuine angst… as if just the simple act of asking the question was some sort of bad omen.
After feeding her breakfast Jarren spent a while browsing the Internet on his phone, looking at new job listings. He hadn’t had any luck finding anything in his area. He really didn’t want to have to move at all. So far this house had been good to him, as had their community. They were all so supportive when Margaret died, and they still are. He didn’t want to leave that behind.
He set his phone down for a minute, staring blankly at the wall. What was he to do? What could he do?
His train of thought was interrupted when he heard the faint beep of the smoke detector from down the hall.
“Well, for starters, I guess I can change the battery again.”
He had decided to explain the fact that the smoke alarm was still beeping away by assuming that the battery he had pulled out of the pack was a faulty one that slipped past the watch of quality control. No big deal, there were still a few more batteries in that pack he could use.
He got up and headed for the junk drawer in the kitchen where he had put the package in. He pulled them out, and went to grab a chair to bring along with him. Milli was still out front of the television. He should probably kick her off, but it kept her occupied while he did his things. Maybe after he changed the battery he could get her to go on a bike ride with him or something.
“Daddy?” she said as he walked past her.
“Where are you going with that chair?”
“I’m gonna change the smoke detector batteries again, see if I can get it to stop beeping.”
He heard the television pause, and he stopped in his tracks to look at his daughter. Her teeth were gritted, and she almost looked panicked.
“Don’t change the batteries, Daddy.”
“The… the beeping doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s okay.”
“Well, the beeping bothers me. So I’m gonna change them anyway. I’m glad it doesn’t scare you anymore, though.”
“No, Daddy, you can’t.”
He raised an eyebrow, and nearly raised his voice, too. “Why can’t I change them?”
She moved her eyes from side to side, as if looking for something. Finally, she looked back at her father. “You just can’t.”
“Milli, I don’t like that beeping. This is my house, I’m gonna change it. It’ll be fine, okay?”
“Please don’t, Daddy.”
“If you can tell me why, then I won’t.”
She hesitated before responding. “I… I can’t.”
“Then I’m gonna change them.”
She stood up from the couch, following him down the hall. “No, don’t. I… I won’t ask for any candy for two days if you don’t. Two whole days! That’s a long time.”
He set the chair down, climbing up onto it with the new battery in hand.
“It’s fine, Milli. Don’t worry about it.”
“Milli, I’m already halfway through with it. Look, I have the old battery out, and here goes the new one. And… see? No more beeping.”
He looked down at her. The sheer visage of panic that she wore took him off guard. He almost wondered if he should change it back, just to get that troublesome expression off her face. It suddenly melted away, however, and she walked on back to the living room.
“What the heck was that?” he muttered to himself. What the heck was she so concerned about over a simple battery change?
Jarren awoke the next morning to the same bouncing motion of his little girl again, all the while she chanted about television.
“No… it’s Sunday. We’ve got to get ready for church.”
“Ah… I don’t wanna go to church, though.”
“Mommy always wanted to make sure you went to church. We’re going to church.”
“But Mommy… Mommy isn’t here.”
“Exactly why I’m making doubly sure to keep you going to church every week. Now come on, let’s get you showered and dressed in some better clothes.”
“Daddy! It’s so boring!”
“Come on, Milli. Let’s go.”
He heaved himself out of his lying position, looking at his pouting daughter. She slumped off to the bathroom, and he heard the shower turn on.
“Don’t forget to leave it unlocked! If you slip in there I need to be able to come and help you!”
He sat there a moment, staring blankly at the wall. He rubbed his eyes as he took another yawn before finally stepping out of bed.
“Time for me to get ready too, I suppose…”
He turned his head to the side, looking out his door. After a few moments, he heard it again. A gentle beep.
“The heck?” he murmured. “I’ve changed the dang batteries twice.”
He stepped out of his room and headed down the hall, the beeping noise getting louder and louder as he approached Milli’s room. He looked up at the smoke detector and watched the light flash and the alarm beep again.
“Why isn’t this working?”
