On a chilly March morning in Boston, Aleck Bell sat at a cluttered workbench tinkering with his newest toy. It was a strange looking device, resembling a tin can and a flower vase mounted on a piece of wood. Aleck’s friend, Tom sat across the room with an amused look, holding the companion device to his ear.
“Can you hear me now?”
“Of course I can hear you Aleck. I’m sitting right here”
Aleck shot an icy glance of disapproval at his assistant. Undeterred, he continued.
“Testing one-two-three… One-two-three…test- test-test…”
Tom, no longer able to suppress his laughter slapped his thigh with glee. “Dude!…do you realize how freaking silly you look gibbering in that mouthpiece?
“Not funny Tom”, he snapped, silencing his partner for the moment. “You oaf…don’t you realize I’m on the cusp of a major breakthrough?”
“The cusp of a what?”
“A breakthrough fool…this is huge!”
Tom shook his head. “So, you’re inventing words now too? I can see the headlines. Bell invents a new language, turning verb phase into noun, in a single bound!”
Aleck’s face turned a bright red. Barely able to contain his rage, he stared stone-faced at his laughing companion. After several seconds of silence, he continued in a measured voice. “Tom, I’m paying you perfectly good wages to assist me. I hardly need to be made sport of. Now, if you please, I would like you to take that receiving device in front of you and go into the other room. I have to make a couple of adjustments and, hopefully, this will work. I am going to speak into this tube and you should be able to hear my voice through the device you are holding. Would you do that for me please?”
Rising, Tom grasped the cumbersome device in both hands and made his exit to the adjoining room, chuckling all the way. Over his shoulder he added a final jab. “Wake me up when it’s time for lunch Aleck. I’m fancying Chinese takeout. Have you heard? They take telegraph orders now. Message ahead and the food’s ready when you get there.”
Ignoring his assistant’s taunting, Aleck turned his focus on the strange looking invention in front of him. Retrieving a small screwdriver he set about fine tuning. After a few moments of tinkering, he sat upright. With folded arms he beamed triumphantly at his creation. By Jove, I think I have it, he thought. Bringing the mouthpiece toward his trembling lips he spoke expectantly. “Mr. Watson –come here-I need to see you.” A faint vibration within the device gave him a sense of hope as he waited breathlessly for a response from his comedic assistant.
It took but a second for Tom to come to the doorway with a slack-jawed expression. His face was a ghostly shade of pale as he spoke. “A..A..Aleck, old boy”, he stammered. I dozed off a bit. I, I must have dreamt it…but, I could have sworn I heard your voice through that contraption. I dreamt you called for me.”
“It was hardly a dream dear Watson”, said Aleck, barely able to contain his excitement. “You, my skeptical friend, have witnessed history. I’ve just perfected the telephone.”
“The tel-e-phone”, Tom repeated slowly, in amazement. “Holy fuck dude! Do you know what this means?”
“Yes, old boy I believe I do. For starters, Western Union…”
“Screw that” Watson interrupted. “We’re going to get pizza delivered in thirty minutes or less!”
Aleck stared speechless at his assistant, shaking his head in disbelief. God, I should have hired that Edison guy from New York, he thought. Maybe I’ll give him a ring after lunch.