The Prompt: Bad Signal—Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.” Who is it from, and what is this about?
“Corpus linguistics reflects the shift in academic focus from the brain
to the text as the appropriate source of information.”
Sticking to the Text
Mister tall, dark and handsome has left me in the lurch,
standing at the altar in my little hometown church.
My friends are all around me and my niece clutches her flowers.
The guests have entered all their pews ‘neath ribbon-bedecked bowers.
My bridesmaids stand around me in their pastel-colored gowns,
My father close beside me, all their faces swathed in frowns.
I have my cellphone with me in a special little pocket
sewn into my wedding dress beneath my granny’s locket.
It buzzes reassuringly. I know it is my love.
I fumble as I strip my hand of bracelet and of glove.
I reach into my bodice and switch my cellphone on.
I notice that my mother is looking sort of wan.
I ask at once if it’s my groom and if he will soon come.
“The guests are restless, dear, I say, and father’s looking glum.”
But it is not my true love talking. Rather, it’s his brother.
(The one I’ve always loved the most, though I would wed another.)
He voice-texts me he’s sorry, but I’m making a mistake.
His brother’s a philanderer, a scoundrel and a rake
who really loves another—a lowlife moll named Ruth.
He says he’s tied him up for now ‘til I can hear the truth.
Their plans are just to bilk me, to steal my money and
make off with it together once he has claimed my hand.
He’s so sad he has to relate this, he tells me with a sigh.
“I should have told you months ago,” he adds, and then says, “Bye.”
The guests sit in stunned silence, for they’ve all overheard.
I hear a mourning dove call out—a most appropriate bird.
My father begins sputtering. My mom says not a word.
My bridesmaids begin fluttering. The day has turned absurd!
I hit “reply” upon my phone and hear it dial him.
It rings and rings and with each one, this day becomes more grim.
But finally he answers and I ask one question of him.
I ask him what his motives were and tell him that I love him!
He answers that he loves me, too, but never guessed the truth.
To take away his brother’s girl just seemed to him uncouth.
But now that he’d found out their plan, he couldn’t let me wed him.
He couldn’t stand to see me say my vows to him and bed him!
I asked him where he was just as he walked right up the aisle.
And love suffused my body to replace the shame and bile.
It mattered not a whit to me my groom had found another,
for I found a happier ending when I hitched up with his brother!
I’ll just let your imagination guess what happened next.
Just let me say I’ve always preferred sticking to the text!