He sat in church that day staring blankly ahead, not really catching much of the sermon. His mind was too preoccupied, though it wasn’t preoccupied with anything productive at all. He kept mentally kicking himself for being so fixated on the smoke alarm. He should’ve been fixated on finding a job, or mourning his wife’s death, but he couldn’t help but fixate on the smoke detector. Why the heck were those batteries not working? Surely he didn’t get an entire package of faulty batteries.
He was startled out of his thoughts by the sudden resounding “Amen” the congregation said and he looked back up towards the front of the room. The pastor was stepping down, and people were standing up from the benches.
He felt a sudden hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, Jarren. How are you holding up?” came the voice of Michael Johnson.
“Oh, I guess I’m doing alright.”
“And how are you, little miss Milli?”
She only blushed, looking on at him nervously. Mike chuckled.
“That’s okay, I was shy when I was your age too. So how goes the job search?”
“Eh, could be better. I’m afraid I might have to move to get a new job, which isn’t something I really want to do alone. Let alone be able to afford it.”
“Oh, if you did have to you wouldn’t be alone. I can guarantee you that half the people here would show up to help.”
Jarren nodded. “Yeah, it’s a good congregation.”
“Jarren, if there is ever anything I can do for you, you just let me know. Got it?”
He smiled. “You’re the man, Mike.”
“No, I think that title belongs to you.”
“Alright. See ya later, buddy.”
“Yep, see ya later, bud.”
Michael had taken just a few steps before Jarren found himself calling out to him again.
“Hey, Mike, you’re somewhat of a handyman, aren’t you?”
“Uh, yeah. What’s up?”
“I’ve got this smoke detector in my house that won’t stop beeping. I’ve changed the batteries twice. You think maybe you could take a look at it?”
He paused, thinking. “Yeah, I can come and drop by later today. Two sound okay to you?”
“Yeah, whenever you can will be perfect.”
“Great, I’ll see ya later today, then.”
“Alright, thanks Mike.”
“You got it.”
He began walking back towards his own family, and Jarren looked on at them longingly. He had once had that with Margaret. But now—
He looked down at his daughter, feeling the gentle tug on his shirtsleeve.
“I don’t want Mike to fix the smoke detector.”
“What? Why not?”
“I want the beeping.”
“Milli, just the other night you were scared of it. What’s wrong?”
“I… I just want the beeping to stay. Please, don’t let him fix it.”
“Milli, it’s just a smoke alarm. It’ll be fine if we fix it.”
“Daddy, please… don’t let him fix it.”
Jarren looked up towards the ceiling in frustration, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.
“He’ll just be over for a little bit, Milli. You don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s not because I’m shy. It’s because I don’t want the beeping to go away.”
She looked anxiously from side to side, then leaned in.
“Because he likes the beeping,” she whispered.
“Who likes the beeping?”
“The beeper man. He likes the beeping. He says he wants to have the beeping.”
“Who’s the beeper man, Milli?”
She swallowed. “He told me a couple nights ago. He likes the beeping. He wants the beeping to stay.”
“Milli,” Jarren, said, placing his hand on her shoulder. “It was just a dream. There is no… ‘beeper man.’”
“But it wasn’t a dream, Daddy. I saw him. In my room.”
“It was just a dream, Milli. Now, come on, let’s get home.”
He had been looking somewhat curiously at his daughter on the way home. Usually she was pretty good about separating the dream world from the real world. It was strange she couldn’t figure this one out, especially given the rather odd nature of it. He’d have thought she’d be able to quickly realize whatever this was was simply a dream. That there wasn’t some guy in her room making the smoke alarm beep.
She changed quickly when they got home, obviously anxious for some lunch. Once he was changed, too, Jarren fixed her a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, plus sliced her up an apple to go along with it. He was making himself one too when there was a knock at the door.
“That’ll be Michael,” he said, moving towards the door. He opened it, and there stood Michael.
“Mike! Come on in. Come on in.”
“Yeah, for sure. Want me to take off my shoes?”
“Nah, you’re fine. Can I get you anything?”
