Mr. Harrigan’s Phone

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Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
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In the small town of Harlow, Maine, young Craig  lives with his dad, who has been in a constant   blue mood since his wife passed away. They go  to church together every Sunday without fail,   and Craig is often allowed to read the Bible to  everyone as part of the service. It's during one   of these many masses that antisocial billionaire  Mr. Harrigan takes notice of Craig and later,   decides to pay him a visit to make a job offer:  since his eyes are failing, he wants to hire the   boy to read books to him. Craig isn't sure why  he's chosen over other town kids that are smarter   or better readers, but he isn't about to pass on  the opportunity to bring some extra cash home.   Harrigan's mansion is at the edge of town, and  Craig walks there three times a week to read to   Harrigan and drink tea prepared by the housekeeper  Edna. Some of the books are advanced for his age,   but Craig slowly learns to understand them and  enjoys the philosophical discussions that they   bring to the table. He also enjoys looking around  the fancy rooms in the mansion and Harrigan's   collection of flowers, but there's a locked closet  he isn't allowed to look into because according to   Harrigan it's full of terrible secrets. Sometimes  Craig does odd jobs around the house too,   like shoveling the snow from the porch, but  when it comes to newspapers, Harrigan reads   them himself to keep up with financial news.  The more time Craig spends with Harrigan,   the more curious he becomes about the man's  past, so one afternoon he finally gives in   and googles him. It turns out Harrigan used to  be a businessman known for being ruthless and   for his hostile takeovers, meaning he isn't  well-liked in general. He never got married   or had any kids, and the few relatives  he has don't get along with him either,   meaning he lives a very lonely life. Since Craig  has always felt guilty for his mother's death,   he sympathizes with Harrigan more than he should.  Now that Craig is working for him, Harrigan sends   him a card with a lotto ticket for Valentine's,  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Craig's birthday;   but he never wins anything. Five years pass and  while Craig becomes a teenager, his age has never   stopped from still coming to Harrigan's house  three times a week to read, only having missed   one day when he got the flu. Although he was  sick at that time, Craig still felt guilty since   he suspects their time together is the high point  in Harrigan's week. Because Harlow doesn't have a   high school, Craig must take a bus to the closest  city every day when his time to attend finally   comes. It's quite a shock for a small-town kid  like him to learn about cliques and social rules,   especially since most of the locals have phones  and he doesn't, but he still manages to make   some friends. The most shocking part of his first  day however is being approached by a bully called   Kenny, who expects Craig to shine his shoes in  the bathroom because that's the newbie's job.   Craig refuses and when their conversation becomes  an argument Ms. Hart checks on them, but Craig   isn't a snitch and tells her everything is fine.  Unfortunately Kenny doesn't see this as a good   gesture and once the teacher is gone, he still  promises Craig a bad time in the future. When   Craig gets home after class he doesn't mention the  incident to his dad and asks for a phone instead,   but he's denied. The next time Craig goes to  Harrigan's, he asks him if he ever encountered   bullies or people that tried to take advantage of  him at work in order to fish for advice. Harrigan   explains he did, and he dealt with all of them  harshly. A few months pass and when Christmas   comes, Craig gets two wonderful gifts: his dad  finally gets him a phone, and Harrigan's lotto   ticket earns him three thousand dollars. Craig's  first call is to Harrigan in order to thank him   for the gift, and Harrigan explains it's just a  little something he does for every person he calls   a friend. Having a phone allows Craig to sit with  the popular kids and connect with a cute girl that   he has a crush on. Getting new friends doesn't  stop him from still going to Harrigan's and it   prompts the old man to ask Craig why he keeps  coming even if he can have a social life now,   thus Craig explains he doesn't come because of  some sense of obligation, he genuinely enjoys his   time in Harrigan's company, which makes Harrigan  cry. After hearing such a sad question, Craig   convinces his dad not to put all the lotto money  in his college fund and uses part of it to buy a   phone for Harrigan. At first the old man doesn't  want it because he's afraid he would get addicted   to it, this is why he doesn't have a tv or a radio  either, but he quickly changes his mind when Craig   shows him he can keep up with the stock market and  the news in real-time instead of having to wait   for the next day's newspaper. From then on, during  each visit, Craig would teach Harrigan new ways of   using the phone before they jump into reading.  This includes setting up his voicemail message   and choosing a nickname, which is "Pirate King"  because the newspapers used to call him that.   