Thriller Restaurant Series – Volume 18
The Ringtone Playing Car
By Takatsu Mihoko
Hiroshi had just finished work with one hour of overtime and headed for the parking lot. His car was the red one you could spot from a mile away. He stopped in front of the car and looked at it.
It really is flashy. It was a good buy, though, he thought as he opened the door and got in.
That day he headed home quickly, and thought that while he ate dinner he’d watch a video which he’d previously recorded with his DVD recorder. The roads were unusually empty and the flow of traffic was smooth. It happened at that time. A ringtone played in the car.
“A phone call,” he said, and thinking it was his cell, he silently said to the caller, Just wait.
Wait, that isn’t my phone’s ringtone.
The tone continued playing.
He was sure there wasn’t anyone else in the car. Where the heck could the sound be coming from? Maybe someone accidentally left their cell in his car. Just then, the sound stopped.
He parked his car near a residential area with a park which he always passed on his way home in order to double-check. Of course, no one was in the backseat and there wasn’t a forgotten cell phone, either. He checked his own cell phone which was in his bag sitting on the passenger seat, but, of course, there wasn’t any record of an incoming call. He also checked his incoming call tone, and it was the same old “pi-pi-pi” as usual.
What the heck was that, then? he thought, as the tone started playing again. It sounded like a melody he’d heard recently, like a theme song from a TV show which had been popular the year before.
Yeah, it was definitely coming from inside his car. He held his head in his hands. Just as if nothing happened, the rest of the evening, the ringtone didn’t play. After that, the strange occurrence started up again.
Commuting from work on the third evening, the same ringtone played. It rang when he drove by the same park as the other night. After the third ring, he heard a beep like the sound of someone pressing an answer button.
“Hello? It’s me. What’s up?” he heard a woman’s voice say, seeming to answer the phone call.
Shocked, Hiroshi glanced at the rear view mirror, but no one was in the backseat. He stopped the car and double-checked, but of course, everything was normal.
“What is going on?” he said, starting to panic.
After pulling himself together, he went home. That night, he had no appetite and could only drink some alcohol before he slipped into bed. It’s not like he could sleep while the upbeat feminine voice said, “Hello? It’s me. What’s up?” over and over in his head.
The next day Hiroshi took off work and went to the used car dealer. When he told the salesperson about the situation with his car, he had a look of concern on his face.
“Is that so? Actually, the previous owner of that car was a young woman who answered her cell phone while she was driving, got into an accident, and unfortunately passed away. I heard that she was wearing platform boots which were in fashion at that time, and missed the break…” the salesperson continued, “If you’d like, we can buy your old car from you for the same price you purchased it at and you can buy a new car from our dealership. You bought low-priced car… and our cheap cars are priced lower because there was damage or some problem,” the salesperson said with a faint smile.
Needless to say, Hiroshi sold his red, flashy car to the dealership and bought a different one.
…..*Translator’s Notes* The challenge of this story was understanding what the heck the salesman was saying. Formal, polite Japanese is hard. Thank goodness for one of my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English). Looking over this piece again, I think it’s funny this is written for elementary school students and has a scene which teaches them that drinking is one way to deal with your problems in life. Love it! (Not saying that these things don’t exist in Western literature–there’s plenty of adultness in movies which are okayed for kids to watch. I really don’t quite remember all the stories I read when I was growing up. Who knows what was in there!)