“Oh, that’s alright. We’re having steak tonight, I’ve gotta save room.”
“Oh. Well, that’s nice,” Jarren said, his voice trailing off a bit.
“So where is this smoke alarm that won’t shut off?”
“Come on this way, I’ll show ya.”
He turned around to guide Michael down the hall, only to be stopped by Milli, standing in the way.
“It doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s fine. You can go away.”
“Milli!” Jarren scolded.
“Ah, it’s fine, Jarren. She’s still better behaved than some of my kids. Phew. I’ll tell ya.”
“You can’t fix it.”
“Milli, go and finish your lunch.”
“I don’t wanna.”
Jarren sighed. He got down on one knee and placed his hand on her shoulder.
“The second door on the right, Mike. It’s pretty near the door. You can grab a kitchen chair if you need. I’m gonna talk to Milli real quick.”
“Kay, sounds good.”
Michael walked off to the kitchen, and Jarren looked his daughter in the eye.
“C’mon, let’s head into my room.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Milli, come on. We’re going to my room.”
Hand on her shoulder, he began guiding her down the hall as Michael came up from behind with a chair. He entered his room, shutting the door behind him.
“Milli, what is the problem? Why are you being so rude to Michael?”
“He’s gonna fix it!”
“Milli, it’s fine. Let him fix it.”
“No, he can’t! He can’t fix it! He’ll be mad!”
She looked side to side, then leaned in and whispered: “The beeper man.”
“Milli, I told you, that was just a dream.”
“No, he wants it to beep. He likes the beeping.”
“Alright, Milli, I’m going to ask you to stay in here until Michael leaves. You’re on time-out.”
“Stay here, I’m going to go and help him.”
He stood up and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. He took a sigh, then went to help Michael.
“You say you’ve changed the batteries already?”
“Huh. Well, it might just be a bad smoke detector. I can remove it off the ceiling for you, then you can maybe grab a new one at Home Depot tomorrow or something.”
“Are they easy to take off?”
“Oh, yeah. They’re a breeze. You can just unscrew them.”
“Oh. Well in that case I can take them off, you can get back to your family.”
“Oh, it’s already halfway off.”
Jarren smiled. “Thanks, Mike.”
“Oh yeah, no problem. If there’s anything else I can do for ya just let me know. And I don’t just mean handiwork. I’ve got a good paying job right now, and I know money’s tight for you two.”
“I’m not going to take your money, Mike.”
“If you ever change your mind, I’m just one Venmo away.”
“Thanks, Mike. You’re the best.”
He stepped down from the chair with the smoke detector in hand.
“You wanna keep this?”
“Nah, I’ll just throw it out.”
“Well in that case I’ll totally take it. I’d like to fiddle with it a bit more, figure out what’s going on here.”
“Sounds good, Mike.”
“Alright,” he said, heading for the door, “Well take care, man. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
“Psh. I ain’t pushing myself hard enough.”
“Ah, that’s nonsense. Knowing you, you’re doing everything in your power.”
“Thanks, man. Appreciate it.” He opened the door, and Michael stepped out.
“Kay. Later, man.”
“Bye, Mike. Thanks again.”
He closed the door, taking a deep sigh as he turned around. He jumped back, his heart skipping a beat. Milli was standing right there, staring at him.
“The beeper man wanted me to tell you that he’s mad. He says he’s going to get his beeps no matter what.”
“I thought I told you to stay in my room. You were in trouble.”
“The beeper man told me I had to tell you this message.”
Jarren was at a loss for words. He just stared at Milli, feeling a chill pass through the room. Maybe… maybe he could just chalk this all up to a kid being weird? Simply brushing it aside though, created a pit in his stomach. He… he wasn’t sure what to think.
He awoke the next morning at a decent time, finally. Enough to get Milli ready for school. Stretching in bed, he yawned until his mind was alert enough to justify getting out of bed. He slipped on the same pair of sweats he did every morning to get Milli ready, and stepped out of his bedroom to go and wake her up.
