Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

Fiction: ‘Please Pick Up’

By Ely Portillo

May 8, 2019

[It was the beginning of my third week in a new job at UNC Charlotte, and I was driving to pick up my son after work when I got the first news alert. Another senseless shooting, this time unfolding on the campus I had just left. As I drove toward my son, safely oblivious in daycare, I felt terrible for the parents trying frantically to get in touch with their own beloved children — in all the shootings we’ve seen over the years. So I got home, and started writing. – Ely Portillo

(Adobe Stock Photo)

Text from: Mom
10:13 a.m.
Hey, wanted to let you know Dad is driving to the airport to pick up Clara right now. They should be here when you get home. Can’t wait to see you!!

Text from: Mom
10:18 a.m.
You’re probably in class, but text me back if you get this. What do you want for dinner tonight? Was going to make the special bolognese sauce and pasta you like, but if you want Marucci’s Pizza, Dad will pick that up later. Cake of course!

Text from: Me
10:19 a.m.
Yeah in class bolognese great thx mom

Text from: Mom
10:19 a.m.
🙂 You got it. Anything for the soon-to-be grad.

Text from: Me
10:20 a.m.
Cool thx mom tell Clara hey when she gets in. see you tonite

Text from: Mom
10:49 a.m.
Hey, saw a weird alert on my phone. CNN said someone with a gun on campus at your school??? Stay safe, call me when you’re out of class!

Text from: Mom
10:54 a.m.
Text me when you get a sec, bub. They said on TV someone was shot. Super sad 🙁 Really looking forward to seeing you tonight.

Missed call from: Mom
11:01 a.m.

Missed call from: Mom
11:09 a.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Hey, it’s me. Just wanted to make sure everything’s OK. Grandma called and said she’s watching the school on TV right now. Wish she hadn’t seen it. I told her it’s a huge school, but she’s still worried. I know you’re finishing up that presentation, but call me when you get a minute, OK? Call Grandma too. She worries, you know.

Missed call from: G-Ma
11:11 a.m.

Missed call from: Clara
11:13 a.m.

Text from: Clara
11:23 a.m.
Hey loser, call Mom or Dad or Grandma…they’re all freaking the fuck out. srsly stop being a fuckwad and call them

Text from: Clara
11:24 a.m.
Jk of course don’t be all weird. But forreal call Mom asap

Text from: Mom
11:29 a.m.
Caleb, give me a call as soon as you get this. They’re saying on TV now that at least eight people were shot. They don’t know where yet, but they said a classroom. I just want to make sure you’re OK.

Text from: Mom
11:49 a.m.
They’re saying on TV now that it looks pretty bad. Some people are dead. Something in the engineering building. Do you have any classes in Roberts Hall? I really, really hope not. Call me now please.

Text from: Mom
11:55 a.m.
Just realized you’re probably in lockdown. They said the whole school is locked down. Make sure your phone is on silent, but text me back? I understand you can’t call. Just stay safe

Missed call from: Mom
12:10 p.m.

Text from: Mom
12:10 p.m.
So sorry I called you forgot about the lockdown I just couldn’t help it. I’m sorry please silence your phone

Text from: Mom
12:19 p.m.
Dad and Clara are going to go to the school instead of coming home

Missed call from: Dad
12:22 p.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Hey kid, got your sister here. We’re going to drive to the Square. They’re saying that’s where families are meeting up after this thing. You won’t be able to get your car out, the whole school is shut down, so we’ll pick you up there. Love you.

Text from: Mom
12:26 p.m.
Your dad is going to meet you at the Square since all the roads are shut down. It might be hard to find him in the crowd. Do you still have your phone? I’m going to wait here at home in case you lost it and get a ride home with someone else. See you soon.

Missed call from: Clara
12:39 p.m.

Missed call from: Clara
12:41 p.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Hey, there’s a lot of people here and Mom thinks you don’t have your phone, or it’s dead. We’re by the main auditorium entrance, if you get this. Hurry up, Grandma keeps calling Dad.

Missed call from: Dad
1:03 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
1:34 p.m.

Text from: Dad
3:14 p.m.
Hey kid, we’re still waiting here. The crowd is starting to thin out a bit. I’m guessing you don’t have your phone, or it ran out of juice. Hope you got a ride with someone else. Call us when you get a charge. We’re going to stick around for a while.

Missed call from: Mom
5:11 p.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Caleb, your father and sister are going to stay until 6, then head back here. I talked to Mark and Steve’s parents, and they said you hadn’t been back to the apartment. I’m really, really worried. Your dad is going to call the hospitals to make sure you’re not there. Please call me. It sounds really bad on the TV, and the school isn’t telling us anything.

Missed call from: Dad
6:39 p.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Hey kid, Clara and I are going to head home to be with your mom. I’m going to drop her off and then drive to the hospitals. They have some unidentified patients who were running and didn’t have wallets when they came in. Then I’m going to go to your apartment and Amy’s place. If you’re just at O’Hanley’s having a beer, charge your phone and call us back, now.

Missed call from: Clara
7:04 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
7:45 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
7:59 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
8:02 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
8:12 p.m.
Voicemail-to-text
Dad’s at General Mercy, and they said all the trauma patients there are accounted for. We’re really, really, really hoping you decided to get some drinks after a crazy day and forgot to charge your phone. Please, please call us, Caleb.

Missed call from: Clara
8:19 p.m.

Missed call from: Mom
8:22 p.m.

Text from: Dad
9:03 p.m.
Caleb, I’m trying to call the school and the police to get any information. What’s your license plate number? If you get this, please tell me. I can’t find it. I’m trying to see if your car is still parked there, and they want that.

Missed call from: Mom
9:09 p.m.

Text from: Mom
9:10 p.m.
Please call

Text from: Mom
10:11 p.m.
Please please God please call

Missed call from: Mom
10:12 p.m.

Text from: Mom
10:29 p.m.
Please

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