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19 Feb

Sorry, Wrong Number: Lucille Fletcher

Lucille Fletcher’s ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’ sketches the trauma of a neurotic and invalid woman. Mrs. Stevenson, the main character in the play, is all alone as her maid has gone home. Her husband is at the office so she tries to phone him. When she fails she asks the operator connect her to Murray Hill 3-oo93. However she does not get connected but overhears a conversation between two men due to crossed  telephone lines. She listens to their conversation.

The second man named George is talking with the first man from a telephone booth .The first man tells him that the murder could be executed that night. He reminds him that at eleven O’clock the watch man would go around to the bar on the Second Avenue for a beer . He asks him to ensure that all the lights downstairs are out with only one light seen from outside. As the subway train crosses the bridge at 11.15 pm it can drown any noise of resistance. He tells him that there should be little bloodshed and the murder should be committed quickly with least pain. Besides it must look like a simple robbery. So George must remove her rings and bracelet and jewellery from the drawer .Mrs. Stevenson frantically tries to talk to them but they do not hear her.

She becomes frozen with horror. So she quickly phones the operator and asks him to trace the last call from her number. She imagines that his fingers must have slipped while dialing. He connects her to the chief operator .She tells him that an innocent woman living near a bridge is going to be murdered that night and asks him to trace that number . He tells her that it can only be done if the connection is active. He suggests that she contact the police. (She is irritated by the finicky procedure of red tapism .To her it is   idiotic).She calls sergeant Duffy .She repeats to him the story of the overheard conversation. But the officer is not impressed. He asks her whether she is afraid for herself. She tells him that her husband is crazy about her and adores her. He has been caring though she was sick for the past twelve years .She asks him to send at least a radio car and the officer promises to look into it.

She tries again to contact her husband but fails. However she gets incoming calls to which she responds. However there is no reply. She complains to the operator about the incoming calls. She realizes that someone is attempting to know her whereabouts. Then she gets a telegram from Western Union. It is to inform her that her husband is leaving for Boston and would not reach home before noon the next day.

She becomes frantic. She feels so helpless. She cannot get up from her own bed or look into the street. Then she calls Henchley Hospital and asks for nurses registry .She requests them to send her a registered nurse as she needs help. They tell her that it would require time. Meanwhile as she talks she can hear the extension of the phone being raised downstairs. She frantically calls the operator and asks him to help her as someone is in her house. She asks him to connect her to the police. As the phone rings we can hear her scream. Her final scream is drowned by the subway train as it roars over the bridge. When everything is quiet George picks up the phone and tells the police officer,” Sorry, Wrong number  “and hangs up the receiver.

Courtesy: Prof Pius Ozhakal

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