“Milli!” he shouted. “Milli, time to get… time to get up….”
He looked towards the laundry room, suddenly aware of the washing machine beeping.
“Milli! Come on, let’s get up, okay?”
“Okay,” she groaned back. Jarren continued to walk towards the laundry room, his heart palpitating. He opened the door, the beeping noise of the machine filling the air.
He approached it, opening the door and looking inside to see an empty drum. It beeped again, and then again, and again. Beep after beep after beep.
“You’re empty! I didn’t have a load going last night, what the heck is going on with you?”
He banged on the top of it, but it only seemed to beep louder.
He jumped, startled. He turned around to face his daughter.
“What are you doing?”
“The washing machine won’t stop beeping for some reason.”
“I told you.”
“Told me what?”
“The beeper man gets his beeps. He wants them. He’s gonna get them no matter what.”
“MIlli, go and get in the shower. You need to be ready for school.”
“I told you you shouldn’t have gotten rid of the smoke detector.”
“Milli, get in the shower!” Jarren growled. He reached around back behind the machine, grabbing hold of the cord and pulling it from the wall. The beeping suddenly stopped, and he turned around. Milli was still standing there, staring up at him.
“You should have left that plugged in.”
“Come on, time for school. Go and get in the shower.”
He put his hand on her shoulder, turning her around and then ushering her towards the bathroom.
“You should listen, Daddy. The beeper man says he’ll get what he wants.”
“Just get in the shower, Milli. Don’t forget to leave the door unlocked.”
She stepped into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. Jarren went into the kitchen to pull out the cereal and milk, putting them on the table for when MIlli came out. He sat down himself, placing his hands on his forehead.
“What the heck? What the heck?”
First his smoke alarm went on the fritz, and now his washing machine? He couldn’t just plug and unplug it every time he needed to do laundry. He could barely reach back there. But he couldn’t afford to replace the dang machine either, not without a job. The dang things. Why was he born into a time where everything was so dependent on electronics? This whole thing was absurd.
Milli came out into the kitchen, smiling when she saw the sugar cereal on the table.
“Thank you, Daddy.”
“Yeah, you’re welcome.” He took a deep sigh, standing up and heading for the freezer.
“Where are you going, Daddy?”
“I’m just gonna microwave some frozen sausage for myself for breakfast.”
He opened up the freezer and pulled out the bag, taking a few out and putting them on a plate.
“Yes, angel?” he said, putting them in the microwave.
“The beeper man says to tell you not to unplug the microwave. He wants to hear the beeps.”
“MIlli?” he yelped, nearly on the verge of shouting. “There’s no such thing as a ‘beeper man.’ I told you, you saw him in your dreams.”
“He’s standing right at the microwave next to you.”
Jarren spun a full three-sixty, not seeing anything. He stared at Milli, feeling his heart rate increasing. She was really starting to freak him out.
“You’re not allowed to talk about ‘the beeper man’ anymore. Okay, Milli?”
“Because I said so.”
The microwave signaled it was done, and he opened the door. He pulled out the sausage and closed it again, being startled by the sudden beep it made. He placed the sausage down on the counter, grunting as he glared at the device.
“Not you too, dang it!”
“I told you so.”
“I said you aren’t allowed to talk about the beeper man!”
“He said he would get his beeps, one way or another.”
“Milli, shut it and eat you dang food.”
She went silent after that, but Jarren was too frustrated to feel any twinge of guilt. He was busy reaching around the back of the microwave to unplug it. He had ended up scooting it forward, finally getting enough space to remove the cord. The beeping stopped, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Daddy. Now he’s mad.”
“Eat your food.”
He marched off to his bedroom to fetch his cellphone, fists clenched. He picked it up and opened the Internet browser, typing in the phrase: “why are all of my appliances beeping.” A second or two later and the results loaded, and he began scrolling through.
“Daddy, the bus is here!”
“Okay, see you this afternoon, angel!”
He bit his lip as he continued scrolling, none of the results seeming to match up with his particular issue.
“Gosh dang it. Dang this whole thing,” he muttered. “What the heck is wrong with all this?”