Craig also asks Harrigan for his favorite song  to put as his ringtone. As weeks pass, Harrigan   becomes addicted to the phone and sometimes  ignores Craig's reading, but fortunately it's easy   to get him back on track. Craig begins worrying a  bit when Harrigan starts needing an oxygen tank to   sleep and wonders why Harrigan has chosen to live  in such a small town away from more advanced care,   prompting Harrigan to confess he wanted to live in  a place where people don't ask things from him. In   return, Craig explains he would love to move to  the big city to become a screenwriter; Harrigan   doesn't approve because there are always enemies  getting in your way in that kind of business   and makes Craig promise that if he ever goes down  that career road, he'll dispatch any enemies with   haste and without any guilt. Craig is impressed  by the fact Harrigan can still hold himself with   power even in this weakened state, but he also  feels bad for Harrigan because he found a drawer   full of lotto tickets, meaning he doesn't have  many friends to send them to. A few days later,   Craig comes to the mansion while Edna is having  her day off and lets himself in after Harrigan   takes too long to open the door. Sadly it's not  the phone that is distracting him but something   worse: Harrigan has died on his chair with his  phone in his hand. It's a very disturbing and   upsetting image to find, and it hits Craig harder  when he grabs the phone and discovers Harrigan   had been about to call him. Crying, Craig calls  his dad for help before honoring Harrigan's life   with his favorite literary quote. An ambulance  and the police come to take care of everything,   and by the time Craig makes it home at night, he's  so tired he didn't realize he brought Harrigan's   phone with him as well. As a final goodbye to  his best friend, Craig sends a text to Harrigan's   phone saying he'll miss their afternoons together.  The day of the funeral, not many people attend,   but Craig still reads a passage from the Bible and  puts Harrigan's phone inside the suit they've put   on the body. Harrigan is buried near Craig's  mother, who is visited weekly by his dad but   Craig himself only came once because it would be  accepting she's gone forever. After the burial   is over, Craig is given an envelope by the man  in charge of Harrigan's finances with a letter   from the old man explaining what he's left him in  his will. While Harrigan didn't approve of Craig's   career choice he still wanted to support him,  so he left him eight hundred thousand dollars   in trust to cover college and any postgraduate  work he may choose. The most shocking part is a PS   saying Harrigan'll miss their afternoons together  too, as if replying to Craig's text message, and   while Craig wants to blame it on a coincidence,  he can't stop thinking about it. Later during   a stormy night, he calls Harrigan's voicemail and  leaves him a message thanking him for the gift but   also admitting he would give it back if he could  have his friend again because he misses him. The   next morning, Craig wakes up to find the creepiest  message on his phone: somehow Harrigan has texted   him back, although the reply is just a bunch of  random letters. Freaking out at the idea they   may've buried Harrigan alive, Craig asks his dad  for help, but his dad explains this is probably   a prankster that cloned the number. Harrigan  can't be alive because the hospital did a full   autopsy before releasing the body for the funeral.  This explanation is still not enough for Craig,   who visits the cemetery and calls Harrigan's  phone only to freak out again when he hears the   ringtone coming from his grave. Afterward, Craig  goes to Harrigan's house and has tea with Edna,   who confirms Harrigan left her and the gardener  some money as well. She also agrees that Harrigan   was a good man but you didn't want to have him on  your bad side, for example the previous gardener   stole from him and Harrigan made him regret it.  After refusing to offer details, Edna allows Craig   to take something so he can remember Harrigan  by, and Craig takes one of Harrigan's favorite   flowers. Soon afterward, Harrigan's house goes up  for sale and Edna is allowed to stay meanwhile to   take care of the place. Once he's feeling better,  Craig goes back to school and actually enjoys his   classes, especially thanks to Ms. Hart who is  an incredible, supportive teacher. Kenny doesn't   bother him much anymore and eventually gets  expelled for selling grass on campus, Craig wasn't   the one to rat on him but Kenny still thinks he  did. Things get even better when Craig gets to   attend the winter dance with his crush, but the  perfect night is ruined when Kenny shows up at   school again to beat Craig up for snitching and  threatening to kill him if he ever tells anyone   about this. It's Mr. Hart who finds him moments  later and she suspects Kenny did it, but Craig   denies it because he wants to graduate without  getting in any more trouble. When Craig gets home   he refuses to discuss what happened, prompting  his dad to point out he needs to talk to someone   instead of bottling his feelings up. Following  this advice, Craig decides to call Harrigan's   phone and share his fears with the voicemail.  The next morning, the whole town is shaken up   by the latest news: Kenny has been found dead.  