Last night’s dream:

After a long day at work, which for some reason resembled an academic museum combined with a commercial mall and a dungeon more than a high school, I go to my dad’s house. My younger sister has flown in from New Mexico and is in the kitchen, baking cookies. The kitchen appears as it did 20 years ago, with yellow linoleum and yellow- and green-striped wallpaper. My dad stands near the pantry, reading a newspaper.

I remember that there had been a strange schedule at school (museum/mall/dungeon) today, which means that some classes were shorter than usual, and other classes were cancelled altogether. So I have to change some of my lesson plans to get those shortened and missing classes up to speed.

While still in the kitchen, I dial the school’s number on my cell phone and put myself through to my own voicemail. I intend to leave a message reminding myself to alter my lesson plans.

Halfway through the message, some static comes over the line, with an elderly woman’s voice in the background. I’d heard of this happening, but never actually experienced crossed wires on a cellular phone call. I am annoyed that my voicemail message is being interrupted.

The static clears, and Elderly Woman is speaking in a weak voice. I don’t want to hang up on a little old lady, so I ask what number she’s trying to call. In her confused answer, she never actually gives a number; she simply refers to someone she’s trying to contact. Each question I ask is answered in such a rambling, roundabout way that I move on to the next question before she finishes.

I am increasingly frustrated, but I notice that none of her answers indicate any awareness that this discussion is being held over the phone, such as “I tried to dial…” or “I pressed the send button…” I am about to give up and disconnect the call, when Elderly Woman finally says something coherent, something that grabs my attention: “I’ve been dead for one hundred years.”

I think: Now we’re getting somewhere.

I am not frightened—just relieved that progress is being made. I say, “Okay. Are you trying to contact someone? Are you buried under the house? Were you wronged somehow? What are we doing here?”

Elderly Woman says, “I have a message for Genevieve.”

I say, “Hold on a second.” I find a pen and take out my notebook. “Go ahead.”

Elderly Woman says, “Mind the bell.”

I write down and say aloud, “Genevieve, ring the bell?”

Then my sister, without having heard any of my phone discussion, nonchalantly corrects me and says, “Mind the bell.”

I say and write, “Genevieve, mind the bell.”

It occurs to me that “Genevieve” is what my parents had originally planned to name my sister.

The oven timer dings. The cookies are ready. My sister pulls out the cookies.

I say, “Is that it? ‘Mind the bell’? I’ll pass it along,” and hang up just as she’s starting to ramble again.

I wait for the cookies to cool off and eat two. Despite having just spoken to a ghost–who has my cell number–I’m irritated about having wasted my minutes on her. Then I’m a little embarrassed about having been so dismissive to her.

I still have to call my voicemail and remind myself about changing my lesson plans.

In real life, my cell phone rang just after writing “dings.”