He was suddenly jerked out of his thoughts by the sound of the dryer beeping. He dropped his phone on the bed and marched off to go and fix it.
He found himself inside a Home Depot later that day, standing around in the appliance section. A middle-aged man approached him, smiling.
“How can I help you, sir?”
“Yeah. So… I have a question? About appliances?”
“Yeah! Can I check any prices for you?”
“No, no. So everything in my house keeps beeping. Like… everything. I’ve had to unplug my microwave, my washer, my dryer, and unscrew a smoke alarm.”
“What do you mean by beeping?”
“LIke, the smoke detector kept making the noise they make when they’re low on battery. I changed the batteries twice and it still wouldn’t stop. Then the washing machine was just making that sound it makes when the load is done. It was making that sound on repeat. And then so was the microwave. And this morning the dryer was making that noise, too.”
The man stared blankly at him for a moment. “Uh… yeah. I’ve gotta say that’s probably a bit above my paygrade. Have you called like a handyman yet?”
“No, I can’t afford that. I was hoping this might be an easy fix that I could get solved here.”
“Yeah… no. If it was just one machine maybe I could help ya, but if they’re all beeping at once I have to say I’m at a loss.”
Jarren pursed his lips, nodding slowly. “Dang. Alright, I guess I do gotta call a handyman.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, sir.”
“No, it’s alright.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Jarren sighed. “No, that’ll be fine.”
“Okay. Thank you, sir. Have a good day.”
He walked away, feeling defeated. He didn’t have money to fix any of this right now. He couldn’t afford a dang lick of it.
Michael! Maybe Michael could help him out a little bit more. He was handy, maybe he could fix it. And if he couldn’t perhaps he could take him up on his other offer and afford to hire someone who could.
He pulled out his phone once he got into the car, dialing him up immediately.
“Hey, Jarren, is that you?”
“Yeah, Mike. It’s me.”
“What can I do for ya?”
“I was hoping maybe you could come over to my place sometime later today or tomorrow? Everything is beeping now.”
“All the rest of your smoke alarms went haywire?”
“No, all the rest of my house did.” He started up the engine of his car, shutting the door behind him.
“What do you mean?”
“LIke, all of my appliances have been beeping with no end. The microwave, the washing machine, the dryer—I don’t know what the heck to do.”
“Uh… well, I don’t know if I would either. I can come and take a look, I guess. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell ya anything. I’d just end up agreeing with you that this indeed is a weird situation.”
“Yeah… okay. Thanks, Mike. I’ll be home anytime you want to come over. Milli gets home from school soon, I’ve gotta be there for her.”
“Yeah, okay. See ya then.”
“Kay, see ya.”
He hung up, sighing as he drove home. His mind swirled with bewilderment, and he was feeling quite tense once he finally did pull up to his house. He opened the garage and pulled inside. Out of the car he stepped, shutting the door behind him and heading for the one which would let him into the mudroom.
There was a gentle beeping when he stepped in. His fists balled with rage as he marched into the kitchen. The dishwasher was making the noise it made when it was finished, which was odd of course since there wasn’t even anything inside it to have been washed.
“Dang this blasted thing!”
He squatted down and anchored his fingers into the gap between the dishwasher and the cabinets. He clamped down on it, and began scooching it out. Every two seconds it played the noise again—beep after beep after beep after beep.
He heard the front door open and Milli walked in.
“Yeah, you can have an after school snack, Milli. Just let me unplug the dang dishwasher.”
There was a pause, then his daughter continued. “The beeper man says you really shouldn’t unplug it.”
“Milli, I’m tired of hearing about this stupid beeper man. Just grab a cup of applesauce out of the fridge or something if that’s what you want.”
“The beeper man keeps saying it, Daddy! He keeps saying that he will have his beeps!”
“Ain’t no beeping gonna be going on in my house! Tell him to go and make someone else’s house beep.”
“He says he’s very creative. He says he will find a way to get his beeps.”