Craig can't stop feeling overwhelmed with guilt   when he sees Kenny's family grieving, realizing  even bullies have people that love them. He can't   stop thinking about this the rest of the day and  it keeps him distracted during his lessons, so   Ms. Hart talks to him after class to comfort him  and remind him not to blame himself. Since she's   always been so understanding, Craig brings up the  subject of ghosts and Ms. Hart admits she doesn't   like to mess with things like ouija boards and the  like because his grandma always taught her not all   ghosts are holy. Later that day, Craig visits the  place where Harrigan's old gardener used to live   and a neighbor explains to him the man ended  things in his truck when it became impossible   for him to get a new job after Harrigan fired him.  Craig's curiosity gets the better of him and makes   him check said truck only to get more upset when  he finds a lotto ticket inside. On his way out,   Craig sees graffiti on the garage door that  wasn't finished but was clearly an insult towards   Harrigan. In the evening, Craig calls Harrigan's  phone to ask him to send him a signal if he truly   had anything to do with Kenny's death, and as soon  as he hangs up, his phone rings with Harrigan's   number and receives another message that doesn't  make sense. The following day, Craig shares what   has been going on with the local priest under the  Seal of Confession, but the priest agrees with   Craig's dad and thinks someone cloned the phone  number for a prank. Trying to make Craig feel less   guilty, the priest shares the details of Kenny's  death: he had been drinking heavily that night and   when he tried to sneak out of the house he slipped  and fell, meaning it was an accident. What the   priest doesn't know however is that Kenny's mouth  had been full of shoe polish. The priest advises   Craig to rethink his obsessive relationship with  his phone and Craig does exactly that by going to   the store and getting a new updated model. The  clerk that sets everything up for him explains   that the weird messages could've been stuck in  the software, which is known as a ghost in the   machine. All the contacts are transferred to the  new phone and when Craig tries to call Harrigan   this time, it doesn't work, so he assumes it's  finally over. As soon as he arrives at his house,   Craig throws the old phone in the trash, but he  soon regrets it and puts it inside a box full of   little memories that he hides in his closet.  With Kenny's tragedy and his friendship with   Harrigan always present at the back of his mind,  Craig graduates from high school and is accepted   to a university in Boston. The day he leaves  home, he thinks he could see his mother saying   goodbye to him next to his dad. University life is  actually great and Craig enjoys being surrounded   by the subjects he loves, but not a long time  passes before tragedy strikes again. One night,   he receives terrible news from his dad: Ms. Hart  died in a car accident caused by a drunkard called   Dean. Devastated, Craig immediately goes home  to attend Ms. Hart's funeral and keep an eye on   Dean's trial, which has the most disappointing of  endings. The guy has had many arrests for driving   while drunk in the past and didn't even have his  license anymore, but he gets to avoid jail yet   again by promising to do rehab time instead.  This result enrages Craig, who rushes back to   his childhood bedroom to retrieve his old box and  while searching his closet, he finds an old flower   crown his mother had made for him when he was a  kid and he also hid after she died. Not even this   little souvenir is enough to comfort him though,  and once he finds his old phone in the box,   he calls Harrigan's number and leaves a message on  the voicemail asking for Dean's death. The call is   made in a moment of blind fury, and after Craig  calms down and goes back to his usual routine,   he can't stop feeling guilty about what he did,  constantly googling Dean's name to be sure he's   still fine. A few days later, Craig's fear  becomes a reality when Dean's death appears in   the newspaper, although the cause is still under  investigation. Determined to find out the truth,   Craig drives all the way to the rehab center and  pretends to be a journalist to pay a nurse for   some information. It's believed Dean did it to  himself because he was found in the shower with   half a bar of soap down his throat and shampoo  had been found in the autopsy that pointed to   him having swallowed it to make the passage of  the soap easier. What makes the incident extra   disturbing is the fact the soap was the same  brand Ms. Hart used, and the note Dean left   behind was a quote from Harrigan's favorite song.  As soon as the nurse finishes giving the details,   Craig returns to his car and has a total breakdown  over the fact he's a murderer now. When he returns   to his old house later, Craig finds another weird  message from Harrigan and remembers that after his   death, he finally took a look inside the secret  closet and found the contents were just memories   of Harrigan's childhood, especially his dead  mother. Craig thinks Harrigan has always been   as lonely as he is and that's why he keeps trying  to stay in touch, so he visits Harrigan's grave   and wonders if those messages were Harrigan's  way to tell Craig to stop. After thanking   Harrigan for everything and apologizing to his  mom in tears, Craig runs to the town quarry,   considering ending things for himself. Thankfully  he sees clarity before doing something stupid and   throws his old phone into the river instead,  allowing Harrigan to finally rest in piece.
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