Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd You Get That Beeper?
by David Lubar
To tell the truth, I really didn't know exactly what a beeper was or how they
worked until the day I found one. I'd seen them in old movies. They're called
pagers now, and they do all sorts of fancy stuff. But back then, they were just
called beepers, and most of them didn't do much at all. If someone had asked me
how they worked, I wouldn't really have been able to give a good answer. It wasn't
something I paid much attention to.
I wouldn't even have found it if it hadn't beeped when I walked by. At the time, I
believed it was a coincidence. I was on my way home from school. I was late. Mr.
Atkins had made me stay after to work on an essay. I'd already written it once, but
he told me I didn't put enough effort into it and he wanted me to try again. So I got
out later than the rest of the kids. I'll bet a couple hundred kids walked right past
the beeper before I did. It was lying on the ground next to the sidewalk, just a
block away from the school. But it blended into the dirt pretty well, so it wasn't
surprising that nobody noticed it. As I said, I would have walked right by if it
But it did beep. I stopped when I heard the sound. I really didn't know what I was
hearing, but it seemed familiar. I searched around, then finally found the beeper. It
was a small box, about half the size of a deck of cards, and there was one of those
little windows on one side like they have on calculators.
It stopped beeping as soon as I picked it up. There wasn't any message in the
I stood there for a minute, holding the beeper and wondering what to do with it.
The right thing would be to try to find the owner. I had no idea how to do that. I
thought about just putting it back where I'd found it. I actually started to bend
down and place it back on the ground.
As I reached toward the spot where it had been, it beeped again. Just one short
beep. I stood up checked and the display window. There was still nothing showing.
I figured I'd bring it with me and ask my folks what to do after they came home
from work. So I put the beeper in my shirt pocket and walked the rest of the way to
My friend Max was waiting for me on the front steps. "I thought you'd never get
"Look what I found." I showed him the beeper.
"Cool," Max said.
It beeped again. This time there was a number in the window. "Let's call it," I said.
"Maybe we can find out who this belongs to."
We went inside and I dialed the number. After four rings, I heard the click of an
answering machine. "I can't come to the phone right now," the voice said. "Please
leave a message when you hear the tone."
I hesitated, not knowing what to say. Finally, I hung up without saying anything.
"Well?" Max asked.
I told him about the message. The beeper beeped again. I dialed the new number. It
was another answering machine. This time, the message said, "Need a new roof?
You've called the right place. Leave your number and we'll get back to you."
I hung up again. "This is weird," I told Max. "I think the number is supposed to be
someone who's just called the beeper. Right? But nobody is home at these places."
Max shrugged. The beeper beeped. I looked at the number. Why not, I thought. I
dialed again. No surprise -- another recording. "To leave a message for John, press
one. To leave a message for Karen, press two."
I hung up. The beeper beeped. The next call told us, "Be back soon -- leave a
message if you want."
"I think it's broken," I said. "It's probably just putting up any number."
"Yeah," Max said. "Maybe it got wet."
The beeper beeped. I dialed almost before I realized what I was doing. Sure
enough, another message, "Buried under a ton of work? We can help you with
secretaries and other office personnel. Leave your number and we'll get back to
"Man, this doesn't make any sense," I said. "I've got better things to do than to
make all these calls. Maybe I should just put it back where I found it."
"Yeah," Max said. "Or you can toss it in the trash."
I looked at the can. And I thought about the messages. I wrote them down.
I can't come to the phone right now.
Need a new roof?
To leave a message for John, press one.
Be back soon -- leave a message if you want.
Buried under a ton of work?
As I stared at them and saw the pattern, I felt my blood freeze in my body. My
hand fell open and the beeper clattered to the floor.
"What's wrong?" Max asked.
"Look." I pointed to the messages with my pencil. "Read the first word of each
one," I said.
Max took the sheet from me. "I need to be buried." He stood there for a moment. I
guess it took that long for the meaning to sink in. Then he said, "Whoa," and
dropped the paper.
I stepped back from the beeper.
"Too weird," Max said. "It has to be a coincidence."
"Has to," I said.
The beeper beeped.
I looked at the beeper. Then I looked at Max. Max looked at me. "Guess we have
to find out," he said.
"We can't stop now." I picked up the beeper. The plastic felt oddly cold. I dialed,
listened to the recording, and wrote down the first word.
There was no mistake. A message was forming. When it was done, the beeper
stopped. I read the whole message aloud. "I need to be buried. Look under bridge
on river. Thank you."
"Spooky," Max said.
"Yeah. Too spooky." This wasn't like a scary movie or a Halloween haunted house
that you knew wasn't real. This was flat out creepy.
"Now what?" Max asked.
"I'm not looking for a body," I said.
"No way," Max agreed.
"We have to tell someone." If I called the police, they'd want to know how I knew.
They'd never believe the truth. I realized I had to go to the bridge first. Max didn't
want to go, but I talked him into it.
"I don't see anything," he said, when we reached the bridge.
I searched the rippling surface. There had to be something in the water. For the
second time that day, I felt my blood freeze. I could barely make out the shape
deep below me. I knew it wasn't a tree branch or anything like that.
"Come on," I told Max. We walked off the bridge and went to find a policeman.
That evening, the police recovered a skeleton from the river. I heard them say
whoever it was must have been there for at least seventy years.
"Funny thing," the policeman told me when it was over. "You'd think the rescue
workers would have spotted something when they pulled that car out last week.
"What car?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Some guy was more interested in talking on his cell phone
than on watching the road. He went right into the water." He pointed over to the
I could see that a spot looked newer, like it had just been replaced. "Was he hurt?"
The policeman shook his head. "Nope. Just wet. But even after we rescued him, all
he could do was complain that he'd lost his phone. It's probably still sitting on the
bottom. If you ask me, that's the best place for it. Those things will get you killed
if you're not careful." He shrugged and walked back to his patrol car.
Max and I stood for a while and watched the water running beneath the bridge.
When we were ready to leave, I reached into my pocket and took out the beeper. It
beeped once. Then it was silent. It never beeped again. But I kept it. I'm not sure,
but I think it brings me luck.