Jarren finally got it out enough so that he could reach around and pull the plug. He did so, silencing the dishwasher at last.
“Yeah, he can go and beep in someone else’s house if he wants.”
“No. Daddy, he’s warning you. Plug the dishwasher back in. He will find a way to make sure there are beeps. He says he’ll find a way to make sure you don’t want to turn the beeps off. He’ll get you to never turn off the beeps again.”
“I’d like to watch him try. Just eat your snack, Milli. Michael should be here soon to help me fix these blasted things.”
“Don’t try and fix them. The beeper man will get his beeps.”
“Just eat your snack.”
She shrugged. “Okay. But I warned you. I told you what the beeper man said, and he means it.”
Jarren didn’t find himself getting that much sleep that night. Michael had come over, and all they really did was talk. Talk about how weird this whole thing was. There was nothing to be done, they needed someone with more professional experience to come and figure it all out. Nonetheless, everything Milli had been talking about had him on edge. For whatever reason her wild fantasies of this “beeper man” had supplanted a feeling of angst into his gut. Why was she being so insistent on this thing?
Eventually his phone’s alarm went off, and he rolled over in bed to shut it off. To somewhat of his surprise, it actually did shut off. The beeping was done. He sat up in bed and took a yawn before climbing all the way out.
“Milli, it’s time to get ready for school,” he hollered, putting on his pants. He walked out into the hallway, heading towards her door. “Milli, come on. Get up.”
“Ugh…” she moaned. “I don’t wanna go to school.”
“Come on, you’ll have fun. Head into the shower, let’s go!”
He waited until he saw her get out of her bed, and then proceeded to go over to the kitchen. He went for the cereal again, pausing.
“Eh, maybe a good father shouldn’t feed this to his kid so many days in a row.”
He put it back and opened the fridge instead, taking out the eggs. He looked at the water filter alarm on it, smiling a little to himself.
“Ha. No beeping. That’s good.”
He maneuvered his way around the unplugged dishwasher towards the stove. He pulled out a pan and cracked a few eggs into it, then took out a spatula to begin scrambling them. He thought to himself while he watched the eggs slowly cook, turning from their clear color to a whiter hue. Thinking about how strange this whole thing was. How stressful it was, too. Now he had to pay for a handyman to come and fix all their appliances all while he didn’t have a job. And for what? Why the heck were they all beeping in the first place? It was just beep after beep after beep… it was absolutely maddening!
He took the eggs off the stove after a few minutes, putting half onto a plate for Milli and half onto a plate for him.
“Milli! Breakfast is ready!”
He began walking down the hall, towards the bathroom door.
The only sound was the sound of the shower water.
He jiggled the door handle a little, his heart rate on the incline.
“Milli, I thought I told you not to lock doors.”
He found himself vigorously shaking the handle, a sudden panic overcoming him.
He ran to his room, grabbing a quarter off the nightstand. He sprinted back with it, inserting the coin into the slot on the door handle and twisting it in a flash. He thrust the door open, jumping to the shower. He opened the curtain, finding Milli laying there in the water with a small trail of blood running out of the side of her head.
“Oh my gosh, Milli! Milli!”
He couldn’t find his breath, he whipped out his phone and dialed nine-one-one in an instant.
“Hello? I need an ambulance! My daughter slipped in the shower—she’s bleeding and won’t wake up!”
Jarren sat in the hospital, shaking. His face was in his palms as he waited outside the door, hardly able to breathe.
“Sir?” came the voice of the nurse. Jarren looked up.
“We’ve got her stabilized. She hit her head pretty hard… I’m afraid she’s in a coma.”
“Can I come in and see her?”
She nodded gently, letting him into the room. He looked at the still body of his daughter, his eyes swelling up all over again.
“Oh, Milli. Milli. How did this happen!”
He sat by her bedside, crying as he listened to the rhythmic beeps of the heart monitor next to the bed. Every couple seconds, another beep. And another. Beep after beep after beep after beep. And a slight smirk on Milli’s face, as if saying: “I told you so.”
Credit: The Quiet One
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